Week 7: No. 9 Ansonia at Torrington
ANSONIA >> During Tom Brockett’s tenure as Ansonia head coach, the Chargers have operated out of a run-first offense.
Alex Thomas, Montrell Dobbs and current UConn standout Arkeel Newsome are former tailbacks that ran behind a big and bruising offensive line under Brockett, who has guided Ansonia to the state playoffs in each of his nine seasons since taking over in 2006.
This year the Chargers’ dynamic tailback is senior Tajik Bagley. Ansonia has additional options in seniors Tyler Bailey (running back/wide receiver) and Angel Falero (tight end).
But the biggest question entering this season was who would block for that talented trio after the Chargers graduated their entire offensive line.
After some early growing pains, first-year starters Art DeLibero (left tackle), Keith Zdep (left guard), Mike Caple (center), Frank DeLibero (right guard) and Joe DeCiucis (right tackle) have been more than up to the challenge.
“In our offense, a lot of the times our tailback takes up so much of the attention,” Brockett said. “But, obviously, everything starts up front with them. It was difficult. There was no one really to rely on. They can’t rely on each other helping each other out because the guy next to them hasn’t played either. But the way they’ve progressed, the way they’ve worked, they’ve been a great group. We’re real happy with them.”
The Chargers, ranked ninth in the Register Top 10 Poll, are hoping for yet another strong showing from their offensive line when they head up Route 8 to face Torrington in a battle of unbeaten teams in a highly anticipated Naugatuck Valley League showdown Friday night at 7. The host Red Raiders (6-0) have not defeated Ansonia (5-0) since 1987.
The Chargers’ line is slightly undersized compared to years past. Capale and Zdep both weigh less than 200 pounds.
“We’ve had much bigger units, obviously, in the past,” Brockett said. “I think, size-wise, they’re far from the biggest unit that we’ve had. But, they’ve been tough. They’ve done what’s been asked of them. So far, we’re real happy with them.”
Ansonia had to rely on Bagley, Bailey and Falero early in the season while the line adapted to the rigors of a varsity schedule.
“Angel’s done a nice job,” Brockett said. “Those three have all stepped up, and we needed them to. But, other than that, we had to rebuild that whole offense.”
None of the linemen played a varsity snap last season, not even on special teams. But now with the season at the midway point, they are playing like seasoned veterans.
“I feel we’ve become more close, like a family,” DeCiucis said. “I think that we have run the plays much better. We have mostly matured as a team, and I feel we look good.”
Said Bailey: “They’ve made a big improvement. They knew as a new O-line that they had to learn all the plays. Every week they get better and better.”
The consistent play of the offensive line has allowed Ansonia to average 44.8 points per game this season. Brockett credits the work put in during the offseason.
“They all got bigger, stronger, faster,” Brockett said. “Mentally, I think the reason why they’re all playing right now is because it’s important to them. I think Ansonia football is important to them. I think this team being successful is important to them. I think they’re getting the most out of their time.”
DeCiucis has relished his chance to start for one of the state’s premier programs.
“It’s a huge honor,” DeCiucis said. “I would never want to play anywhere else. It’s a huge honor playing here.”
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.