Mudhogs football keeps making a big local impact. Story by John Nestor
FARMINGTON - The high school football season is about three weeks away and preseason camps started in earnest this week, but they aren't the only local teams preparing for action on the gridiron.
The Farmington Valley Mudhogs' preseason is in full swing as the organization gets set to start its 16th season.
Around 500 kids participate in the Mudhogs program between the flag and tackle football teams and the cheer teams. Kids aged 5-14 make up the group that draws from the towns of Farmington, Avon, Burlington, Harwinton, and Canton.
"Our goals are to provide the youths in our Farmington Valley community the opportunity to participate in football and cheerleading and to instill the principles of good citizenship, sportsmanship, and teamwork through knowledge of and participation in the sport of football and cheerleading," league president Frankie Ortiz said.
The group uses facilities in Farmington - Farmington High, Union School and West Woods School - for games and practices while depending on volunteers from all of the surrounding towns.
While the goals of the group are to get active and foster sportsmanship and teamwork, the league also allows players to get some experience before heading off to their respective high schools.
The Mudhogs C level teams are made up primarily of second, third and fourth graders with the B squads mostly fifth and sixth grade players and A squads comprised of seventh and eighth graders.
After that, it's off to high school football and maybe even college. Some Mudhogs alums have played or are currently playing college football with Trinity, Western Connecticut, Notre Dame, UCONN, Central Connecticut and Troy among some of the schools they have attended.
Closer to home, the Mudhogs are having a real impact on the local high school scene. Ask any high school coach and they will tell you it helps to have kids come into their program's with experience and Mudhogs players are making an impact at a number of local high schools.
Last season Farmington was 9-1 with its lone loss to Class L playoff team Windsor. Avon has been a strong team in recent years and a number of former Mudhogs play for Lewis Mills, which is in its third season as a varsity program and now fields varsity, JV, and freshman teams.
"We have 27 freshmen in our program and next season the class is probably going to be over 30 kids and they are coming in having played some football," Lewis Mills coach Greg Todd said. "The Mudhogs are doing a great job and it only helps build the high school program."
The Mudhogs divide each level into four teams (white, black, silver and maroon) and play games against each other. While the players move on to different schools for their ninth grade year, they develop a closeness that carries on beyond their Mudhog days.
"Like we say, you come through this program, you are a Mudhog for life," Ortiz said. "The players, coaches, they build great relationships. Every year we have former MudHoggers coming back to help out."