Torrington falls to Derby in debut on new field
TORRINGTON – To hold a public address announcer job for 17 years means you are rarely, if ever, speechless.
R.J. Poniatoski, owner of that gig for the Torrington High football team, had one of those times Saturday afternoon.
When asked what he thought of Torrington’s brand new $3-million dollar facility, he paused, looked at the field and simply said, “It’s unbelievable.”
His sentiment was shared by the 1,000-plus on hand for the grand re-unveiling of the Robert H. Frost Sport Complex. Despite Torrington’s 37-7 loss to a dominant Derby team, the winner of the day was Torrington’s athletic program.
If this game was one year ago today, it may have been postponed due to rain as the old field had issues dealing with similar weather. On Saturday, a postponement was never a thought thanks to the new field-turf surface.
The renovations also included a new track, a new set of stands on the home and visitor sidelines and a modern scoreboard, dedicated in memory of Glen and Kathy Aeschliman.
Torrington’s facility now ranks right with Wolcott and Naugatuck at the top of the Naugatuck Valley League.
“From the (football) program’s standpoint, this is really a great thing,” Torrington head coach Gaitan Rodriguez said. “The kids deserve a place to play like this.”
A large ribbon-cutting ceremony was held prior to the game, featuring the co-chairs of the Turf Committee, Ed Arum and Mario Longobucco, State Representative Michelle Cook, and Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone.
Then the game was held, a contest Derby (3-1) controlled from the start.
Rick Bartone rushed for 94 yards, caught three balls for 57 yards and compiled three touchdowns. Ben Slowik had 98 yards receiving and rushed for 81 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Mike Kreiger was composed throughout, tossing for 219 yards, one touchdown and three two-point conversions.
Torrington, despite recording only three first downs in the first half, hung tight until the end of the second quarter. However, down just one at 8-7, the game fell apart from there.
After committing multiple penalties in the red zone, Derby found itself facing a fourth-and-goal from the 30-yard line. Inexplicably, Torrington allowed Derby to convert, as Kreiger connected on a throw to Bartone at the 15-yard line. Bartone then sliced his way through the Torrington secondary and into the end zone.
For all intents and purposes, it was over. Derby outscored Torrington, 23-0, in the second half.
“We didn’t execute the way we needed to,” said Rodriguez, whose team’s only touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Connor Finns to Zack Mancini. “We left a lot of plays on the field. Several times we were in position to make a play, but came up short. We have to clean up those mental lapses.”
Torrington (3-2) also committed multiple personal fouls late in the game and a skirmish led to the ejection of one player from each team. Rodriguez is eager to see his team show better composure going forward.
“Our players were very emotional and it got the best of them today,” Rodriguez said. “It’s part of the growing process for a young team. We need to learn from this.”
Torrington, after spending the first month of the season on the road, heads back on the buses the next two weeks, traveling to Bunnell and Wolcott.
Then the Raiders finally return to their new field of dreams Halloween night against St. Paul. They waited this long to play at home, so what’s another two weeks?
The original wait was certainly worth it. Win or lose.