A Look back at the 10 Moments that defined the 2015 Torrington Football Team's 9-2 Campaign.
TORRINGTON: The Torrington football team celebrated their remarkable 9-2 season on Sunday night with an end of the year banquet that reminded all on hand just how special this team and the 16 seniors who are leaving it truly were.
Let’s take a look at ten moments that shaped the campaign that was capped off by their first playoff appearance in 32 seasons.
One: The Teaching Moment. It was an example of how third year head coach Gaitan Rodriguez never misses a moment to teach and it paid big dividends. With the Raiders up big over Crosby in the third quarter of the season opener, sophomore corner Dylan Myrie was beaten on a 40-yard touchdown pass after biting on the receivers move. Instead of berating his second year player, Rodriguez coached his player up and the results were perfect. Myrie would return the ensuing kickoff 73-yards for a score that didn’t mean much to the outcome but spoke volumes about the team’s leader.
Two: The Comeback: Their main rival, the Naugatuck Greyhounds, were up by 11 in the third quarter when the Raiders went off for 50 points in an eventual 57-28 win. The explosion featured a pair of recovered on-sides kicks off the foot of Kobe Covington, one bounced off an up man for the ‘Hounds and into the thankful arms of a Raider. Magic seemed to be in the air that night, something that would continue over the following months.
Three: The Monsoon and the Payback: Torrington traveled to Derby to look for a bit of revenge after the other Red Raiders in the Naugatuck Valley League had sent them spiraling the season before with a win at the newly completed Robert H Frost Complex. Senior quarterback Connor Finn would throw for three touchdowns as the northern Raiders walked out of the Valley with a 54-14 thumping of Derby.
Four: Beating a Longtime Nemesis: In the biggest game of the season to that point, Torrington hosted a team that had their number for many year, Wolcott. The Eagles brought a big and talented running back in Nathan Filippone but the Raiders, in front of a quickly growing fan base, scored 15 fourth quarter points to upend Wolcott by a 37-27 final, essentially clinching the Iron Division of the NVL. Zak Mancini connected with Nate Bresson on a half back option that went 76-yards for a touchdown, setting the table for a memorable night. Finn had a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth while junior Domonick Phengkaen capped things off with a 26-yard touchdown run
Five: The Media Coverage: Torrington was on more statewide sports outlets GPS devices than ever before as television and radio stations flocked to the area to report on the positive developments that were happened in the Northwest Corner. Did have to chuckle a bit when some complained how far away Torrington is from Hartford and beyond (really?). The coaches and players represented themselves with class and dignity the entire time, doing themselves, their school and community proud. CPTV broadcast the Naugatuck game live while every outlet was at the Robert H. Frost for the Ansonia game. Rodriguez, Finn and Eric Mayorjak were guests on the Litchfield County Sports, Cable 5 Show before the Raiders win over Watertown and did a terrific job.
Six: The Ansonia Game: While the outcome of the game was certainly not what any Raider fan may have wanted to see, the outpouring of support for the team by the Torrington community was astounding. With the stands on both sides of the Robert H. Frost Complex packed along with hundreds lining the fences as well, big time football was back at Torrington High School. The bar had been set and it was set high, just the way Rodriguez had envisioned it. Stepping out of the locker room just before they took the field is a moment none of these player, or myself will soon forget. Rodriguez reminded the players to take a moment and remember that this was all for them it was what they had created through hard work and discipline. The buzz around T-Town was special that week. The fan base is solid for the Raiders and should be for years to come.
Seven: The Escape from the Falcons Den on Friday the 13th: In their next to the last game of the year and in need of a win to keep their playoff hopes rolling, the Raiders found themselves in a dangerous shootout with St Paul on the road in Bristol. At the half, not much was going right for the road team as they trailed by a 24-14 score. They would turn that scored around in the second half and went up 38-30 with just over four minutes to play but the Falcons would tie things up with just 22 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Torrington would score on a two yard run by Newton Frias (158 yards rushing) and a successful conversion by Phengkaen who also came up with a the game winning stop on fourth down when St Paul had their chance during overtime.
Eight: A Regular Thanksgiving: A year removed from a massive snow storm that forced the cancelation of the 2014 game from Thursday to Saturday (and included a team effort in clearing their home field), the Raiders rolled to their ninth win in ten tries with an impressive 52-21 win over rival Watertown on the road in 50-degree weather. The Raiders racked up over 500 yards of offense and finished the regular season with 441 points scored, fourth best in the entire state.
Nine: A Home Playoff Game: By strength of their 9-1 regular season and some late season moving up the Class L ranking, the Raiders hosted their first playoff game since 1983 when they faced off against Wethersfield. The season would come to an end that night as they dropped a 33-6 decision to the Eagles but that did nothing to take the shine off one memorable campaign.
Ten: In what may be the truest testimony to just how far this program has come from, the Raiders were honored by the Western Connecticut Referee Boards with the Sportsmanship Award. A habit began early and often with this senior laden squad and it began with acting like they had been there before. A great scene unfolded each time Torrington scored a touchdown. Score a touchdown, hand the ball to the ref. Repeat as required, which in 2015 was very often.
16 seniors leave the Raiders this year but the foundation has been poured and has settled nicely. Winning will no longer just be a nice thing, it will be an expected thing.
NOTES: Awards were also given out on Sunday night during a terrific dinner, filled with laughter, emotion and the sounds of children playing. It’s a family affair with this coaching staff and all were on hand to celebrate.
Most Valuable Offensive Player: Zak Mancini
Most Valuable Defensive Player: Nate Bresson
Raider Most Valuable Player: Connor Finn