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A look at high school football throughout the state

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Inside The Huddle: North Haven

Vanacore Field, North Haven
Coach: Anthony Sagnella 
Conference: SCC
2012 Record: 7-3 (3-0 in SCC Division II East)
2013 Kickoff: at Bridgeport Central, Sept. 12, 6 p.m.
Top offensive players: Ethan Suraci, 5-10, 205, Sr., FB; Mike Halloran, 6-2, 195, Sr., QB; Pat Mikos, 5-10, 180, Sr., RB; Mike Siwek, 5-10, 240, Sr., OL; John Tondalo, 5-10, 295, Sr., OL; Austin Mahon, 5-9, 180, Sr., OL; Mike Milliard, 5-8, 200, Sr., OL: Alex Baglioni, 5-9, 190, Sr., TE; Chris Brockett, 5-8, 160, Sr., P.
Top defensive players: Suraci, Sr., LB; Halloran, Sr., LB; Mikos, Sr., LB; Fred Sanchez, 5-9, 180, Sr., CB; Ben Pethick, 5-8, 180, Sr., DL; Siwek, Sr., DL; Milliard, Sr., DL; Mahon, Sr., DL.
Key losses: Jalon White, RB/DB; Matt Marcarelli, OL/DL; Quincy Pecora, RB/LB.
Outlook: Sagnella says his team expects to be competitive, and that the Indians have capable, yet inexperienced skill players. Despite Sagnella's claims, Halloran returns under center and Suraci again joins him in the backfield. Halloran, who does an effective job of directing North Haven's single-wing offense, rushed for 326 yards and three touchdowns last season. Suraci added 558 yards and four scores. The Indians, though, must replace backs Jalon White (1,824 yards, 24 TDs) and Quincy Pecora (437 yards, 5 TDs). The offensive line loses Matt Marcarelli, a Register All-Area selection, to graduation, but several other starters from last season from that unit return. That line helped the Indians rush for 3,540 yards in 2012.  Defensively, Mikos made 78 tackles, Suraci made 65 and Halloran 45. North Haven has the talent to repeat as division champs and make a bid at a state playoff berth.

Previous entries in the Inside The Huddle series:

New Canaan
North Branford

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Inside The Huddle: Derby

DeFilippo Field, Derby
Coach: George French (4th year, 15-15)
Conference: NVL
2012 Record: 6-4
2013 Kickoff: St. Paul, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
Top offensive players: Tyrae Small, 5-10, 215, Sr., RB; Michael Kreiger, 6-2, 185, Jr., QB; Jordan LaRue, 5-10, 165, Sr., WR; Sal Frosceno, 5-8, 155, Sr., WR.
Top defensive players: Arben Komani, 6-2, 235, Sr., DL; Brian Eliasson, 5-9, 165, Jr., LB; Mike Mauro, 5-7, 155, Jr., LB.
Key losses: Dillon McMahon, WR/DB; Matt Nicolari, RB/LB; Blair Mitchell, OL/DL; Dave Ahearn, OL/DL.
Outlook: The Red Red Raiders lost their top offensive player (McMahon, 30 catches, 8 TDs) and defensive player (Nicolari, 101 tackles, 3 sacks) to graduation. But Derby returns several offensive players who contributed last season. Small rushed for 1,172 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He's expected to be one of the top running backs in the NVL. Kreiger (pictured above), meanwhile, completed 76 of 132 passes (57.6 percent) for 1,144 yards and 17 touchdowns. LaRue caught 18 passes last season, while Frosceno caught 17. They combined for six touchdown catches. Derby does have to replace all five offensive lineman from a year ago. French thinks his team has a lot of work ahead of them, but if the offensive line jells, and the defense comes together, it could be an exciting year. Derby notched its first winning season above .500 for the first time since 1996 last season.

Previous entries in the Inside The Huddle series:

New Canaan
North Branford

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Westhill turns tragedy into triumph

Last year, with fall practice in full swing, the Westhill football community received stunning and sad news: former quarterback Peter Cernansky died from injuries suffered in a skateboarding accident during his first week at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont on Aug. 30, 2012. Cernansky was just 18.

After his death, Cernansky's parents, Charles J. Cernansky and Sharon L. Burley, wanted to give back to the Westhill community to honor their only child.

The inaugural Peter Cernansky Memorial Golf Tournament was held on July 1 at the Rockrimmon Country Club in North Stamford. The event raised more than $35,000.

"(His parents) came to me at the end of (2012) and wanted to make a donation," Westhill football coach Frank Marcucio said.

Marcucio said he suggested having a golf outing. "I just didn't envision it would be this big," the coach said. "They wanted about 30 percent spent on player development, like camps and clinics, and 70 percent on academic counseling. I saw where we were and thought of the perfect program to use the money."

The donation will be used to implement an Athlife Program, formerly Play-It-Smart, at Westhill, which becomes the 20th school in the country, and the only one currently in the state, to be a member of the program. New Haven was a member of Play-It-Smart before the city dropped the program.

"It is a great thing that the Cernansky's are helping us with," Marcucio said. "I said to others that they have turned the tragic death of Pete into a legacy that will continue for a very long time because of his love for football and Westhill."

The Westhill football and boys and girls basketball teams, and possibly soccer, will benefit from the program. The student-athletes will now be able to take advantage of SAT Prep Courses through the program.

Joe DeVellis, who is an assistant varsity football, girls basketball, and baseball coach and a Special Ed teacher at Westhill, will be the academic coach who will oversee the program under Marcucio's direction. Athletic Director Mike King and Principal Camille Figluizzi are also intimately involved, as is basketball coach Howard White.

"We never had anything as intense as this," Marcucio said. "It's a huge advantage when you're trying to get D-I and D-2 scholarships. There are a lot of things that we can now accomplish with this program. My goal is to get these kids into college."

From the AthLife Website: 

The Athlife Foundation is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization, whose aim is to ensure that in our nations most challenged communities, deserving student-athletes can achieve academically, garner the skills to succeed in post-secondary pursuits, and be prepared to compete in their future careers.

The Athlife Foundation assists schools in creating the right kind of sport experiences for student-athletes through a platform that develops professional academic-athletic support positions in secondary education.

A national network of resources, organizations, and schools help the creation and long term maintenance of these key professional staff positions. Schools develop their programs based on identified resources and needs of the athletic teams targeted for support.

In addition to the intrinsic benefit to students, the schools can realize improved academic achievement, increased graduation and attendance rates, improved post-secondary planning, and true community impact through service learning.

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Lofty expectations at Foran

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Lofty expectations for Foran

MILFORD - With its quarterback and a slew of receivers returning, there was certainly a sense of excitement Wednesday during Foran’s first football practice of the 2013 season.

Junior quarterback Jake Kasuba, who tossed for 2,547 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, is a year older, wiser and stronger, and has plenty of options, including receivers Connor Cadrin, Sean Deegan, Nick Weissauer and Zach White.

“It’s exciting to have those kids back,” Foran coach Jeff Bevino said, “and we have some kids behind them that are going to be pretty good players, too. It’s finally coming to fruition by running the same offense for three or four years. We have the makings of a good offense.”

Last season, the offense showed signs of greatness. The Lions averaged 33.6 points per contest while finishing second in the Southern Connecticut Conference Division II East and 6-4 overall.

The expectations are even higher this year. Foran has the talent to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

“I really think it could be a big breakout year,” Kasuba said. “We have a chance to go to the playoffs this year.”

There was a pretty simple formula for why Foran succeeded offensively last season.

“Last year we were effective because we worked hard,” the coach said. “We can’t just think that we’re going to go out there and have everything where it was. You have to work hard.”

It seems like the Lions have left off where last season ended. It was a productive summer for Foran, which hosted a weekly passing league. That allowed the players, especially Kasuba, to fine tune their craft.

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New era begins in Torrington

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Torrington Raiders hit the field for first practice of the season with new head coach Gaitan Rodriguez

By Pete Paguaga
@PetePaguaga on Twitter

TORRINGTON >> “Raiders, Raiders!” echoed throughout the athletic fields in the back of Torrington High School as Gaitan Rodriguez closed out his first practice as head coach of Torrington.

“We’re very excited to get back on the field,” said Rodriguez. “The kids just want to get on the field.”

The Raiders program went through a tumultuous offseason overshadowed by a scandal that rocked Torrington.

Rodriguez graduated from Torrington in 1997 and was a member of the Raiders football program where he was an All-Naugatuck Valley League player. He took over the program in March after Dan Dunaj resigned in January, citing “family reasons.”

“It’s a dream come true,” said Rodriguez of being able to coach on the field he once played on. “It’s something I set out to do after I graduated from college.”

Rodriguez had players spread out across the field throughout the practice, making his rounds to the different groups of players.

“It’s all about evaluation,” said Rodriguez. “I thought it was a good day.”

He also wasn’t nervous about getting on the field for the first time with the team.

“I’ve been doing this for a while now,” he said. “I was anxious to get this day under way.”

Last season the Raiders went 6-4 and they lost a majority of their starters, but that isn’t going to stop the leaders of this year’s team.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Inside The Huddle: New Canaan

James Dunning Jr. Field (at Hawes Plaza), New Canaan
Coach: Lou Marinelli (33rd year, 283-96-7 overall)
Conference: FCIAC
2012 Record: 9-3 (Class L semifinalists)
2013 Kickoff: at Hand, Sept. 12, 6 p.m.
Top players: Nick Cascione, 6-0, 185, Sr., QB; Teddy Bossidy, 5-8, 175, Sr., QB; Michael Donnelly, 6-5, 277, Sr., OL; Jack Gilio, 5-9, 175, Sr., WR; Beau Santero, 6-3, 240, Sr., OL; Michael Root, 6-4, 220, Sr., LB; Cole Harris, 6-2, 210, Sr., LB; Connor Buck, 6-4, 245, Sr., DL; Mike DiCosmo, 5-9, 160, Sr., DB; Zach Allen, 6-6, 240, Jr., LB.
Key losses: Johnny Rhudy LB, Grady Lynch WR/DB, Casey Ouellette DB, Louis Hagopian RB, Dylan Karnedy OL, Bobby Erickson OL.
Outlook: Marinelli says the Rams are young at important spots, but 11 starters return from last season. Cascione and Bossidy will likely split time under center again. Cascione passed for 1,133 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Bossidy threw for 748 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. Cascione also led the team in rushing yards. Defensively, New Canaan just may be the most talented team in the state, led by Root, Harris and Buck. Harris (pictured above) was a Register All-State selection, Buck has been offered by UMass and Root more than 100 tackles last season. New Canaan will attempt to reach the state semifinals for the ninth straight season. The schedule is tough, though, with league games against Greenwich, Staples and Darien , and a season-opening non-league clash with Hand.

Previous entries in the Inside The Huddle series:

North Branford

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Inside The Huddle: North Branford

Colafati Field, North Branford
Coach: Mark Basil
Conference: Pequot
2012 Record: 12-1 (Class S finalists)
2013 Kickoff: vs. Haddam-Killingworth, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m.
Top players: Josh Melaccio, 5-11, 210, Sr., RB/LB; Eddie Miller, 5-9, 170, Jr., QB; John Burke, 6-2, 237, Sr., OL/DE.
Key losses: Brandan Basil, QB; Joe DeLucia, WR/DB; Alex McGuigan, WR/CB; Dale Hausman, RB/LB; Chris Caron, RB/WR/SS; Gary Falanga, RB/LB.
Outlook: The Thunderbirds lost 17 starters from a team that compiled an unbeaten regular season before losing to Ansonia in the Class S state championship game. Five starters return, including Burke on both sides of the ball. Melaccio is expected the be the team's featured playmaker. He rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns last season. Miller takes over for Brandan Basil, who threw for 3,191 yards and 44 touchdowns in 2012. Miller completed both passes he attempted last season, good for 16 yards. The program's numbers are on the rise, according to Mark Basil, but depth at the varsity level is limited. There are only five seniors on the roster but 19 juniors, so the future appears promising. North Branford has some very good young skills players, and Mark Basil hopes they will improve as the season progresses.

Previous entries in the Inside The Huddle series:


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Monday, August 12, 2013

Inside The Huddle: Guilford

Kavanaugh Complex, Guilford
Coach: Tom Unger
Conference: SCC
2012 Record: 5-5, 3-1 SCC Division II West
2013 Kickoff: vs. Wilton, Sept. 12, 7 p.m.
Top offensive players: Joe Nault, 5-9, 175, Sr., QB; Ian Robinson, 6-0, 240, Sr., C: David Knapp, 5-9, 170, Sr., RB; Carson Sperry, 6-0, 160, Sr., WR; Eric Zergiebel, 5-11, 195, Sr., RB; Aaron Cowee, 5-9, 220, Sr., OL; Zack Soffer, 5-9, 150, Sr., WR.
Top defensive players: Dane Lawrence, 6-1, 235, Sr., DL; Ford Linell, 6-2, 215, Sr., LB; Fred Trotta, 5-9, 165, Sr., LB; Derek Batick, 5-9, 195, Sr., DL; Anthony Pensa, RB/DB, Jr.
Key losses: KC Horton, rising senior, RB (injured); Colton Schilling, OL/DE; J.P. Peters, OL/DL/LB; Tyler Nelson, WR/DB; Nick Setaro, WR/LB.
Outlook: The return of several talented starters is a promising sign for the Indians, who have the talent to be contenders in the Southern Connecticut Conference Division II West. Nault returns for his third year under center. He’s a mobile quarterback who gained close to 800 yards rushing last season. He also passed for 393 yards and five scores. Zergiebel (pictured above)  ran for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, while Knapp ran for over 500 yards. Knapp also made 53 tackles. Sperry and Soffer will be Nault’s go-to wide receivers. The offensive line should be improved with the return of Robinson and Lawrence. Linell (59 tackles in 2012) and Trotta (54 tackles) anchor will contribute at linebacker. Pensa made three interceptions as a sophomore. Unger said that Batick showed promise at defensive line last season and they expect even bigger things from him this year.

Previous entries in the Inside The Huddle series:


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Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer appointed athletic director at Hamden, Reggie Lytle named interim coach of Academics

Tom Dyer will become the new athletic director at Hamden, replacing Jeanne Cooper, who retired in June.

Dyer, 34, served as co-athletic facilitator at Hillhouse from 2007-13 and the head football coach the last six years, two of them culminating in Class M state football championships (2010 and 2012).

“I’m extremely excited about the new opportunity and looking forward to meeting all of the coaches and student-athletes,” Dyer said. “But I’m also sad about leaving a great program.”

Dyer went 51-17 in his six seasons with the Academics. He also served as an assistant coach at Hillhouse from 2001-06.
“We are very happy to have Tom Dyer in the district as athletic director,” Hamden principal Gary Highsmith said. “He has a great track record, is a successful coach. He’s very enthusiastic and he’s a winner. I think our superintendent (Fran Rabinowitz) made a very, very wise choice.”

Said Dyer: “It was a very tough decision to leave the Hillhouse football program and those kids.”

The Academics also appeared in the Class M semifinals in 2008.

“It’s wonderful for Tommy. Hamden got a quality guy,” New Haven citywide athletic director Joe Canzanella said. “He will do very well in Hamden.”

Canzanella said Reggie Lytle, an assistant on Dyer’s staff, was promoted to interim head coach Wednesday. He has held several positions in his three years as an assistant and he is current;y the president of New Haven’s Pop Warner foootball program.

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