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Thanks for the support Avon!

POSTED March 30, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

AVON-When the Foothills Trader first came out with a weekly paper that would cover the Avon area, I, always one to look for teams to write about, jumped at the chance.

I didn’t know much about the Avon sports program except that ever time I covered their football team when they played either Gilbert or Housatonic, they romped by 40 or so.

As I leave this fine weekly that has served to get news and sports stories out in a town that has limited coverage from a major newspaper, I need to say thanks to the tremendous coaches, athletic directors and players who made my time with the Falcons, a blast.

Writing obligations closer to home in Torrington demand more of my attention than would allow me to do justice to a plethora of stories that deserve to be told well.

I started this venture with a call to Frank Waters, the Falcons highly successful girls basketball coach who was and always will be, a wealth of information on girls basketball.

Waters and I outlined a team last season (2009-2010) that had only returned on player (Titi Vanreil) who had seen any time on the varsity floor from the year before when the Falcons went 20-0 behind Lindsay Horbatuck and won the Class M State championship.

Even with a team with a deep lack of experience, Waters guided his team to another North Central Connecticut Conference tournament championship.

Ever knowledgeable of his team, the NCCC and girls basketball around the state, Waters was always willing to talk basketball with me.

Even in the summer, gotta love it, talk about dedication.

That winter I also ran into a former assistant at Lewis Mills, Chris Vozzolo, who had just taken the reigns for the boys basketball team.

Vozzolo too was always willing to take the time to talk up his team, something all good coaches do.

He was realistic about his chances that season and was fighting injuries to key players but his team had a fine season, posting a 15-5 record while making a run in the Class L states.

That team, that featured Austin Kick, Tyler D’Onofrio and Jack O’ Brien, was an upbeat, hard working group that was fun to watch.

John McLaughlin of the wrestling team has always had a strong program and it will continue that way under a coach who knows his stuff.

Winter turned to spring and it was time to head outdoors where I met up with an old friend who used to coach in Torrington during the summer.

Marty deLivron was a coach for the Torrington Twisters of the New England Collegiate Baseball League for many years and was also the Falcons baseball coach who supplied stats and info via e-mail and phone calls.

Least I forget the fine athletic programs that spit out champions on a regular basis at the Avon Old Farms School.

Athletic Director Brian Doyle was always helpful when talking about any sport the Winger Beavers participated in.

Championship hockey and baseball programs are the norm at AOF and they were a pleasure to cover.

The list of athletes that have gone on to play in major university programs or have signed professional contracts is long indeed and will continue for this fine school.

Let’s not forget the fall sports where I got to talk with Falcons head football coach, Brett Quinion.

Quinion, Litchfield native, had built a floundering football program into one of the best in the state.

The Falcons had rolled through the Pequot League the previous two seasons behind the legs of Ross McDonald at the receiving of D’Onofrio.

If a team played Avon, they usually left bruised from spending a day in the trenches with some of the strongest lines in the state.

I watched the rivalry between the Falcon and the Gilbert Yellowjackets grow into one of the best in the area and when the ’Jackets upset the Falcons by a 7-0 score in 2010, it was a tough day for Avon, but a great story to tell.

Quinion also played a hand in one of the biggest stories in the state and around the country in 2009 when he helped set up one of the best scoring plays his team would ever give up.

On September 26, the Falcons were playing the Wolcott Tech Wildcats, a team in just their second year as a varsity program.

On that Wildcats team was a linebacker named Nick Reardon, a senior who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer just weeks before the game.

Surgery had been performed and the upperclassmen’s career seemed over until Quinion and Tech head coach Jamie Coty devised a plan to get Reardon in the game just one more time.

He could not get hit, so Coty thought a punt would work, with the Falcons backing off on the block attempt to avoid contact.

Quinion went one better, suggesting a handoff and a clear lane.

Well, the rest is history. Reardon took the handoff and rambled 82 yards for the score with the Falcon defenders doing an excellent job selling the fake.

The story made local, state and national headlines for a story that just made people feel good.

Quinion always maintained that it was an easy call considering what Reardon (who has since made a full recovery) went through.

That story summed up the experience I have had with the fine folks up in Avon; class, dignity and a willingness to help.

I want to thank all the coaches and players and all who I ran into over the past 16 months

for making this a beat I will always have fond memories of.

See you out there.

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