The North Haven football squad has been on a steady rise through the past few years and the 2013 campaign saw the Indians reach heights previously unseen.
Anthony Sagnella's team first put together a stellar regular season that featured a 42-28 win against then-No. 2 ranked Xavier, as well as a 28-14 triumph versus Foran which clinched a fifth straight SCC Division II East crown. North Haven then made the Class L State Playoffs for the fourth time since 2007 by routing Amity 41-14 on Thanksgiving, followed by the program's first postseason victory with a 35-0 win at Platt.
When all was said and done, Sagnella's squad went 10-3 this fall and proved to everyone in the Southern Connecticut Conference and beyond that when you play the Indians, you better bring your A-game, or else you'll take a big "L."
"This year's team was a classic example of a typical group of North Haven athletes who were dedicated, hard-nosed, and hard-working. They bought into our concept and were a special group," Coach Sagnella said. "One of things I'm most proud of is all the compliments I heard from people outside North Haven who view us as a football town. That's a positive reflection of the efforts of everyone, from our youth program to our parents to our coaching staff to our players. We all speak a common language and that makes for a seamless transition from one age group to the next."
North Haven was led by a collection of seniors who Sagnella said "exemplify the commitment, determination, and competitiveness we look for in a football player, on and off the field." The Indians' senior captains were fullback/linebacker Ethan Suraci, two-way linemen Mike Siwek and Austin Mahon, plus blocking/back linebacker Patrick Mikos. Suraci rushed 175 times for 1,205 yards (6.89 yards a carry) with 22 touchdowns to go with 129 tackles on defense. Suraci earned All-SCC and Levi Jackson honors on offense and was also voted by his teammates as the Indians' Most Valuable Player. Sagnella called Suraci "the total package, someone who represented our team well through the good times and the bad times." Siwek also made All-SCC and the Levi Jackson team on offense and additionally had 91 tackles with five sacks on defense. Mahon also sealed a spot on both those teams by virtue of his 111 tackles and seven sacks and Mikos reeled in 151 tackles to gain his bid to the Levi Jackson squad.
Two other seniors who made both the All-SCC and Levi Jackson teams were quarterback/linebacker Mike Halloran and offensive lineman John Tondalo. Halloran made the teams on defense with his 66 tackles and four sacks, yet he also fared well on offense by rushing for 911 yards with 11 scores to go with his eight TDs via the air. Junior tight end/defensive end Zach Kastenhuber was also an All-SCC selection by notching a whopping 15 sacks to go with 92 tackles and four receiving touchdowns.
Senior two-way lineman Mike Milliard was the Indians' Scholar Athlete and also had 42 tackles with two sacks.
Senior defensive back/punter Chris Brockett had three interceptions and received North Haven's Most Improved Player Award with Sagnella saying that he "came out of nowhere to turn our secondary from a concern to a strength."
Senior tight end/linebacker Alex Baglioni was presented with the Indians' Sportsmanship Award and the Floyd Little Scholarship from the New Haven Gridiron Club. Sagnella said that Baglioni featured "the ideal demeanor in that he could be a fierce competitor and a physical player while also being someone who was pleasant to be around." Baglioni was also the catalyst behind this year's annual Spring Brawl scrimmage that raised money to help Matthew Jacques receive a heart transplant. Jacques passed away at age 6 on Sept. 26 and the Indians played the rest of their season in honor of Jacques and his family.
"Our kids handled that adversity well and represented North Haven the way you would want any kid to represent their community under those circumstances," Sagnella said.
The rest of North Haven's senior class consisted of cornerback Freddy Sanchez (5 interceptions), wide receiver/safety/kick returner Evan Manemeit (3 interceptions), blocking back/defensive lineman Louis Cavaliere; and two-way linemen Ben Pethick (3 sacks), Aaron Wong, John Bohan, and Mike Biehl.
Two other big-time contributors for North Haven were junior Cole Pecora, who ran 104 times for 902 yards (8.67) average with eight touchdowns and also played running back/safety/kick returner, plus sophomore wingback/cornerback Mike Montano, who ran 112 times for 768 yards (6.86 average) with nine TDs.
Other key athletes were junior guard Patrick Vanacore, junior tight end/center/defensive end/linebacker Joe Corniello, and sophomore tight end Jeremy Imperati. Sophomore Sabrina Fronte kicked 36 extra points.
Sagnella completed his 17th season as head coach and was assisted by Peter Harkins (defensive coordinator/inside linebackers/offensive line), Ray Ciarleglio (quarterbacks/safeties), Alex Velardi (wingbacks/cornerbacks), Keith Wolkovitz (JV head coach/tight ends/outside linebackers), and Marc Russo (freshman head coach); in addition to volunteers Anthony Giammattei (blocking backs/outside linebackers), Mike Ricciardelli (wide receivers/inside linebackers/technical advisor), Tom Reid (centers/nose guards), Rob Pethick (game films), Steve Narracci (scout team coordinator), and Mike Proto (academic counselor/assistant to the head coach); plus freshman assistants Chris Grillo, Mark Zurlis, and Brian Woodford, the latter who is also the varsity team's strength coach.