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Fortier getting it done at Pomperaug

POSTED February 09, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                         Fortier getting it done at Pomperaug

SOUTHBURY – Joe Fortier is a long way from home, at least for those that go back a way and remember the young guy who wore Thomaston High brown and gold as a three-sport athlete in the mid 1990s. Yet, he clearly seems right at home.

            During the winter months, Fortier spends many of his nights off of I-84’s exit 16 in the Pomperaug High gymnasium. The brown and gold has long given way to the bright red and white of the Panthers for the 1997 THS graduate.  

            Fortier coaches the Panthers girls basketball team. It is a relatively new gig for him, just his second season after replacing Jen Jackson. Clearly it is a spot he relishes. A 34-8 mark during his short tenure including a gaudy 17-1 mark this season.

            There are strong hopes for a SWC Conference title and a state title is more than in the back of the mind and certainly a possibility. Just for the record, Fortier and his wife, Sue, are also within a week of welcoming a second child into the family.

            Very good times for a former Golden Bear.

            The coaching thing is not new to Fortier. He teaches elementary school physical education in the Woodland District and has been the Woodland High varsity girls soccer coach for five years and is a former NVL Coach of the Year.

            The basketball thing came as a bit of a surprise, however.

            “(Former Woodland A.D. Dan Scavone) told me to get involved in everything and get as much experience as I could if I wanted to coach,” said the 32-year old Fortier. “When the Pomperaug position opened up, I applied, but I was shocked when I got it.”

            Fortier had never been a girls varsity basketball coach and Pomperaug is a state power in girls hoop. He figured there would be a ton of applicants and he had little chance at the job. He was right about the nuber of applicants and wrong about getting the job.

            “Everything happens for a reason and I think being a girls varsity coach (in soccer) helped,” reasoned Fortier.

            It was a bit of a blind date, but it has been a good marriage. Fortier has been aided by stepping into a program that has been used to winning although that brings its own set of pressures.

And the junior varsity coach is a guy known to anybody who has lived in the area for more than five minutes and takes notice of recreational and scholastic sports – Scooter Zappone.

Friday night against Newtown,  Fortier looking fit trim and ready to go, was a bit nervous. The defending SWC champion Nighthawks had only two losses and maybe the league’s top player in Riley Wurtz.

Fortier’s team made it an easier night for him that it could have been. There is talent here. Senior Hailey Welton scored 17 points and one of the area’s top players, Gabbie Holness added 15 points with several key baskets late.

Pomperaug likes to push it and the Panthers pushed it to a 24-14 lead. Newtown would get as close as six points in the fourth quarter but there was too much red and white.

Fortier patrolled the sideline in style, a word of encouragement and instruction here, a question about the official’s optical talents there. Often he turned around to Zappone to make a comment or ask a question. There was no sitting. The chair was for decoration.

Zappone has been around the block a couple of times. He has coached at Post University and Wilby. He handled the Nonnewaug softball team for two decades and won a slew of titles. If you want a local connection, Zappone coach Thomaston’s Skider’s Gym softball team to a state title and a fifth place finish in the national tournament in 1984.

Zappone and Fortier are a good match. Pomperaug and Fortier are a good combination. He likes being there.

“This is a great program to coach for,’ said Fortier. “Every sport helps out the other sports. We are all part of the school and help one another out. Joe Velardi (A.D.) is a great guy to work for.”

The SWC Tournament looms for Fortier and Lauralton Hall, ranked No. 4 in the state, along with Newtown (top 15) are two of the obstacles that need to be overcome. Whatever the outcome, the state tournament holds promise of great reward and a difficult road.

A coach of two winning programs. Another daughter on the way. Fortier is far removed from being a Golden Bear. But life seems pretty golden right now. Away from home and right at home.

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