Indians march into Class M playoffs off 68-27 win over Torrington in "The Helmet" game.
WATERTOWN: Sure, the Watertown Indians won their annual battle with rival Torrington in "The Helmet" game by a 68-27 final, wrapping up an 8-2 season that puts them into the Class M State Playoffs but something that happened leading up to the game was even more important.
Not only did the Indians complete a special season behind talented players such as quarterback Nicholas D'Elia and running back Adam Alenckis but they accomplished a much more important and sometimes overlooked statistic.
Each and every one of the Indians players passed their school courses during their time on the football field this fall.
That might not seem like a lofty accomplishment but trust their head coach, it is.
A playoff team and a smart team.
"It's a great thing," head coach Luigi Velardi said," We struggled in the past when I first got hired keeping these kids able to play in this game. My goal when I was hired was not to try and rebuild this football team but to get these kids to understanding that what's done in that classroom is more important than what's done out here. These kids embraced it, we have 44 kids and 44 kids passed."
Coaching is about so much more than just work outs, conditioning and the X's and O's of the game and this year, Velardi got his message across.
"We achieved two things this year," Velardi said. "We made the states and got all the kids to pass their courses.
The Indians enter the postseason as the #5 seed in Class M and will travel next Tuesday to take on Berlin (#4) in the first of what they hope will be a three-game winning streak to a state championship.
Everything worked on this sunny, cold Thanksgiving morning.
Alenckis was at times unstoppable, scoring from 38-yards out on his team's first drive before adding a 30-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put his team up 27-7 and the home team was off. The talented senior would add scoring runs of 49 and 66 yards later in the game to finish with four scores.
D'Elia leads a powerful passing offense that is hitting its collective stride at just the right time.
"Our passing game is finally on point," Velardi said. "In week five or week six, we started to get our running game going. We are a solid all-around offense. We have some things to fix on defense every game, but we seem tweak it and get out alive."
The senior signal caller goes into the Berlin game hot as ever after passing for four scores in the win.
For the Raiders, a tough season comes to an end for head coach Gaitan Rodriguez who understands that football is cyclical, while Watertown has taken the last two games, the series is back to 27-27-1 overall.
His approach and goal has always been on focusing on the student/athletes overall high school experience and success.
Work will begin soon for the 2018 campaign.
"We're young," Rodriguez said. "It all starts, football wise in the off season in terms of getting stronger and getting faster, putting in the commitment I expect and then the other stuff which is the off the field stuff. Coming to school consistently and getting to your classes consistently and taking your studies seriously. It goes hand and hand."
Dylan Myrie wraps up a terrific career on the gridiron by scoring twice while fellow senior, Starling Santos scored twice, including on a 68-yard kickoff return.
The Raiders wrap up the 2017 season with a 2-8 record.