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Finally it's about football again for the Raiders

POSTED September 14, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                 Finally it's about football again for Raiders


            ANSONIA – From a football perspective no matter how you carve it, slice it or dice it, it was ugly. No getting around it. From a football program point of view it was a much needed return to the field and that alone brightened the night.

            Torrington High was manhandled by Ansonia Friday night and that it putting it nicely. The final score was 52-7 and it could have been whatever the Chargers wanted it to be. It was 26-0 in the first quarter and 40-0 at the half.

            By the end of the third quarter the Chargers were running out of bounds and deliberately taking a knee and going down to avoid violating the state’s 50-point rule. 

            Ansonia’s all-world running back Arkeel Newsome darted and dazzled for 183 yards on 10 carries and scored on TD runs of 1, 24 and 25 yards while setting a new Ansonia and state scoring record with 758 points breaking former Charger Alex Thomas’ old mark of 746 points.

            Torrington had minus-4 yards in the first half and only a 60-yard pass to Tyler Marens allowed the Raiders to get on the scoreboard and finish with positive yardage.

            You get the picture football-wise. It was a mighty long night in the Valley. It will get better. The Raiders are young and there no other Ansonias on the schedule You thank the football gods for that if you are Torrington.

            But the night was only partly about the results and the x’s and o’s that went into the final score. For the Raiders’ program it was as much about getting back on the field. Getting back to donning the pads and thinking about the game. Getting back to football.

            The off-season was probably the worse in Torrington High football history. The sad thing is that it didn’t have to be. The program has been kicked around, stomped on, beaten and battered because of the actions of several FORMER players who were arrested for sexual assault violations that drew national attention.

            The ensuing reactions on social media of other students who chose to rip the victims of the assaults pointed to other concerns the school and community has had to deal with. It hasn’t been a pretty site.

            But somewhere along the line the area media lost its way and still has not found the right path yet. The players arrested had finished their careers three months prior to the incident. They were seniors ready to graduate. They were gone from the football program.

            Yet the media has relentlessly referred to them as football players, not former, implicating the football program by the reference as some kind of evil empire. All the students involved I believe also took U.S. History but the headlines have not read – “U.S. History students arrested.”

            I am not an apologist for the Torrington High football program and they did have a hazing incident last season. But I have wracked my brain trying to figure out how the program has been responsible for all that has transpired here.  

            The toll has been immense, even the school board itself has bought it, looking for rewrites to the athletic handbook based in part on the arrests. I have numerous people ask me what is going with the Torrington High football program.

            Somehow this has become a THS football program problem and it has been unwarranted.

            First-year coach Gaitan Rodriguez, a proud former Red Raider who bleeds a lot of maroon and white, bites his tongue when all of this comes up but rightly or wrongly he has known he has to deal with it and has done so. He is a good guy and social worker, well-trained for the task at hand.

            But like any football coach he wants to coach football, that is his passion. So last night, opponent and final score notwithstanding the Raiders got back on the field.

            There will be long-lasting scars from the off-season, but they will fade and it started last night. The conversation this week will be about tackling better, finding a running game and a few players to stand out.

            Conduct will continue to be monitored like it always has and the players know they are under the microscope more than usual. But Friday night it became about the game again. Not where former players were on March or April evenings, not about the unfortunate ignorance that social media can popularize.

            Now it is about Watertown on Thanksgiving Day and how to stop the opponents. Once again it is about the game and the many positives this program has produced over the years.

            Let’s not kid ourselves, Torrington took a beating on the field Friday night against what the great Owen Canfield once called,  “the most famous football program in New England.”

            But the Raiders were back on the field, it was all about football. That made it a much better night than the final score would indicate. This was actually easy compared to the off-season. And it was welcome and a long-time coming.

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