Despite semifinal loss, Gilbert/Northwestern is here to stay
In 2003, my first year at The Register Citizen, I covered a Gilbert football game for the first time.
I remember seeing a team small in size, a minimal crowd and the Yellowjackets getting crushed in what turned out to be one of their many losses that season. Sure, teams have bad seasons, but this looked like a lost cause.
Interest was low not only for the student body, but for the parents, alumni and football fans of Winsted as well. The players, no matter how hard they tried, hardly had a chance. They were just too small and were overwhelmed by most of their opponents.
Walking off Van Why Field that day, I wrote off the program from ever being relevant.
And, like many times before and many times since, I was wrong.
Two reasons stand out for the program’s turn-around. First was the co-op agreement with Northwestern, which helped grow a roster in desperate need of depth. And the second was the hiring of head coach Scott Salius.
The second Salius walked in the door, the feel sorry for yourself attitude was no longer acceptable. In previous years, the season for the Yellowjackets revolved around winning their annual Thanksgiving battle against Housatonic. While that game still brings more passion than the average contest, it’s now turned into one of many big games each year for G-N thanks to the fighting attitude Salius brought in.
Last season, in the papers and on the radio, we talked many times on how 2009 was a dream season for G-N. The Yellowjackets made it all the way to their ninth game of the season in playoff contention before getting eliminated by Morgan. In that game, Morgan was just bigger, faster and more talented. Even though it didn’t make the promised land, just the talk of the playoffs for G-N seemed like the ultimate accomplishment.
Walking out of Van Why Field that day with Tim Gaffney, much similiar to 2003, I thought the program reached its peak.
This season, the Yellowjackets stepped it up another level, reaching the Class M playoffs with an 8-2 record. This year in Week 9, the Yellowjackets jumped the hurdle they stumbled at one season earlier, shutting out Avon, 7-0, in shocking fashion on the road.
Led by senior Bobby Lippincott, arguably the most important player in Gilbert history, they crushed Plainville, 41-6, in the quarterfinals before 1,000 fans at Torrington High School.
Saturday, in the semis, G-N’s newest dream season came to an end as it fell to Hillhouse, 42-14, at Municipal Stadium.
It would be easy to say this is a place G-N will never reach again. I won’t, though. I’m tired of being wrong.