Gerry deSimas takes a look at the 115 year history of Torrington/Ansonia football.
POSTED October 22, 2015
By Gerry deSimas
TORRINGTON – Yes, they’ve been playing against each other for over 100 years.
It’s actually been 115 years since the Torrington High football team first played Ansonia in October 1905. The Chargers have won a majority of the contests – nearly 75 percent.
But the excitement is flowing around Torrington and the Naugatuck Valley for Friday night’s Naugatuck Valley League contest between No. 9 Ansonia (5-0) and the undefeated Red Raiders (6-0) and ranked No. 13 in the New Haven Register’s state sportswriters poll.
They’ll meet Friday at 7 p.m. at the Robert Frost Sports Complex in Torrington. This is nothing new for the Chargers. They’ve won 19 state titles. They’ve been in the top 10 for years.
Torrington? They haven’t had a start to a season like this in nearly 70 years. The last time Torrington began the season with six straight wins was in 1948 under coach Peter Dranginis. The Raiders ran the table that season finishing undefeated with an 8-0 record.
The only other occasion in the program’s history that the Red Raiders won six straight to open the season was in 1929 under coach Tracey Garey. Torrington went 8-0 that season as well to claim a mythical state championship. The captain on that championship team was Dranginis.
Games with Ansonia have always been tough for the Raiders. In the 100 games since 1909, the Chargers own a 73-23-3 edge. Ansonia has won the last 24 games between the two schools – the longest winning streak in the long rivalry.
That’s what makes the victories so sweet for the Raiders – and there have been some triumphs to savor.
Torrington’s last win over Ansonia came in 1987 on the frigid afternoon at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury in the first NVL championship game in a thrilling 19-18 decision. The Raiders won the NVL Large Division and it earned them a rematch with the Chargers, the NVL Small Division titlists.
Ansonia won earlier in the 1987 campaign, 27-13, before more than 3,000 fans at Fuessenich Park. The Chargers got big plays on offense – a 70-yard touchdown pass to Brent Harvie – and on defense. The Chargers stopped a Raider scoring drive on the three-yard line.
In the NVL championship game, the Chargers ran out to an 18-0 lead. But the Raiders made the big plays for a victory to remember. Mike Cardello caught a floating 17-yard pass from quarterback Brendan Abbott with 1:32 remaining to tie the game.
Earlier in the game, Scott Langenheim converted on a 26-yard extra point. On the game-winning drive, the big tight end caught a key 13-yard pass on third down-and-10 and 1:45 remaining to keep the drive going. On Torrington’s second scoring drive, Cardello cut in front of Ansonia defender Jeffrey Billing to make a key reception on a fourth down-and-five play to keep that scoring drive alive. In the third quarter, Cardello recovered an Ansonia fumble on the Torrington 10-yard line to prevent the Chargers from extending its lead to 24-6.
The victory gave Torrington its first NVL title since 1974.
In 1984, there was the field goal.
Torrington’s Mike Dobos converted on a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the game to give the Raiders a 30-27 win over No. 1 Ansonia at Jarvis Field in front of an estimated 6,000 fans reported the Register Citizen that day. Keith Bienkowski blocked an Ansonia punt with 42 seconds left to set up the game-winning score.
Thirty minutes after the game, stunned Ansonia fans were still milling around the field. It was Torrington’s first victory over the Chargers since 1961.
That win propelled Torrington to the top of the New Haven Register’s poll for the first time. Unfortunately, the Raiders stay atop the poll was brief. They were upset by Bunnell-Stratford, 28-20 the next week.
In 1958, the Raiders beat the Chargers, 22-0 -- the last time Torrington has pitched a shutout over the Chargers. It was the first of four straight victories by the Red Raiders over Ansonia.
In 1948, there was a cheerleader crying on the sideline after it was over – a 9-6 win over by the Raiders for their first win over the Chargers in 15 years. Torrington’s Harold Pollick gave the Raiders a 3-0 lead after he hit a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Chargers took a 6-3 lead on a fourth quarter touchdown but the Raiders won it on a long 62-yard touchdown pass by Julie Palazzini.
Evading the rush, Palazzini kept the play alive long enough to find a wide-open Len Bonini down the right sideline. His pass sailed 50 yards through the air, according to the Torrington Register, and Bonini dashed the final 20 yards to secure the win.
That victory in game two of the season kept alive the dream of an undefeated season.
Can the Raiders add to this magical list on Friday night? Perhaps. Fans can’t wait to see what happens.
NOTABLES: A few facts to ponder as we wait for Friday night. The two teams last played in 2013 with the Chargers winning, 52-7. … The largest win in the series belongs to Ansonia in a 62-0 victory in 1989. There was no 50-point rule in those days. … Torrington’s biggest win in the series is a 53-0 decision in 1917. … All three ties have been scoreless ties in 1935, 1925 and 1916.