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Ansonia earns top billing following a historical run

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published December 21. 2013 4:00AM

Ansonia High School enjoyed a tremendous season, even by its own lofty standards.

The Chargers became the first team in state history to win 15 games in a season. They ran their winning streak to 43 games, and won their third straight CIAC state championship to give them a state-record 19.

It's perhaps fitting, then, that Ansonia finishes the season as the No. 1 team in The Day's final Top 10 state high school football coaches' poll.

"I couldn't be happier for the seniors," Chargers coach Tom Brockett said Friday night. "Obviously a state championship is really special, and every one of them is awesome. When you add that No. 1 ranking to it, it makes it a little better."

Ansonia (15-0), which won Class S, received nine out of a possible 13 first-place votes. It's the fifth time the Chargers finished first in the coaches' poll.

Class L champion New Canaan (14-1) received the other four firsts and finished second.

The other two state champions, St. Joseph (Class M) and Southington (Class LL), tied for third.

Ansonia was expected to be among the state's finest teams again this season. It returned its entire offensive line as well as its backfield, led by UConn-bound tailback Arkeel Newsome. He broke his own single-season state records for rushing yardage (3,867) and touchdowns (68).

There were still surprises along the way, Brockett said.

"Some of the younger kids came along at a faster pace," he said. "We started two sophomores in the defensive backfield (Tyler Bailey and Tajik Bagley). We lost some tremendous players (from the 2012 team) like Andrew Matos, Raeshaun Finney, Duncan Hazekiah, Jh'mel Trammell ... all those guys. We had some great players, but obviously you need guys to fill those roles."

The Chargers also finished No. 1 in the final New Haven Register media poll. It received 21 of 28 first-place votes. New Canaan was second and received the other seven.

Ansonia had its detractors, as seems to be the case most seasons. Woodland was the only other team to represent the 14-team Naugatuck Valley League in the state playoffs. The Chargers beat the Hawks in both the league final (48-7) and Class S final (51-12). There was some sentiment that they wouldn't run the table in the most successful leagues, the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Southern Connecticut Conference.

"From the time I've been there, and long before I got there, is that a lot of times it comes down to jealousy, which is a tough thing," Brockett said. "The kids know they have a bulls eye on their backs. They know not only are they playing against their opponent, but that they have 95 percent of the state cheering against them. That pressure is there and it builds, but the kids do such a good job handling it."

n.griffen@theday.com

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The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll

First-place votes in parentheses, final record, points tabulated on a 30-28-26-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7 basis, and previous ranking:

1. Ansonia (9) 15-0 378 1

KNOW THIS: The Chargers will take a 43rd-game winning streak into next season. Anyone want to bet against them? No? Wise move.

2. New Canaan (4) 14-1 370 3

KNOW THIS: The Rams' last-minute loss to Darien on Thanksgiving Day sure got them refocused. They outscored their three Class L playoff opponents by a combined score of 107-12 as they won the program's ninth CIAC state title.

T3. St. Joseph 13-2 328 6

KNOW THIS: The Cadets showed just how wide the chasm was between them and the rest of the Class M field as it won by scores of 84-49, 62-34, and 54-16.

T3. Southington 12-1 328 9

KNOW THIS: It bears repeating - the Blue Knights rallied to beat Fairfield Prep, 52-34, to win the CIAC Class LL title. They outscored the Jesuits in the second half, 38-6.

5. Darien 12-2 272 4

KNOW THIS: The Blue Wave racked up some impressive wins this season, in particular New Canaan, Middletown (13-7), North Haven (36-27), and Greenwich (42-21).

6. Fairfield Prep 11-3 268 7

KNOW THIS: The Jesuits can lay claim to being the best team in the Southern Connecticut Conference this season.

7. Glastonbury 10-2 192 5

KNOW THIS: The Tomahawks qualified for the Class LL playoffs for the sixth straight season and lost twice by a combined total of 17 points to Southington (16-9) and Prep (33-23).

8. West Haven 10-3 169 10

KNOW THIS: The Westies may still be grinding their collective teeth as they wasted double digit leads in losses to Fairfield Prep on both Thanksgiving Day (29-20) and the LL semis (29-28).

9. Middletown 11-2 161 NR

KNOW THIS: Gatorade Player of the Year Dario Highsmith finished the season with over 3,650 yards of total offense and 36 touchdowns. And he's only a junior!

10. Hall 9-2 125 NR

KNOW THIS: Southington's state championship earned Hall the recognition it should've gotten earlier in the season. Hall rallied to beat the Blue Knights on Oct. 19 (49-37). Better yet, it rallied down 21-0 after one quarter, and 37-21 to start the fourth quarter.

Dropped out: Newtown (2), Platt (8).

Also receiving votes: North Haven (10-3), 123 points; Newtown (12-1), 118; Hand (8-4), 85; Ridgefield (10-3), 81; Woodland (12-3), 72; Brookfield (11-4), 69; Xavier (7-3), 40; Ledyard (9-3), 28; Barlow (10-3), 23; Norwich Free Academy (8-3), 22; Platt (11-1), 21; New London (9-3), 18; Naugatuck (9-2), 10; Tie, Greenwich (8-3) and Valley Regional/Old Lyme (12-1), 7.

The following coaches voted: Tom Brockett, Ansonia; Jim Buonocore, Ledyard; Craig Bruno, Naugatuck; Scott Daniels, Glastonbury; Joe DellaVecchia, St. Joseph; Steve Filippone, Hand; Rob Fleeting, Windsor; Steve George, Newtown; Tanner Grove, Montville; Tim King, Valley Regional/Old Lyme; Sean Marinan, Xavier; John Murphy, New Milford; Marce Petroccio, Staples.

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