Raider football celebrates their 2016 campaign with an eye towards the future.
TORRINGTON: The 2016 Torrington football season may have been a rebuilding campaign based on the large and talented senior class that left after a remarkable 2015 season which featured an appearance in the post season.
When one talks rebuilding, it is a question of how deep the digging will need to go in order to bring the structure back to its former shape.
In the case of the Raiders, there’s no need to replace a crucial portion of the program, that being the foundation which is rock solid, built on the family principals on display Sunday night as the team celebrated with their annual end of the year banquet at the Torrington Elks Club.
Head coach Gaiton Rodriguez hosted the event with help from a very strong and active parents group, folks who work behind the scenes, but are critical to these celebrations.
The Raiders posted a 4-6 record in 2016, but put in the hard work after starting the year 1-4 by winning three of their last five.
“To me, the record is not an accurate description of this 2016 Torrington football team,” Rodriguez said. “This is a group of guys that found their way, found their place on the team and they all helped each other. What was gratifying to me as a football coach was how they became a team. How they began to help one and other during practices. How they began to help each other during the games. That wasn’t something that was very evident early on in the season but that developed as the season went on.”
When you are the team that comes in after the 9-1 squad, especially when a bulk of that group (the Raiders returned just four starters) graduates, the expectations are different and what a coaching staff wants to see is what the current players are made of.
To that end, the staff was pleased with their efforts and what it will mean to the team that gathers in August to get ready for the fall season which will be here before they all know it.
“Going into this year,” Rodriguez said. “Coming off one of our most successful season every, there were a lot of questions to be answered. Who was going to be in what role and where would all the pieces fit. There’s a term used by coaches that you always hear about and it called “The Process”. I felt this year was very much about the process. If you come to look at our team, where they were at the beginning of the year and you saw where they ended, I think as a team we can be pretty damn proud.”
A key turning point in the season occurred on Saturday, October 15 against Holy Cross when the Raiders used a tremendous second half to beat the Crusaders 42-14 after trailing going into the half.
The following week, Torrington held on to beat a tough Kennedy team, 20-18 when Hammond blocked a last second field goal attempt.
A rout (40-15) of Woodland was a highlight for the home fans and while they fell to Wolcott, the game was close until very late.
Their disappointing 42-20 loss to Watertown on the night before Thanksgiving may serve as motivation to get back at it as soon as possible.
Six seniors were honored on Sunday night.
Tri-Captains, Tori Hammonds, Justin Egliskis and Andrew Schimanski were joined by Jermaine Reese, Domonick Phengkaen and Rudi Patai.
Phengkaen earned the Coaches Award while Hammonds was named Most Valuable Defensive Player.
The Torrington Red Raider Most Valuable Player Award went to Egliskis who earned praise from his head coach.
“Justin is an example of what this football program is all about,” Rodriguez said. “Not only as a football player but as a student who is also out in the community. A player that gives it his all when he’s playing and excels.”
John Pasko, who handled the kicking duties for his team while playing tough on the line, was named the Most Outstanding Freshman while junior Daniel Fazzina earned Most Outstanding Underclassmen honors.
Anthony Ryans, who returns for his senior year, was named the Most Outstanding Lineman.
Explosive running back, Dylan Myrie captured the Most Valuable Offensive Players award.
The upperclassmen left their mark on this program.
“I want to thanks the seniors,” Rodriguez said. “The seniors were instrumental in this process. The patience that they had considering there were few players that had varsity experience and while I could see the frustrations they would have with the younger players, they stayed positive and kept plugging away.”
When he came here four seasons ago, Rodriguez, a Raider through and through, had goals in mind that went farther than just what happens on the field and once again, he has kept to his promise of creating the future leaders in our communities and this team lived up to that standard.
“What’s most important,” Rodriguez said. “Is that not only did these young men grow as football players but they grew as people. I can’t tell you the amount of times that parents would come up to me and say coach, thank you. I have never had my son study as much as he does or care about his grades. That’s what we preach here, those things are gratifying.”