Bagley-Bailey, Ansonia's dynamic duo ready for last title run
ANSONIA - Ansonia's dynamic duo of Tajik Bagley and Tyler Bailey made sure they were going to get a chance to put a stunning loss behind them for good.
Bagley scored three touchdowns and Bailey added a TD of his own to lead Ansonia to a 31-22 victory over Trinity Catholic in a CIAC Class S semifinal on Monday night at Jarvis Stadium.
The win puts the Chargers in a state championship football game for the sixth straight season. Ansonia will go for state title number 20 against Bloomfield, which dispatched Seymour, 47-21, in the other Class S state semifinal on Monday night. Bloomfield and Ansonia will meet in a CIAC football title game for a record sixth time on Saturday when they kick off at 10:30 a.m. at Willow Brook Park.
"It means the world, especially when you take a lot of pride in what you do and we do," Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said about a return trip to the state title game. "We had so much inexperience coming into this year and to be in this position, to be able to play on Saturday for an undefeated season is incredible. It's a credit to these seniors, it's a credit to those kids in the locker room. We have great kid that bring it every single day and I couldn't be more proud of them.
Ansonia (12-0) led 14-6 at the half and it could have been more if not for a stop by the Trinity Catholic defense at the two on fourth down with 36 seconds to go. Ultimately the game came down to the Chargers' punishing ground attack, which wore Trinity Catholic down in the second half.
Bagley, who finished with 213 yards rushing on 33 carries, ran for a pair of fourth quarter scores, the second making it 31-14 with 3:05 to go. Bailey added 64 yards and a TD on 18 carries and had four receptions for 48 yards.
"They have tough backs and a pounding running game and they do it well," Trinity Catholic coach Don Panapada said. "It's a bunch of body blows and then they hit you with a haymaker."
That knockout punch is something the Chargers missed last season and it ultimately cost them in a 21-20 loss to Valley Regional/Old Lyme in the Class S-Large title game. Brockett didn't give his team much time to get over that loss before issuing a challenge for the 2015 season.
"Coach told us that day, when we got back to the locker room after losing that championship game that things were changing around here and we'll be back. And things changed and we're back," Bailey said. "Our attitude, our conditioning, mental toughness all that. Last year we didn't finish, this year we have been finishing. Now we have one more step to finish."
The senior class, led by Bagley and Bailey have been around winning from the get go. They won state titles in both their freshman and sophomore seasons by a combined score of 110-38 before losing last season's title game. Maybe a little complacency set in, maybe the Chargers were used to showing up and having the game won before they even hit the field. Whatever it was it needed adjusting and Brockett was ready to do it.
It turns out so was his team.
"It was hard, sometimes you win a couple titles in a row, it's just different," Brockett said. "I was hard on these guys, I was very, very hard on them. I always am but I think I cranked it up a little bit for this team. They bought into it hook line and sinker and they have given us everything we have asked for."
Now Brockett is asking for one more game like he got Monday, solid defense and a punishing ground game with Bagley and Bailey ready to rip off a big play at any time. It would be title #20 for Ansonia and send this group of seniors off with three titles in four seasons.
"There has been a lot of motivation to get back and bring the title home," Bagley said. "We are looking to bounce back. The main change is our mental toughness. Witnessing a loss like that, you fear having that feeling again. We are well prepared for the state championship."