Excitement builds in Norwich for NFA championship game

Norwich - Norwich Free Academy and the NFA football fandom have spent the past two days attending hastily arranged meetings and making phone calls to gear up for Friday's state championship game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The undefeated NFA Wildcats football team will take on two-time defending state champion Xavier for the state Class LL title Friday at 7:05 p.m. in the stadium that is the home of the University of Connecticut football team. Tickets are $10.

NFA is looking to make history with its first state championship in the playoff system. The 1945 Wildcats were declared state champions in a poll that ranked teams across the state. NFA lost in the championship game in 1998 to Southington.

NFA has arranged for free student fan buses to the game, and business has been brisk at the sign-up table, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino said Tuesday. The buses are only for NFA students and will be departing NFA at about 5 p.m. to bring student fans, the cheerleaders and the band to Rentschler Field. The team will be leaving earlier in the day.

NFA will hold a pep rally on Thursday starting at 1:15 p.m., first for juniors and seniors, followed by freshmen and sophomores, since everyone can't fit in Alumni Gym at the same time, Iovino said. At the rallies, the team and coaches will be introduced, and members will speak. The cheerleaders and band will lead cheers.

Friday will be Red and White day on the NFA campus, with everyone asked to wear the school and team colors.

Members of the Touchdown Club, the team booster club, hope to turn Rentschler Field red Friday night as well.

"The goal is to have a sea of red, because these kids and these coaches have worked so hard," said Kim Kelly of Canterbury, Touchdown Club secretary and mother of senior player JP Kelly.

The Touchdown Club will host a tailgate party at Rentschler Field at 5 p.m. Friday, said co-president Denise Beauchesne, whose son Tyler Beauchesne is a senior on the team.

The club is urging everyone to bring red towels to wave during the game, because signs and noisemakers will not be allowed in the stadium.

The tailgate party, under the club's tent with the "Touchdown Club" banner hanging from a side, is open to all NFA fans, but participants are asked to contribute to the potluck dinner with grinders, chili or other dishes. Large grills are not allowed, but small tailgating grills would be permitted. Absolutely no alcohol will be allowed on site, Beauchesne said.

The group also is asking anyone who has an extra stash of red towels or dinner napkins to bring them to the party, as there could be a shortage at local stores this week.

For information about the tailgating party or to offer potluck items or supplies, contact the group at nfatouchdownclub@gmail.com or go to the group's Facebook page under NFA Touchdown Club.

"We're going to make this a big celebration," Beauchesne said. "We want to make a good ending to a great season."



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