Today is a holy day of obligation for the football crowd. The first day of high school practice. The most wonderful time of the year. First-day greetings and coaches' meetings. Summer's welcoming green fields. The smell of the locker room. Gassers. Yelling. Soon, games for hosting and cornerbacks for toasting on the sanctity of Friday night.
And there's a new sheriff in town, leading the most storied program, a father of three (soon to be four) who was walking about Cannamela Field on Tuesday night during the passing league finals saying the words, "I've dreamed about being able to coach kids like this."
Now Duane Maranda gets his chance.
A firefighter in East Hartford, a former student assistant coach under Randy Edsall at UConn. The former defensive coordinator at East Lyme and head coach at St. Bernard and Bacon Academy. Maranda takes the program from Jeff Larson, whose three seasons here produced 29 wins and graduating classes that made college the rule, not the exception.
Maranda's hiring has been quite the conversation piece at several of the city's gathering places. Theories abound as to how this all happened so fast, Larson goes and Maranda comes in what felt like a faster moment than Jeter going first to third.
Theorists in town say the rush to hire Maranda was done to quell any "bring back Jack" talk, alluding to former coach Jack Cochran, still a teacher in the system. Perhaps the theorists are correct. But their theory and five dollars will get you four cents change at Starbucks. Maranda's the coach. And we move on.
"The job was posted May 24," Maranda was saying Tuesday. "Jeff was up in the air about whether he was staying. It was about mid-July when he decided to leave and that's when I put my formal application in. It happened so fast. If it had gone much later, I wouldn't have left Bacon. I didn't want to leave them high and dry, say, two days before practice started."
Among Larson's best attributes: A commitment to education that went well beyond a few pithy quotes. He was in school every day as a mentor to his players. Eligibility issues weren't issues. Assistant coach Juan Roman handed yours truly a handwritten list of recent New London football alumni, scores and scores of whom continued their education. Larson bears much responsibility.
All of which invites the question: Can Maranda, a firefighter in another city, maintain Larson-esque levels of commitment if he's not in school? It's a far more significant question than the offense he decides to run.
Maranda couldn't go into specifics Tuesday, but said, "I will be available to the kids during the school day. I wasn't going to take the job if I couldn't be."
That should be welcome news to parents, teachers, administrators and residents alike.
And so should this: Maranda was almost giddy talking football Tuesday. He's never had players like this.
"I got the job on a Wednesday," he said. "Two days later, the kids went out and played some alumni in a pickup game. Stephan Dance, Khaleed Fields, Nick Singleton. And we won.
"Dance was so mad he wouldn't let the game end. The passion here is second to none."
The Whalers lost plenty, though, well beyond Larson.
Running back Kyle McKinnon, linemen Voghens Larrieux and Malcolm Simmons, quarterback Rob Key, receivers Jevon Elmore and Fields and others.
"But we still have phenomenal athletes," Maranda said. "I was at the firehouse (Monday) night and thought of a little tweak to the offense. I text the coaches. They text back. Everyone is so fired up about this thing."
Maranda even has a new coach on staff. Former UConn linebacker Mo Lloyd, who spent the last six years playing in the Canadian Football league and is, shall we say, bigger than a breadbox.
"Our goal," Maranda said, "is to play so fast, we'll make Oregon look slow."
Maranda was wearing an Oregon hat Tuesday night, too.
And so it begins.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro