Boston High School: E.O. Smith

New England Roundup: Connecticut

March, 22, 2012
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Recappping last weekend's CIAC state championship games in boys and girls basketball:

ConnecticutCLASS LL BOYS: Top-seeded St. Joseph used an 18-0 run in the second half to knock off second-seeded Hillhouse 62-54.

St. Joseph (27-1) received a game-high 26 points from James Jennings, and 18 from Timajh Parker. Parker made 14 of his 15 free throw attempts.

St. Joseph didn't make a field goal in the second quarter, and Hillhouse (24-2) led by 13 in the third. It was the 11th state title for St. Joseph coach Vito Montelli, who has won a state-record 880 games (all at St. Joseph). Montelli guided St. Joseph to victory over Fairfield Prep in last year's Class LL championship game.

CLASS LL GIRLS: A Jessica Lynch layup with 21 seconds to play gave ninth-seeded Newtown the lead for good in its 44-42 triumph over 10-seeded Mercy.

Mercy (21-6) overcame a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to take a 42-41 lead with 29 seconds to play, but Lynch's basket came on the ensuing possession. Riley Wurtz tossed in a team-high 18 points for Newtown (22-4).

Mercy has lost the Class LL championship game in each of the last three seasons.

CLASS L BOYS: Treyvon Moore scored a game-high 25 points to help second-seeded Career, Magnet defeat top-seeded Northwest Catholic 51-49.

The victory handed Career Magnet (27-2) the program's first state title.

Northwest Catholic (23-4) missed 17 of its 20 field goal attempts in the first half and trailed 29-13 entering the third. Kuran Iverson scored 20 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked four shots in the loss.

CLASS L GIRLS: A strong finish handed third-seeded Bacon Academy a 38-34 victory over top-seeded E.O. Smith.

Bacon (22-3) closed the game with a 12-0 run. E.O. Smith (25-2) failed to score in the final 5:49 and made one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Taylor McLaughlin led Bacon Academy with 13 points.

CLASS M BOYS: Senior Nolan Long, a 6-foot-9 center, scored 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as second-seeded Waterford collected the program's first state championship by beating fourth-seeded Watertown 71-57.

Senior guard Geary McLeon added 18 points, seven assists and five steals for the Lancers (25-2). It was the fourth loss for Watertown (24-4).

CLASS M GIRLS: Guard Fifi Walcott scored 16 points as top-seeded Weaver won its first state championship with a 55-47 triumph over second-seeded Tolland.

The Beavers (25-2) set a school record for victories en route to the title.

Kristin Schatzlein, Connecticut's Gatorade Player of the Year, scored a game-high 32 points in the loss. Tolland (24-4) committed 32 turnovers.

CLASS S BOYS: Vitor Melo collected 14 points and 13 rebounds to help top-seeded Immaculate defeat third-seeded Capital Prep 67-53.

Capital Prep (23-4) entered the game averaging 85.9 points per game, but was held to its lowest point total of the season. Immaculate (26-1) outrebounded Capital Prep, 49-30.

CLASS S GIRLS: Three players scored in double figures for top-seeded Coginchaug, which won its first state championship by beating second-seeded Capital Prep 58-48.

Lauren Esposito scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Coginchaug (25-2). Audrey Biesak scored 11 and Jessica Solomon added 10 for Coginchaug.

DeJane James tossed in 19 for Capital Prep (23-4).

HOCKEY: VIZZO PROPELS NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN

Billy Vizzo scored three goals as second-seeded Notre Dame-West Haven (20-3-1) defeated fourth-seeded Glastonbury (20-5-0) 5-0 in the Division I championship game.

It was the only time Glastonbury has been shut out this season.

In last weekend's other championship games, fifth-seeded Trumbull scored five third-period goals during a 5-3 triumph over seventh-seeded Branford in the Division II championship game; and Drew O'Leary made 18 saves to help top-seeded Newington/Berlin beat third-seeded Northwest Catholic 2-1 in the Division III championship game.

Sophomore Brendan Strobel scored twice for Trumbull (17-9-0). His second goal gave Trumbull a 4-3 lead with 1:35 to play.

Brandon Ralph and Brendon Richard scored in Newington/Berlin's victory.

Roger Brown is a freelance writer who has been reporting on high school sports in New England since 1992.

New England Roundup: Connecticut

January, 24, 2012
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Marty Roos has won more hockey games than any other high school coach in Connecticut history, but it doesn't look like Roos will win anymore.

ConnecticutRoos, 76, retired from coaching Wednesday after guiding Notre Dame-Fairfield for the first nine games of the current season. The Lancers were 3-6 when he announced his decision.

"I always felt that when it came time to step down from coaching, I would know that it was time," Roos said. "Even though Notre Dame is mid-season, I believe that now is the right time."

Roos, who was born in Switzerland, was in his 21st season with Notre Dame-Fairfield. The Lancers won the Division I championship in 1999 and 2006, and finished as the Division I runner-up in 2007 and 2008.

Assistant coach Steve Hetherman was named Notre Dame-Fairfield's interim coach.

"His passion, dedication, loyalty, commitment and hard work are second to none,” Notre Dame-Fairfield athletic director Rob Bleggi said. “He is the ultimate professional and class act.”

Bleggi, who also served as an assistant coach under Roos, said Roos told him about his intention to step down on Monday. He said he was also told health was not the reason for Roos' decision.

Roos began coaching at Fairfield Prep in 1972 and moved to Notre Dame-Fairfield in 1991. He won four championships at Fairfield Prep.

Roos retired with a career record of 536-301-19.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Connecticut

March, 25, 2011
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Masuk High School coach Dave Strong has won more games than any other girls high school coach in Connecticut, but he may not win any more.

ConnecticutStrong, 66, announced his resignation Monday after winning 704 games in 35 seasons as a head coach. Strong told the New Haven Register that the move was made for health reasons.

“I’m not in danger of dying, but there are some health things I’ve ignored over the years through coaching,” Strong said.

Strong guided Masuk to the state tournament every season since the tournament was formed in 1974. The Panthers reached the state final seven times and won three state titles during that span. Masuk also won 19 league championships.

His daughter, Julia, was part of his first state championship team in 1990.

Strong was inducted into the National High School Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Strong was also an assistant coach with the Masuk boys basketball program for seven seasons. In addition, he served as the school’s athletic director for 10 years before he retired in 2005.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of coaching at Masuk,” Strong told the Courant. “I’m certainly going to miss it.”

(Read full post)

Revolution player commitments, letters signed

February, 11, 2011
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Our friends in the New England Revolution communications office passed along a note of several local players who have signed their national letter of intent or declared their college commitments recently.

Two Massachusetts high school players who were a part of the Revolution U-18 teams signed their national letters of intent as Cole Denormandie (Lincoln-Sudbury) signed to the University of Cincinnati while Cameron Bielski (Dover-Sherborn) signed to the University of New Hampshire.

Yannick Kabala of New Hampshire's Manchester Central High School signed to Southern New Hampshire.

Also announcing their college commitments were Matthew Keys of King Philip (UMass-Amherst) and Sean MacDonald (Manchester Central) who will join Kabala at Souther New Hampshire.

U-16 teamer Mitchell Taintor, a junior at Connecticut's E.O. Smith High also announced his commitment to play at Rutgers.

Denormandie and Keys earned high school All-American accolades by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) following last fall’s high school soccer season. In addition, Denormandie, Keys, Bielski and Taintor also earned NSCAA High School All-Region I (New England) honors.

New England Roundup: Connecticut

September, 29, 2010
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John Acquavita called it The Scholarship Run.

Connecticut“It was absolutely …” the Wilbur Cross football coach started before trailing off about James Ward’s 33-yard misdirection-, broken tackle-filled touchdown run against Shelton on Sept. 17. “The film won’t do it justice.”

Perhaps it’s already growing in lore. Ward may not be too far behind.

In the midst of Ward’s 245-all-purpose-yard performance in Cross’s 32-21 season-opening victory was one of the best plays Acquavita’s ever seen.

Taking a handoff from quarterback Dontay Long, Ward stiff-armed a defender behind the line of scrimmage. Over the course of the next few moments, the running back broke three tackles, Acquavita said (one newspaper account put it at five total) and made “six or seven different directional cuts,” with said newspaper totaling three cutbacks. He finished it with a 20-yard sprint to the end zone that left everyone, Acquavita included, wondering if Ward just did what he or she thought he did.

“I don’t even know how I did it, to be honest with you,” Ward said. “If you see it, it looks impossible.”

It’s been that kind of start to the season for Ward.

Through his first two games, he has done everything but wash the Governors’ (2-0) uniforms. He’s scored nine touchdowns: Four on the ground, three through the air and two on kick returns. Among his accomplishments is an 85-yard scoring run and a 71-yard touchdown return. In a 49-27 victory over Law last weekend, he had more receiving yards (150) than rushing (140). If it wasn’t enough against Shelton, he also made an interception. This week, he’ll lift a car over his head.

With apologies to Ansonia running back Montrell Dobbs (594 rushing yards, eight touchdowns), no player in Connecticut may be playing better than Ward, who at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds is out to prove he belongs with a Division I football team next fall.

“Last year, my mindset was different,” Ward said. “I would basically take what I could get and go down. But as far as this year, I have a lot to prove to myself and coaches, so I’m trying to be the best I can and help my team get to the state championship and play on Rentschler Field (the site of this year’s title games).”

Acquavita doesn’t want to say he’s a genius for seeing this coming — “because I’m not,” he said — but following last season, coach and player formed a plan to put Ward in this position.

Among the steps was keeping on track academically. Ward is taking Advanced Placement and honors classes for the second straight year and has already qualified under NCAA standards, Acquavita said.

The next included getting noticed. Ward attended more than a dozen camps and combines this past year, enough to draw interest, he said, from Villanova, Akron and Temple, among many others.

He also joined an offseason passing league with Team Connecticut, which played teams around the state and region, and featured other state stars such as Masuk quarterback Casey Cochran, Shelton wide receiver Mike Georgalas and Southington wide out Tyler Dube.

“The guy who was running it called me and said, ‘Do you have anyone?’” Acquavita said. “I said, ‘I have a kid who’s a running back. I know it’s a passing league but I’m trying to turn him into an inside receiver. He’s a talented kid.’ ‘We’ll take him.’

“I didn’t really know if the kid could catch the ball. Two or three games into it, the coach who was running it called and said, ‘Not only can he catch, he’s one of the best receivers on the team.’ I went, ‘Huh?’”

Ward also needed to add size. He now squats 455 pounds, benches 235 and, Acquavita believes, has the capability to pack on weight beyond the 10 pounds he’s added since January.

Ward’s goals remain clear: He wants to lead Cross to a state title, which would be first in more than two decades, and reach 2,000 all-purpose yards. A few more Scholarship Runs should help. Acquavita called it the second best play he’s ever seen, trailing only a kick-off return in the 2000 state championship one of his players executed while he coached Hyde Leadership.

“It was just mind-boggling,” Acquavita said of Ward’s run. “And to hear other people on our sideline, administrators and things, talking about it Monday in school, it was good because I needed to have it said to me that it actually happened like that. It was just unbelievable.”

GROVE BACK IN SADDLE
While Montville stamped its place as a state title contender with a 21-19 season-opening win over New London, its coach, Tanner Grove, was alone, devoid of any type of coverage of the game outside of a few texts or phone calls with updates.

If the previous four weeks weren’t difficult enough, this was almost unbearable.

“I spent some time by myself,” Grove said, declining to say where or how he spent those two hours. “Maybe when I retire I’ll tell everyone where I was.”

Grove then flashed a smile, a rarity over the last month he spent exiled from coaches he considers his best friends and the players that are the closest things he has to kids of his own.

Charged Aug. 13 with driving under the influence, Grove spent the days following his arrest in limbo while Montville superintendent Pam Aubin decided his fate. Ultimately suspended through the Indians’ first game, or essentially the first four weeks of the season, Grove spent “the most difficult time of (his) life” reflecting, changing and appreciating what he has. He was back at practice Sept. 20 and was victorious in his return to the sidelines, a 48-14 rout of Killingly on Sept. 24 that vaulted the Indians to No. 9 in the New Haven Register state top 10 poll.

Getting to that point took what probably felt like years.

“For so many years, football has made all the decisions in my private life, in my personal life, so I took the time to really reflect on what is I do every day and the decisions I make off the field,” said Grove, who added that several of the charges stemming from his arrest have been dropped, though he was scheduled to attend an alcohol education course.

“That’s really what it was most days. Toward the end of the suspension, I got a little itchy to get back in the mix.”

Grove, who teaches freshman social studies at Montville, did everything to avoid football during his suspension. He’d see players in the hallways and exchange pleasantries. But, every day, he’d teach his classes and head home, leaving no temptation of lingering and perhaps violating his school-imposed suspension.

When the team returned from its game against New London that Saturday morning, Grove was there, awaiting them at Montville High. On his first day back to work, he finished practice by sprinting against one of his captains, Tyler Girard-Floyd, while the senior finished a drill.

Finally, Grove said, he felt “normal.”

“It’s like everything coming together,” said senior Skyler McNair, who was part of Montville teams that lost to New London four times in the previous three years. “We finally beat New London, we get our head coach back. I think our whole season got a jump start with a win and coach coming back at the same time.”

Now Montville (2-0), a Class SS finalist in 2009, can turn its focus back to pursuing the elusive state title. It plays at Fitch-Groton (2-0) on Friday, expected to be its biggest test before facing Ledyard on Nov. 5.

“My expectations haven’t changed since the day I was hired,” said Grove, who's in his fifth season. “What I want to do here is be a state championship or state playoff perennial power. When people talk about being in the state playoffs every year, I want Montville in that sentence.”

REST FOR THE BETTER?
It’s not as if Chad Johnson has never held members of the Norwich Free Academy boys' cross country team out of races for the purpose of resting them.

“This year,” he said, “I’m just taking it a little more to the extreme.”

In an uncommon but not altogether novel move, Johnson chose to hold his top five runners out of the first two weeks of competition. It left the Wildcats thin at the Windham Invitational and cost them a divisional win against rival East Lyme. But, Johnson hopes, it will keep the likes of Dan Cardin, Vos Hunter and NFA’s other pacesetters fresh for when they run for a state title.

The catch: In the process, it may cost the defending Eastern Connecticut Conference champs a chance to defend that title.

“Last year, we petered out at the end, but our primary goal was to win ECCs,” said Johnson, whose team later finished 14th in Class LL. “I knew I had a team that they were going to be lucky even if they made it to the State Open, and they didn’t make it. And now we got everybody back, and it’s not that we don’t wanna win ECCs but it’s not our primary goal.

“Our primary goal is to finish it the top six in the State Open and make that trip to New Englands. We haven’t been here since the time I started coaching, and we want to get back.”

Johnson has created a buzz in some circles with his decision. The Day of New London ran a column discussing his move, and East Lyme head coach Sam Harfenist told the Norwich Bulletin the move indicated a lack of respect for the Vikings in their dual meet.

“Conversations were had,” he said of his team.

While a risk in some sense, Johnson seems confident it will pay off. His full team ran for the first time Saturday at the Ocean State Invitational, where the Wildcats’ finished 10th as a team in the championship race and fourth among Connecticut schools. Among those was Xavier-Middletown, ranked No. 1 in the state and Amity, ranked No. 4.

“It’s no new big thing,” Johnson said. “Danbury is probably going to be the No. 1 team in the state when the coaches poll comes out (it was No. 2), and they lost on (Sept. 14), too, a one-point loss to Fairfield-Warde. Why? Because they didn’t run their top six.”

HIGH-FIVES:
1. Football Game to Watch: Xavier-Middletown at Cheshire, Friday, 7 p.m.

Need to know: Xavier, the consensus No. 1 team in the state, boasts a defense that’s been scary good. In its 37-0 whipping of Foran last weekend, it held the Lions to 13 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the punishing hits it left on Notre Dame-West Haven the week prior may still be ringing out in southern Connecticut.

“We take a lot of pride in being a very physical football team,” coach Sean Marinan said Wednesday. “We’ve got pretty good speed on the defensive side of the football … but it’s more about being in the right place. If you do that, you can contain the other team.”

Cheshire, No. 5 in all three major state polls, is the defending Class LL champion and is led by athletic quarterback Max Slade, who’s also a dangerous punt returner.

2. Football Game to Watch No. 2: Windsor at Southington, Friday, 7 p.m.
Need to know: Windsor is hoping to cement itself as the team to beat in the CCC, evidenced by its No. 9 ranking in The Day state coaches poll. Southington, under new coach D.J. Hernandez, is 2-0 as well and would love to boast the same claim.

Both teams love to throw the ball, Windsor behind Alton Smith and Southington behind Connor Butkiewicz.

3. Football Game to Watch No. 3: Staples-Wesport at Ridgefield, Friday, 7 p.m.
Need to know: Meanwhile in the FCIAC, Staples gets it first test of the season against Ridgefield, another team that hasn’t been tested in a dominant 2-0 start. Staples has won this regular-season meeting in four of the last five years, twice giving Ridgefield its only loss of the year (2009, ’05).

4. Old news for New Canaan
Need to know: A year after posting 18 shutouts and outscoring its postseason opponents, 19-1, en route to a state title, the New Canaan girls soccer team has outscored CIAC teams, 14-0, in compiling a 4-0 record entering Wednesday’s game against Fairfield-Warde. The Rams are ranked No. 1 in the Hartford Courant state coaches poll.

5. The high road
Need to know: The E.O. Smith boys soccer team played just one of its first five games at home this season, but it hardly seems bothered. The Panthers are 5-0 and went from being unranked to No. 3 in the state coaches poll this past week. The reward: They play their next four at home in Storrs.

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