TORRINGTON >> It’s common knowledge in the excitement of a 6-0 start this year with today’s meeting with state power Ansonia looming that the most recent Red Raiders win over the Chargers came in 1987.
Often overlooked is that Torrington beat Ansonia in three out of four years in that era – 1984 and 1986 in the regular season, 1987 in the NVL Championship game at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium.
Feelings and details are still vivid among coaches who were there, along with resonance among Torrington’s current team.
In 1984, in Torrington’s first win since 1969, Ansonia was ranked No. 1 in the state, Torrington, No. 3. Torrington won 30-27 at Ansonia when Mike Dobos kicked a field goal with three seconds left on the clock.
Those Torrington seniors graduated while a new group began.
“Many of the senior group (in the 1987 win) played Midget Football together,” says then-head coach Bruce Kasenetz.
“They were 3-5 with the freshman team (the current seniors were undefeated as freshmen), but you could tell they were a special group.
“When they were sophomores, most of the group played varsity and JV games.
“When they were juniors, the varsity went 6-5, but beat Ansonia at Ansonia.
“It was always the Ansonia mystique,” says Kasenetz. “If you’re not careful, you’re already defeated if you think they never lose. You have to convince the kids they can do it. The kids and I had that attitude.”
Nevertheless, when the group hit its senior year, it lost to Ansonia in the fifth game of a 10-1 season, then got another chance in the championship game.
Weather conditions at Municipal Field came straight from hell, or at least Green Bay, Wisconsin: 12 below zero, with a wind chill of 20 below.
“It’s the coldest I’ve ever been at an athletic event,” says then-trainer/kicking coach Mike McKenna, now Torrington’s athletic director. “Today, we wouldn’t play in those conditions.”
Ansonia built an 18-0 lead. Torrington put up its first points just before the half and trailed 18-6.
“I don’t know how you get a bunch of kids to come back at that level,” said McKenna.
“I didn’t have to say anything at halftime,” says Kasenetz. “A kid who never said boo took over and I just let him run with it.”
“Coach Kasenetz was tough; he expected us to win,” said Assistant Coach Don Whitley, back with the current team in the same position.
With a minute left on the clock, the Raiders trailed by a touchdown.
“I still remember the play – 504B-slide,” says Whitley. “I went up to Kaz and said that’s what we should run and he said okay.”
The play produced a scoring pass from Brenden Abbot to Mike Cardello, 19-18.
In the final play of the game, Torrington’s Davie Holliday intercepted an Ansonia pass to literally ice the win.
“As soon as we won, everything was wonderful,” says Whitley.
“I had great kids who believed in the program and assistants who coached their butts off. I just brought it together. Everybody made it a team effort,” says Kasenetz.
Due to the large number of people expected at Friday night’s football game against Ansonia, the normal Torrington High School parking lots will be extended to the practice fields behind the school once the regular lots are filled.
There will be no parking in the field lot until school lots are filled.
When that happens, the Police Explorers will help direct cars to the extended parking area.