Raiders win over Naugatuck has been building since the coldest days of 2019.
TORRINGTON: I still sit back with amazement, even the day after at what transpired at Torrington High School on Friday night when the Raiders football team beat rival Naugatuck by a 14-7 final on Senior Night.
A night that will live in the players who played in it forever. That’s what Senior Night is about.
Celebrating your place in the history of THS sports and on this particular night, it was the culmination of hard work that began in the weight room in the dead of winter, circa January of 2019.
Coming into the game, I had wondered aloud on my sports talk show on WAPJ (Monday from 1-2 p.m.) about the lack of quality wins the Greyhounds had coming in.
Sure, they were 5-0 but who had they beaten? Was it a reputation thing that found many pundits looking past the Raiders and anticipating the Thanksgiving Day match up of Naugatuck/Ansonia?
Four of the Greyhounds wins had come against teams with just one win (Crosby, St Paul, Oxford and Kennedy) while their fifth came against Wolcott (36-0), a team Torrington also handled rather easily.
The combined records of the teams they had played coming in was 6-24 with only their win over Wolcott worthy of quality start status.
I get that the visitors were without two of their starters, their number one running back and top receiver but considering the points the Raiders could have put on the board, the outcome would have been the same.
Head coach Gaitan Rodriguez has loved the fact that not many pay close attention to his group of tough, gritty, never-say-die players who run a variation of the single-wing that isn’t full of bells and whistles but power and determination.
That’s something that this team has in barrels full.
They don’t wear down; they wear you down.
Think you know where this play is going? Good, try and stop us.
On Friday night the left a pile of points on the field but never gave up.
So often this year, nothing seems to be working right. The opposing team is wreaking havoc on the Torrington offense until it’s not.
Christian Estefani set the tone early by running hard for 13-yards on his first carry as he burst straight up the middle, a place he had not been having much success at over the previous couple of weeks.
That first run may have sparked his confidence because the next time he touched the ball, he took the direct snap, rolled to his left and got to the outside where he made a B line for the end zone.
When Estefani (7-107) gets a head of steam up, he’s got another gear and it showed at just the right time.
Then there is Jacob Coleman.
What can I say about Mr. Coleman except for wow.
He is one hard running, get out of my way kind of running back, something I saw at Derby in the Raiders second game of the year when he delivered the hit of the year to date on a defender trying to take him down.
You could hear the impact in Torrington and the tone was set. Arm tackle or don’t wrap up Mr. Coleman (21-201) at your own risk.
On the game deciding drive, one that came after a tremendous defensive effort by the Raiders that stopped the ‘Hounds at the Torrington five, it took the home team just five plays top go the 95 yards, the last 50 by Coleman on a Coleman kind of run.
This run looked, like a lot of his runs do, like it was nowhere until it was going all the way.
The large crowd at the Robert H. Frost was still edgy as the fourth quarter rolled around and the lead just one score.
But the bend but don’t break “D” held up their end of the bargain and after a fourth down pass by Naugatuck was ruled to have hit the ground before it was caught, the home team knew what they were about to feel.
Those feelings led to a tremendous site as most of the Raiders offense embraced their head coach, who has never given up on them and who always has their best interest in his big heart.
Around the Naugatuck Valley League, this might be seen as an upset but not from the players and coaches that believed from the outset that this was a game they could win.
Next Friday night, Torrington travels to Waterbury to take on Holy Cross at Municipal Stadium at 6:30 in what might turn out to be a much tougher match up than the one they just played.
I wouldn’t though, bet against a Raider team that is as strong and motivated as any they will see the rest of the 2019 campaign.