By Patricia Villers / New Haven Register
ANSONIA >> Saturday was a day for celebration and spirit – Ansonia High School football spirit, cheerleaders’ spirit, community spirit, and the spirit of the holiday season.
The city held a “Parade of Champions” down Main Street to honor the state champion Chargers and the national champion youth cheerleaders.
Hundreds of fans lined both sides of street as the teams marched, escorted by police cars, firetrucks, and the Ansonia High School Band drum line.
Last week, the Chargers won the Class S title defeating Woodland High School 51-12 .
It was the third consecutive state championship for the Chargers, and the 19th in school history.
On Friday, the state’s sportswriters named Ansonia High the No. 1 team in Connecticut.
The parade also celebrated the achievements of the Ansonia Youth Cheer Division 8, 10, 12 and 15 cheerleaders who competed in Kissimmee, Fla., for the 2013 AYC National Championships.
The Division 10 & 12 teams are national champions, and Division 8 & 15 are national runner-up champions.
“I didn’t expect a parade,” said senior Arkeel Newsome, the Chargers’ record-setting running back. “When I found out about it, I was surprised,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be cold,” Newsome added, referring to Saturday’s relatively mild temperatures.
Teammate Tyler Bailey, a sophomore, said, “It’s a good feeling that the city actually cares about us.” Bailey is a receiver and safety.
Senior right tackle Matt Simon said, “This is fun. They have never done (a parade) before. We appreciate it.”
A reviewing stand was set up in front of City Hall. There, Mayor David S. Cassetti said, “This team has raised the bar. The players have added a chapter to city football history.”
Cassetti told the players, ”Clearly you gave 100 percent in that last game. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
He congratulated the football coaches and said, “You are turning boys into men.”
Superintendent of Schools Carol Merlone commended the coaches: “You get the most out of them,” she said. Merlone told the players they have “Ansonia pride, and you’ll always hold it in your heart.”
Fairfield resident Marilyn Barbetta, AHS Class of 1957, who was a cheerleader in high school, was on Main Street to cheer on the champions.
“It’s a very exciting day for Ansonia,” she said. “It’s important to celebrate their wonderful victories.”