Ansonia-North Branford matchup one coaches saw coming. By John Nestor
EAST HARTFORD - Ansonia football coach Tom Brockett and North Branford coach Mark Basil came to Renstschler Field on Monday to talk about their teams and their pending clash for the Class S state title. If they both felt a sense of deja vu it was because it wasn't the first time they had talked about a playoff showdown against each other.
What started as an offseason conversation at a Stop and Shop will end with a game for all the marbles on the state's biggest stage as the Chargers will face the Thunderbirds on Saturday morning at Rentschler field for the Class S crown.
The teams will enter the game with a combined record of 25-0 and with Ansonia looking for back-to-back state titles and a second consecutive 14-0 record. Last season the Chargers won the 17th state title in program history by capturing the Class M crown, this season they were back in Class S and the move set the stage for a showdown with the Thunderbirds.
Before the teams ever met on the field, their coaches met at the grocery store, catching up with each other and getting filled in on the state of each program. Being good comes with the territory at Ansonia, which will be playing in its 26th state title game. But Brockett sensed Basil was confident his squad would be good as well as North Branford was coming off a 9-1 regular season and a trip to the Class S playoffs.
"We were both at the Stop and Shop in Wallingford and just talking to him you could tell the excitement he had and how good he thought his team was going to be," Brockett said. "He was telling me he thought this would be the best team North Branford had ever had and he's right, they are great."
Basil said his relationship with Brockett dates to a playoff meeting in 2005 and he has a huge amount of respect for Brockett, Ansonia and what they have been able to accomplish. Basil and the Thunderbirds couldn't ask for much more than a chance to win the second title in school history and first since 1979 and do it against the Chargers.
It was a possibility the coaches discussed over groceries.
"A possible playoff meeting definitely came up with us moving down to Class S and there was no doubt they had a great team coming back," Brockett said.
"We started talking about them being back in Class S and I told him in that conversation that we're hoping to see you and he said I think you will see us," Basil said.
It took over two dozen games combined, but the two will meet. Ansonia, once again kings of the NVL and North Branford rulers of the Pequot. The Chargers made things look easy even when they weren't always and the Thunderbirds used last year's playoff disappointment as a springboard for a run to the third title game in program history.
It was evident Monday that the respect the coaches had for each other and the other team was real and shared, but that will be about all they have in common before Saturday's showdown.
You can't really have a championship Saturday without Ansonia being involved, or at least it seems that way and the Chargers are the standard bearer in the state as far as football excellence goes. Ansonia will be in its third straight title game, as many as North Branford has played in its program history, but Brockett is not so sure that will mean much one things get underway Saturday.
"When the whistle blows you better be ready to play, I don't care if it's your first time or not," he said. "You can make it an advantage if you play great, but you have to come to play."
That's one thing Basil expects from his team, they will be ready to play. The Thunderbirds might be considered the underdog and the Chargers have the name recognition and history, but Basil isn't worried about his squad's frame of mind.
"Ansonia knows its way around this type of setting and for us its new, but to our kids the game of football its the same, they always come out and do what they do," Basil said. "They're a quiet group and all business, they don't get to caught up in things."