By NED X. GRIFFEN
Ansonia coach Tom Brockett brought his nine-month-old son, Michael, into his team's locker room before Saturday's CIAC Class S final.
Michael Vincent Brockett was the living embodiment of the strength it would take for the Chargers to win a championship — he was born 13 weeks early last February.
"When you look at something that's under three pounds of life," Tom Brockett said, "I just couldn't explain how, when I walked into the (hospital) room having no idea what to expect, how proud I was of him.
"I talked to the guys about it a little bit. I've just never seen someone fight (so hard)."
The ordeal of Michael's premature birth made Brockett's fourth state championship as Ansonia's head coach the sweetest of all. Wife Nicole, Alyssa Rose, the couple's three-year old daughter, and Michael joined Brockett on the field for pictures after a 59-26 win over North Branford.
"It was a dream to have him here today," Tom Brockett said. "The football part of it, it just makes it all that much better."
Michael was born prematurely on February 18. Brockett got a call that Nicole was about to give birth, and 35 minutes later Michael was born. Michael had to have emergency surgery on the third day of his life and spent 77 days hospitalized.
"I've had somewhat of a fairy tale life," Brockett said. "It was the first time I was in a dark place. … It was a long haul and it was stressful.
"When things happened, football was the farthest thing from my mind. For 77 days, I had nothing to do with the program. It's a credit to our kids that they stayed the course and to our assistant coaches. No calls needed to be made. They knew what to do."
There was a possibility that Brockett would give up coaching, but he didn't have time to think about it.
"I wouldn't say I was contemplating giving it up," Brockett said, "but if he needs me and he needed me home, or my wife needed me, that's where I would be.
"Football was a far, far (away) thought (in my mind). Our coaches did a great job and our kids. They're great people, all of them … the nurses and the doctors (at Yale-New Haven Hospital), you talk about heroes. I have so much respect for those people. It was unbelievable to watch what they did every day.
"It didn't turn out a tragedy because he's healthy, and everything turned out great."
Saturday was the first time Tom brought Michael into the locker room. It might not be the last time.
"When I talk about these guys, 10 years from now," Brockett said, "I want to be able to say, 'you were in the locker room. You remember Hezekiah Duncan.'
"One of my regrets in '06 (when Ansonia won its first title under Brockett), I was married, but I didn't have any kids. None of my kids got to be around Alex Thomas or Rashaad Bass or all of the great kids we have.
"I'm just so fortunate that I have a great family and friends."
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The only topic debated Saturday as often as who was the state's number one team was whether or not Berlin coach John Capodice should've punted on fourth down deep in his own territory during the Class M final.
To review — the Redcoats led, 12-6, with over four minutes left in the third quarter.
Berlin had a fourth-and-one from its own 23. Capodice elected to go for the first down rather than punt.
"When you're in this situation and you're significant underdogs, you have to pull out all the tricks," Capodice said.
To kick or not to kick became a topic of debate when David Romer, Cal-Berkley professor of political economy, suggested that NFL coaches should go for it on fourth down more often.
"On the team's own half of the field, going for it is better on average if there is less than about 4 yards to go," Romer wrote.
Brian Burke of AdvancedNFLStats.com and the "Mathlete" at mgoblog.com have agreed with Romer.
Some NFL coaches mocked Romer's analysis. It would also cause Mike DiMauro to repeatedly run his head into a wall.
Back to Saturday — Berlin had gone for a first down in its own territory to end the first quarter. It was fourth-and-1 from its 41. It ran a toss play to Scott McLeod to the right side, and he ran 4 yards.
The Redcoats dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half. It ran the ball 34 times for an average of 4.2 yards. It had a 44-11 advantage in offensive plays. It also had 18 first downs.
Berlin ran McLeod to the right again. Harold Cooper tackled him for no gain.
"We, as a team, felt disrespected that they were going for it on fourth down (again)," Hillhouse's Andre Anderson said.
The Academics scored a touchdown on their next drive. They added three more in the fourth quarter and won, 34-12.
Berlin had 200 yards offense in the first half. It had 45 yards in the second half and two first downs.
Asked what he thought at the time of the second fourth down call, Hillhouse Tom Dyer coach said, "I'm thinking, this is great momentum for us. We stop them, we're going to have great field position. … Not a lot of teams in our league (the Southern Connecticut Conference) would've done that, especially with our offense.
"At the same time, our offense can score from 30 yards out or 90 yards out with the running backs that we have, so it's not a bad call by coach (Capodice). I understand why he's going for it. I'm just really happy that our defense responded."
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Sean Marinan was happy that his Xavier football team beat Norwich Free Academy in Friday's Class LL final, 48-14.
Marinan was also happy to honor the wishes of Eileen Murphy Matterazzo. She died last Tuesday from brain cancer and was the grandmother of Kris Patterson, a former Falcons player.
"(Kris) happened to stop by the school (last) Friday or Saturday and we were talking," Marinan said. "I started talking about his grandmother and what a terrific lady she was and what a big supporter (or Xavier she was) and everything else.
"He went to visit her Monday because the family told him she wasn't doing too well. She said, 'Tell Sean to kick the crap out of NFA.'
"I'm glad we could do what she wished us to do."
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YOUR conference playoff scorecard:
Southern Connecticut Conference: 9-1 (three finalists, three champs).
Naugatuck Valley League: 4-2 (one finalist, one champ).
Eastern Connecticut Conference: 3-3 (one finalist).
Central Connecticut Conference: 5-7 (two finalists).
Pequot: 3-4 (one finalist).
South-West Conference: 2-3.
Constitution State Conference: 0-3.
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YOU may watch replays of this weekend's games at any time if you so desire. And why wouldn't you? It is, after all, football.
Note that there were technical difficulties during Friday's Class LL broadcast. Much of the broadcast is raw footage.
The other three games are restaurant quality.
We hope you enjoy it.
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We'll have more for you manana, including the FINAL Day Top 10 state coaches' poll.
Vaya con dios….