Ansonia sends out a reminder
TORRINGTON – It was great theater for a week, wasn’t it. Torrington vs. Ansonia. Two unbeatens, one program with an unmatched pedigree in this area and the state, one program looking to establish a pedigree.
The hype machine was in overdrive. Television, the print media, you couldn’t escape it. We heard from former Torrington coach Bruce Kasenetz who coached the Raiders to their last win over the Chargers in the famed 1987 game in which Torrington rallied from 18 points down. We read about quarterbacks, offensive lines, programs, crowd control, traffic jams, parking issues and all things pertinent and not so pertinent about this game.
It was a midseason game with championship type of electricity. It was all new for Torrington who hadn’t been in this position since right after World War II. It was all old for Ansonia who has been here so often as in the words of the great Torringtonian and former Hartford Courant writer Owen Canfield as “the most little football school in New England.”
The amped up crowd that jammed into the Robert H. Frost Complex Friday night did its share of tail-gating and then engulfed the field with a party atmosphere. It was a scene and an atmosphere that Torrington hasn’t seen and would like to see more of.
That’s pretty much where the great theatre stopped. From the opening kickoff it became a one-act play, and Ansonia was the act. No drama, no doubt. Eight minutes into the game it was over. The drama was in the final margin. What would it be? How about 40 points, 54-14.
Every once in a while Ansonia seems to be inclined to remind us who they are. Their historical and on-going brilliance is such, you tend to take it for granted at times. Oh, Ansonia won by 40 again? Big deal.
Because of that brilliance along comes the next team having a great season and it peaks the interest. Is this the team that can beat the Chargers? Torrington gave us that interest this season. Experienced, talented in the skill positions with players like quarterback Connor Finn, Nate Bresson and Kobe Covington, the Raiders rolled Naugatuck with a powerful second half and then overcame Wolcott with a big final two quarters.
Coach Gaitan Rodriguez has done a marvelous job building this program in just three short seasons after coming in under difficult circumstances. This is also in some areas a young Ansonia team. Although young in Ansonia terms does not equate to young in other programs. Throw it all together and there were more than a few who figured the Raiders were going to win this game.
And then bam before you could add exhale to the inhale, before your fanny warmed the metal seats, before the Torrington High band could find its way to the seats at the end of one end zone, the game was over.
Three Torrington turnovers and the slipping, sliding, speedy magic feet of Ansonia running back Tajik Bagley and it was 33-0 at the end of the first quarter. Talk about slapping the majority of a crowd of 2,500 in the face and turning off the home crowd’s energy force.
Bagley dipped, dodged and scooted by the Torrington defense to the tune of 147 yards on the night, clearly too quick and animated for those wishing to get their arms around him.
There was an 85-yard punt return for a score and a 91-yard Tyler Bailey kickoff return for a touchdown. The Chargers hit the Raiders in a lot of ways and it was no different on the defensive end.
Torrington quarterback Connor Finn felt heavy pressure most of the night and most of what the Raiders tried to do and what had been successful this year was nullified by an Ansonia defense that did its homework. All the plays that had worked through six victorious games suddenly found no daylight.
All that hype? Thirty-five or so miles down Route 8 from the Frost Complex, Ansonia didn’t pay much attention to the hype. They did to their homework.”
“We don’t let that stuff get ahead of us,” said Bagley. “We just try to keep our head. We don’t do too much talking. The environment was great, it motivated us.”
In all the hype, Ansonia coach Tom Brockett called it, “another week” for Ansonia and added, “we cranked it up a little.” Brockett is 117-9. He knows about preparaion and cranking it up. Anyone who thinks Ansonia is only talent doesn't understand the full effort that goes into making this the preeminent program.
Brockett is a class guy, his point simply was this stuff is not new for Ansonia. This happens every year whether it is Newtown which broke the Chargers 48-game win streak a year ago or the next big thing in the NVL be it a Naugatuck or Wolcott or Holy Cross back in the Alex Thomas days.
Ansonia respected Torrington and then figured out how to beat them and had the horses to do it. It’s what Ansonia has done year-in, year-out.
Torrington picked a bad night to have a bad night. But, it was just that – a bad night. The Raiders high hopes were man-handled, part of it their own doing with turnovers. But, clearly the Raiders are the second best team in the NVL. They have proven that.
The Raiders are in the midst of their best season in decades. They are more than capable of running the table and earning a spot in the Class L playoffs. They have had a goal to play in December; it is well within their grasp.
In the big picture the Raiders turned a town on for a week like it hadn’t been turned on since the days of Davie Holiday and Company back in the 1980s. They now what excellence creates. It will motivate.
When Friday night was a wrap, it wasn’t really about Torrington. It was about Ansonia. The Chargers for the umpteenth time reminded everybody who they are and what they are about which is winning and championships.
You don’t have to like Ansonia. Particularly if you were part of the Raiders’ throng of supporters Friday night. But you have no choice but appreciate who they are and what they do.
And Friday night it was a one-act play.