Eight Raider football standouts recognized by NVL. A look at each.
TORRINGTON: It was a banner year for the Torrington Raiders football team and on Thursday, they were rewarded for their efforts by the Naugatuck Valley League.
Eight players earned recognition for compiling a 9-1 regular season record that landed them ranked fourth in Class L while earning them a home state playoff game.
It was the Raiders first appearance in the post season since 1983 and their first visit since the CIAC started their new format that includes a potential three game winning streak to a state title.
The Torrington dream ended on Tuesday night when the Wethersfield Eagles defeated the Raiders, 33-6 but this year will certainly go down as one of the best in school history.
Here’s a look at the award winners and what they brought to the team.
Connor Finn (QB): A young man who we saw grow up before our eyes as a freshman when he saw limited action became the leader of an offensive group that found the end zone at a ridiculous rate over the next three years. He led an offense that scored 224 points in his sophomore year, followed by 362 in his junior and 441 in his senior year. The latter mark was good for fourth in the state. His arm strength and accuracy improved year by year until he had a gun this year. The teams 28-27 win over Woodland in overtime during his junior year was the moment Finn officially arrived. A proven winner who left his mark on THS.
Nate Bresson (TE, LB): Imagine a world where Bresson didn’t miss his junior year. This “Gronk” like player who was one of the Raiders best defenders at linebacker or on the defensive line. Opened eyes during senior year and especially in the Wethersfield game. Should be able to translate his talents to the next level if he chooses to. Bresson and Finn, teammates since the day they were born it seems, had a sense for knowing exactly what to do in any situation. A good tight end in high school is a blessing, especially one as athletic as Bresson. Happiest on the gridiron, his little slice of heaven.
Zak Mancini (WR, S): Mancini embodied the largest change that I saw over the last three years. At the start of the 2015 campaign, head coach Gaitan Rodriguez had challenged his players to be “Warrior/Gentlemen” and Mancini represented that quality all season. The senior receiver, who made the slant pattern or wide receiver screen his own, was one who consistently made a point of running directly to the referee, handing him the ball. No outlandish celebrations for this group this year and it’s one of the reasons the team was awarded the “Sportsmanship Award” by a local referee board. Mancini was another who felt the most alive on the gridiron.
Kobe Covington (OL, DL): The young man called “Little Bear” by some, was one major force on both sides of the ball, often causing opposing coaches to account for his whereabouts at all times. His ability to blow up plays before they even got started made him a nightmare for opposing linemen. A passionate as they come, Covington looked to dominate on every play, often being seen downfield finishing off a block 15-yards from the line of scrimmage. No good offense does a thing without a great line and Covington anchored a pretty special one.
Newton Frias (RB, CB): The senior running back cracked the 1000-yard mark in the team’s last game, ending a stellar career with a 1095-yard final campaign. Coming into 2015, Frias became the Raiders feature back, forcing teams to worry about him and fellow senior Tyler Marens, who had that role the year before. Not knowing who was coming at them made it beyond tough for opposing teams to cover both. Frias thrived in the Raiders “Monster” package, blasting through the holes created by Covington and company. Part of the group that played championship football in seventh and eighth grade with the Warriors program.
Stefan Laforge (OL, DL): A consistent leader on both sides of the ball who brought an unmatched intensity to the field on every play. A young man who understood just how important being part of this team was in his life. Laforge started as a running back when this large group played together with the Warriors and scored a touchdown out of the backfield against Ansonia. As powerful a player as there was in the NVL.
Ignacio Reynoso (RB, DL): The short yardage guy who usually found his way into the end zone when called upon. The up-back in the monster package who would often break through as defenses looked for the deep backs. Strong on the defensive line as well, Reynoso bought into what Rodriguez was teaching and thrived because of it.
Eric Mayerjak (OL, DL): The player who embodied the pride that this unit took in changing its image in the high school and in the community. A rock on both sides of the ball, Mayerjak had a stellar career with teammates that he, along with the rest of the team, considered brothers. Often asked to speak on behalf of the team during media opportunities, Mayerjak represented himself, his family and his school with class and dignity.
This was one special year for the Raiders, getting eight players rewarded by the NVL was prove of that.
As Rodriguez has often said, the bar has been raised at Torrington High School on the gridiron.