HAMDEN >> Former St. Joseph standout, and Stratford native, Tyler Matakevich spent a year at Milford Academy before going on to an illustrious career at Temple University.
Matakevich was named the AAC defensive player of the year as a senior and won the Bronko Nagurski trophy and the Chuck Bednarik award, in addition to being a Walter Camp and a consensus All-American selection. Matakevich is expected to be drafted in this year’s NFL draft.
The next Tyler Matakevich may very well have been in attendance at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Hamden Wednesday.
Eight players from the state of Connecticut, including Ansonia’s Tyler Bailey and Shelton’s Chris Kanios, will play at Milford Academy this fall under coach Bill Chaplick.
“He (Matakevich) came up from this school, so I know this school’s good,” Bailey said. “I talked to some people like (former Ansonia and Milford Academy standout) Montrell Dobbs, he went here and he told me it would be a good choice for me. My coaches told me it’s a good choice, too.”
Since taking over at Milford Academy in 1999, Chaplick has a record of 140-44. More importantly, Milford Academy, located in New Berlin, New York, has a rich tradition of sending athletes to the Division I collegiate level and to the NFL. Alumni also include Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, Carolina Panthers running back Cameron Artis-Payne and Shonn Greene, a current free agent and former member of the New Y0rk Jets and Tennessee Titans.
Student-athletes can attend Milford Academy for one semester (August to December) and then they usually enroll in a college or university in January with four years of eligibility remaining. Milford Academy’s schedule includes Ivy League and service academy junior varsity teams as well junior colleges.
Southington running back Alessio Diana, Amity defensive end/linebacker Wilson Goodwin, Greenwich tight end/defensive end Jack Herman, Cromwell running back/linebacker Mayze James, Bacon Academy running back/safety Peter Kazibwe and Bloomfield running back Andrell Pinnock will join Bailey and Kanios at Milford Academy.
Athletes who choose to attend Milford Academy do so to hone their skills, both on and off the field.
“It’s a great opportunity to go there and get the extra looks for college,” Kanios said. “More so your grades, too. It’s an extremely good academic program. It could help you academically, and then you’re playing Division I athletes that are 21, 22 years old and you’re only 17. Colleges look at that. You’re not playing high school football again, you’re basically playing college and not losing eligibility. It’s kind of a big deal.”
Kanios said he’s interested in attending the University of South Florida after Milford Academy. Kanios missed significant portions of his junior and senior seasons at Shelton due to injury.
“Colleges kind of shied away,” Kanios said. “It wasn’t a one-time thing (the injuries). I thought I was in a good shape everywhere if I just played the season out and stayed healthy. They kind of shied away after they heard.”
Bailey said his goal would be to land at UConn, Temple or Rhode Island.
“I have to get my speed up there,” Bailey said. “I’m working out now three, four days a week getting my speed up, getting stronger.”
Bailey made 37 tackles and three interceptions while earning Register All-Area honors at defensive back as a senior. He also rushed 88 times for 790 yards and 19 touchdowns and caught 29 passes for 642 yards and five touchdowns. Bailey said he would like to play at running back in college.
Like Kanios, Bloomfield running back Andrell Pinnock missed a large portion of his junior year with injury. Pinnock tore an ACL, but recovered to rush 162 times for 1,453 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Warhawks to the Class S state title as a senior.
“One factor (on deciding on Milford Academy) was the injury I had last year with my ACL,” Pinnock said. “That led to me making the decision to come prep so I can get one more year back. Plus, my grades after I got hurt kind of slipped off, so I decided to come prep to fix all of that.”
Prior to deciding on Milford Academy, Pinnock said he had conversations with Boston College, Southern Connecticut State University, Rutgers, UConn and Assumption. Pinnock’s father, Andrew, starred at the University of South Carolina before spending several seasons in the NFL. Andrell said his father played an integral role in helping Andrell decide what to do after high school.
“He actually gave me the idea of going to prep,” Andrell said. “I was just going to go to CCSU or Southern (Connecticut) and maybe walk on. It was his idea and I just went with it.”
Diana received interest from CCSU, Western New England, Delaware, Sacred Heart, Stony Brook and Maine, among others. Diana hopes to play at running back in college.
“They have a great program,” Diana said. “They have a great history with running backs. Grades weren’t so good, but I know they have an excellent academic program that will help me out in the long run. All in all, I just thought it would benefit me to do this extra year so they can work on me, get my talent better, and work academically.”
Diana has lofty goals after Milford Academy.
“Anywhere that’s D-I,” Diana said. “I’ve been telling everyone that. Just somewhere big. I feel like I can play with the big dogs and I feel like I can run with them, so I’m just going to try to go for that.”
As a senior, Diana rushed 106 times for 1,141 yards and 12 touchdowns. Diana credited the Southington program for his development.
“They taught me to never quit basically,” Diana said. “They kept pushing me. They taught me that whenever I do something, be the best that I can be.”