The End Of One Chapter Leads To The Start Of Another. By John Nestor
With football down to the Final Four in each of the respective classes and not a local team in sight, the 2012 Fall Season has come to a close. It was a pretty strong season locally and here are some highlights from the action this Fall.
Best Teams I Saw This Fall:
The Ansonia High School football team is 12-0 and the prohibitive favorite to win yet another state title, this time in Class S. The Chargers started their march to the title on a warm Friday night in Torrington against the Red Raiders and are likely to end it by lifting the trophy at Rentschler Field next month.
It was easy to see the Chargers were special with Arkeel Newsome running wild and Andrew Matos showing he was going to be yet another weapon for Ansonia at wide receiver. I am not sure where this year's Chargers would stack up with the programs other great teams but they are about to go 14-0 for the second straight year and that's pretty darn good.
I have been fortunate enough to see the Northwest Catholic girls soccer team in action in each of the past three seasons and extensively in 2011 when they won the Class M title with a 19-0-1 record. The Indians repeated the feat this year, right down to the same record and have a they 40-game unbeaten streak going with state titles in three of the last four seasons.
Coach Todd Sadler heads up one of the best programs in the state and even though the Indians will be saying goodbye to stars like Jessica Fontaine and Annie and Cathy Higgins, they will likely be right back near the top of Class M again next season.
Most Enjoyable Team:
I want all the local teams to do well and I meet some great kids and coaches every season but I was especially happy for coach Mike Fritch and his Torrington boys soccer this fall as they won an NVL Division title, the programs first since the NVL went to a divisional format.
The Raiders had a frustrating season in 2011, losing a number of close games due to an inabillity to finish. They rectified that problem this season, posted a pair of wins over Naugatuck and advanced to the NVL Tournament title game.
Torrington played an entertaining style and genuinely seemed to like each other as teammates and had each others back on the field and off. There will be some tough losses to graduation, but the Red Raiders have enought coming back to be among the NVL contenders next season.
It was a strong season on the pitch in Burlington as both the Lewis Mills boys and girls soccer teams won Berkshire League titles and advanced to the semifinals of the Class M tournament.
Coach Jason Stock had a strong first season coaching the girls and replacing Dennis Fowler. Stock guided the Spartans to a 16-2-1 mark and a BL title. Mills was ousted in the state semis by Northwest Catholic, but another deep tournament run is a distinct possibility next season with all the talent that is coming back for year two of the Stock era.
Ben Kulas and the boys team had a great season as well, winning the BL while Kulas was named league Coach of the Year. The Spartans lost to top-seeded Bacon Academy on penalty kicks in the semifinals, a tough way to end what was a stellar season.
BL Runners Shine at State Open
The CIAC State Open Cross Country championship was a Berkshire League coming out party led by Thomaston and Lewis Mills.
In the girls race, Thomaston placed three runners in the top 12 led by Cameron Chaplen, who won the Class S state title and was fifth at the Open. Fellow Bears Sabrina Olsen (eighth) and Becky Perugini (12th) also had strong runs.
Lewis Mills standout Stephanie Deccy won the girls Class M title by 18 seconds and overcame a fall at the start of the Open race to finish 17th and advance to the New England Championships.
On the boys side, Class M state champion Kevin Sullivan of Lewis Mills finished sixth at the State open and earned All-New England honors with a 24th-place finish at the New England Championships.
Things I am looking Forward To:
Northwestern Regional Boys Hoops - The Highlanders are loaded with returning talent and should be a motivated group. The last time they walked off the court as a team was in March in Palinville when they lost to Immaculate in the class S semifinals and with the core of returners the Highlanders have, a deep tournament run should be one of their main goals.
Not that there isn't other work to do first. Northwestern won the BL regular season title but wasn't even the best team in Winsted. The Highlanders lost all three of their meetings with Gilbert last season, including an overtime thriller in the BL Tournament title game.
It will be interesting to see how Northwestern handles this season. The Highlanders owe the Yellowjackets a few and will be THE game on every schedule in the BL.
Local Girls Hoops:
There will be some intriguing storylines among local girls basketball teams, including what looks to be a wide open race in the Berkshire League and Torrington having to replace another standout.
Thomaston won the BL last season and will be strong again but Nonnewaug, Northwestern and Lewis Mills will all have something to say about whether or not the Bears repeat.
Torrington has had a strong last couple of seasons in the NVL and found a way to stay among the league's elite last season despite having to replace Sarah Royals. This season the Lady Raiders will have to overcome the loss of Alyssa Otis, a standout athlete who played soccer this fall at Merrimack College.
Speaking of college, I always like to see local athletes go on and take it to the next level and there have been quite a few locals excel in college over the past few years.
This winter I am interested in how some former local stars perform on the court.
Kerri Stolle at Lebanon Valley College. The former Wamogo star is making an impact already for the nationally ranked women's basketball team at LVC.
Sarah Royals at ALbany. Royals played in all 33 games last season as a freshman, including three starts and helped the Great Danes earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.