Raiders coming home after 3-1 start. Beat Sacred Heart 35-0.
WATERBURY: It’s never a bad thing to get your weekly gridiron battle out of the way before two o’clock on a Saturday. It’s even better to come off a four-game road trip at the start of your season with a 3-1 record, heading home.
That’s where the Torrington football team finds themselves after four weeks of bus trips following a resounding 35-0 win over Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech.
On deck, a Homecoming week that will feel a whole bunch better off a three-game winning streak in which the Raiders truly seem to have taken a turn in the programs history and we are not talking about the wins and loss department.
A year ago, Torrington was coming off a brutal offseason that turned into a brutal season. They had just lost their fourth straight, a 44-7 thumping at the hands of Wolcott, on their way to a 0-7 start that led to a 3-8 campaign at the end of the season.
In those first seven games, the Raiders where outscored by a 318-115 margin.
Flash forward to this season and after four games, they have won 75 percent of them.
Granted, this year’s schedule is top heavy with easier opponents than a year ago when Torrington started against Ansonia, Wilby, St Paul and Wolcott but they can only play the next team ahead of them.
After a very tough opener against Jason Bradley and Naugatuck (47-30), the Raiders may have turned a corner during their 28-27 overtime thriller against Woodland in week two.
During that game, the mistakes and penalties were piling up while head Coach Gaitan Rodriguez’s temper was beginning to overflow.
Despite multiple setbacks from undisciplined play on both sides of the ball, the visitors gathered themselves in time to put together a game tying drive that was capped by a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Finn on a fourth and seven play.
That play set up two weeks of dominant football, starting with a 30-6 win over Oxford and Saturday’s result.
These were two teams Torrington should have beaten and did, but the fact that they won was overshadowed by how they won.
“I’m very proud of how we are winning,” Rodriguez said after both wins.
The how is with class and dignity, not with over exuberant celebrations over teams that in the same shoes the Raiders were just four weeks ago when Jason Bradley threw for a thousand yards or so.
“We have been on the other side of games like this,” Rodriguez said after the Oxford game.
This is a team made up of a group of sophomores and juniors who had felt a great deal of winning as freshman and even earlier in Pop Warner but had been humbled a year ago.
There is surely talent there, starting with Finn who after an over-amped start to the Naugatuck game, has settled and matured over the next three, all wins.
We may look back at that run and see that it was a turning point for the junior QB who is blessed with one of the hardest running fullbacks in the league, as well as a developing wide receiver group that improves every week.
On Saturday, Tyler Marens scored four times before you could blink and did it on the ground a pair of times to go along with two scoring receptions from Finn.
Marens will take the ball 40 times if he had his way but having other weapons will certainly make the Raiders more dangerous and we have seen a variety of players step up over the last three weeks.
Sophomore Flavian Moya broke onto the scene against Woodland with five catches, including a key two-point conversion and is now seeing time in the return game as well.
Tight end Nick Paniati had a terrific 75-yard catch and run on Saturday to set up a score. Paniati bobbled the ball off the referee after he caught it but regained control before almost going the distance.
Running back Tori Hammonds had a nice game against Oxford and again against Sacred Heart and will be counted on to spell Marens or be a change up when teams key on him.
Another back, tenth grader Domonick Phengkaen has shown an ability to run through people.
Speaking of running through people, Marens, all 5’6”, 145 pounds of him, absolutely leveled a defender on his fourth touchdown, a nine-yarder to put his team up 28-0 in the second quarter.
Now, the road gets tougher this week with Derby coming to the brand new complex that the team will play on for the first time.
Their first order of business will be to ignore all the hoopla that will surround the opening of the nearly three million dollar facility.
A ribbon cutting ceremony, the Governor, Homecoming, powder puff and the like can throw distractions at high school kids and getting caught up in it will be something the coaching staff will be on guard for.
Rodriguez started to talk to them about it immediately after the win Saturday.
The ‘other’ Raiders are coming off a bye week and bring with them a 2-1 mark and have had extra time to look at film and scout Torrington.
Derby has posted wins over St Paul (46-39) and Crosby (46-20) while losing to Ansonia (36-6) but who hasn’t lost to the Chargers.
After Derby, it’s back on the road to take on a non-conference foe in Bunnell followed by a trip to take on the undefeated Wolcott Indians.
Torrington will be back at home on Halloween when they host St Paul.
NOTES: Always great to see former THS stars at a game and on Saturday, former Raider standout Chris DeBerry was in the stands at Municipal Stadium.
DeBerry had an off week as a member of the UConn Huskies football team and with the struggles going on in Storrs, it was probably a nice break for a Raider who gave the faithful more than their share of thrills over his four years behind center.