[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#86b3e9″ text=”#040000″ width=”content” align=”center” size=”1″ quote=”Schools are an important socializing institution, imparting those shared values through which social order and stability are maintained. Schools bear central responsibility for inculcating the fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system. When children attend racially and ethnically isolated schools, these ‘shared values’ are jeopardized. If children of different races and economic and social groups have no opportunity to know each other and to live together in school, they cannot be expected to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” cite=” – Majority decision in Sheff v. O’Neill (1995)” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_character img=”http://www.gametimect.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Ray-Curren-Headshot.png” caption=”RAY CURREN” align=”right” force_circle=”off”]
It was all-white Hand against all-dark Hillhouse in what turned out to be an SCC classic Friday night at Bowen Field.
Jersey colors, of course. What were you thinking?
As we rapidly approach a half-century since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the “postracial” society many imagined the 21st century and election of an African-American president would bring is a mirage, at best. At worst? Well, just see how long you can leave a cable news network on for the next couple of months without cringing.
Even if you aren’t a Connecticut native (or resident), you should know who Milo Sheff is. He’s 37 now, but back in 1989 he was a fourth-grader in Hartford who sued the state in, citing evidence that less public money was being spent on children in cities than in the suburbs.
Seven years later (gotta love the speed of our judicial system), the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed and Hartford put in plans to attempt to further integrate its schools.
It was a monumental task and — even with the backing of the judicial branch — generally people don’t like change, especially when it comes to their kids. And paying extra taxes to make those adjustments? Good luck. However, you may have noticed some new magnet/charter schools joining the CIAC lately: Capital Prep is the most prominent, but for football, CREC is a co-op of nine Hartford area magnet schools which draw from several surrounding towns.
They are a legacy of Sheff v. O’Neill, as are the new primary schools in the Hartford area. New Haven was actually somewhat ahead of the curve. But its list of magnet schools continues to grow and draw students from almost every surrounding town and city. Career and Creed are the two that offer athletics, but there are several others.
But the rest of the system remains largely in its state of inertia. To wit, more than 60 years after the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education, Hillhouse remains 76.4 percent African-American (and almost 98 percent minority, according to 2014-15 state data. A few miles up the road in Madison, Daniel Hand High has 1,143 white students, 29 Latinos (more than double what it had 20 years ago, to be fair), and 14 black students.
¯_(?)_/¯ is about the only reaction you get from most.
As people like Colin Kaepernick and others have proven, sports are not immune from discussions (both intelligent and not) on race relations and diversity in America. But at the high school level, it is one place — perhaps the only place for some — where people of different backgrounds can come together and compete on a somewhat level playing field.
Well, when there is a playing field. Hand had been to Hillhouse before for games, some of them very good ones, but never at night because Hillhouse (and Bowen FIeld) never had lights. Now they do, of course.
As I’ve said before, diversity might be the best thing about the SCC. Al Carbone and the people in charge of the league have understood that power from its earliest days and bring student-athletes from all schools together whenever possible, whether it be for captains’ councils, Unified Sports, or other initiatives from the league that get much less publicity than they should.
Less than 24 hours before Hillhouse’s first ever football night game against a suburban team, senior linebacker Derrick Smith was shot twice about a mile from school. Thankfully, he is in stable condition (as of Sunday morning) and is expected to make a recovery.
But would Friday’s game be played?
“It was like any other game day in New Haven. We meet in the morning and if we think we have to, we weigh the security risk against the benefit to the community,” New Haven citywide athletic director Eric Patchkofsky said. “We felt there was very little risk to the community, so the game went on.”
In fact, some of the first people to reach out to the Hillhouse community when the news broke Thursday night and Friday morning were their SCC friends from Hand, who have built a relationship through all the meetings, events, and contests against each other.
“Our relationship with the surrounding towns is excellent,” Patchkofsky said. “The Madison athletic director (Craig Semple) reached out to me early (Friday) morning and asked if there’s anything he could do. As far as athletics, our relationship with all the other SCC schools is tremendous.”
Said Hillhouse assistant head coach Carl Bond: “As a team, we have all the respect for Hand. Our players know their players, they talk to each other on whatever ways kids do these days. I was surprised how much our kids knew about them. They knew names in film a lot better than me. And that’s great for everyone and I hope that continues after they graduate.”
The show went on, and it was a captivating encounter that saw both teams hold the lead in the second half before Matt Brehon broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run to give Hillhouse a huge 30-24 win over Hand, which should put them in prime position for a return to the CIAC playoffs, and maybe a real home game at Bowen Field.
Certainly, high school athletics do not hold the power to solve all of life’s problems, and glorification of athletes at the expense of education is still an issue in many schools.
However, Friday showed the power of athletics in building well-rounded citizens who are ready to contribute to the world at large. As hard as some people try, it can’t be done in a bubble and it’s not all about a score on a standardized test.
One person who understands that more than anyone is Bond, who played at Hamden Hall and UConn before a stint in the Arena Football League. But after retiring, he was drawn back to the place his parents hoped wouldn’t destroy him as a youngster.
“It’s just a full circle for me, because the reason why I went to Hamden Hall is my mother didn’t want me to go to the three local schools,” Bond said. “But I’ve always been a New Haven guy. My family’s here, and I always wanted to work with these kids in New Haven. It’s one of those things that going to Hamden Hall, I got to see the other side of it, and I want to give these kids my perspective, having seen both sides.”
Even Hand coach Steve Filippone who has won more than just about anyone in the SCC over the years, knows the ultimate tally is sometimes not the one on the scoreboard.
“Byron Breland, his kid is number 22 (for Hillhouse), and Byron and I played on this field against each other 40 years ago,” Filippone said. “I talked to (head coach) Reggie (Lytle) right before the game and told him I loved him and I hope things worked out for the best in the end. That young man was incredibly fortunate that he had someone like Reggie Lytle by his side when something like this happened. Our hearts go out to them. We’ve been there, and it’s a very difficult thing.”
Filippone spoke from recent experience. Last August, he and the Tigers were in a similar situation. It was a diving accident that left Hand’s Joe Barber paralyzed. At the league-wide SCC meeting, Filippone called on the rest of the league to pray for Barber and support poured in from everywhere.
“It’s the fraternity that is football, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Hillhouse or Hand or Old Saybrook, it doesn’t matter,” Filippone said. “It’s a fraternity of boys who coach the game. I have tremendous respect for any kid that plays football, for me or anyone else.
“I believe that everyone is praying for that kid’s recovery regardless of what the circumstances were that led him to be there at that moment, it’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that he’s a high school kid and a football player, and we all ought to be pulling on the same rope to make sure he gets better and something like that doesn’t happen again, no matter who it is or where they’re from.”
For many reasons, it’s been a difficult time for the “cohesion of our society,” as the Sheff decision stated. Gaps between the well-to-do and everyone else continue to grow and have threatened to take the public educational system with it. But there are signs of hope. And one of them was certainly on full display Friday night at Bowen Field.
“This field gives our kids a sense of pride,” Patchkofsky said. “All these years, we went to other places in the suburbs and played on fields like this. For us to have this in New Haven, it’s not only good for our community, but for all the community’s teams that come here as well.”
Pride in ourselves and our community. That’s something we can all agree on, no?
…Notre Dame and Hand are both 0-2 with six Division I games still remaining on their schedules, which means their playoff chances are already extremely slim. But, as Hand has proven in the past, it doesn’t mean they’ll be an easy victory for anyone the rest of the way, and that’s what makes Division I spectacular for neutral observers this season.
— Matt Silverstein (@mattsilvy) September 18, 2016
…Speaking of the Green Knights, they might have beaten Shelton if it weren’t for what might go down as the Play of the Year by Gaels quarterback David Wells (see: above).
Wells was caught five yards in the backfield and five yards from his own goal line, when — just as the officials were about to blow his forward progress dead — he somehow not only squirmed away, but sprinted 95 yards for a massive touchdown in Shelton’s come-from-behind 33-21 victory. Small margins.
— Hayden Hulme (@HaydenHulme_) September 17, 2016
… We might have seen the Game of the Year in Milford where, before a raucous crowd at Law (yes, you read that right), Erik Larka got his first SCC victory when the Lawmen erased a 21-7 halftime deficit to prevail 26-21, scoring the winning touchdown with just nine seconds remaining (see above).
… West Haven stakes its claim as the best team in the SCC with an impressive 27-18 win over Xavier at Palmer Field that wasn’t really that close until the end.
As with Hillhouse, defending will be the key for the Blue Devils, and they were able to control the line of scrimmage for the most part and eventually their speed shined and created points.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) September 16, 2016
…Fairfield Prep eventually discarded Wilbur Cross 21-6. But it was another game effort from the Governors, who could be a factor in the new Division II yet.
… Guilford has been involved in two fantastic finishes to begin the season. But after beating Law in its opener, fell to Branford 15-14 in the final minute, the second straight year the Indians have been dealt a heartbreaking defeat in the rivalry.
This time, it was Griffin Lynch finding Daniel Thomas on a 4th-and-10 play for a touchdown and then completing the ensuing conversion pass for the winner.
It was an extremely gutsy call by coach John Limone and his new offensive coordinator who had some success in his previous career at Branford: Gary Gravina.
… Creed routed Lyman Hall on Thursday at Bowen Field for its first SCC victory, and they appear like they could be a real factor in the Division III race.
… If the schedule looks a little unappetizing this week, it’s crossover week again, sorry.
Player of the Week
Zach Davis, Sheehan
You’d have to go back through the archives of the 15 years of this column to see if it’s happened before, but we’re giving the award to a player from a losing team this week. After all, Davis ran for 332 yards and five touchdowns against Foran this week, even though his team fell 46-33 to Foran.
In the opener, Davis rushed 20 times for 302 yards and three scores against East Haven in a 35-27 defeat, so Davis is averaging 14.7 yards per carry and leads to entire state by more than 240 yards rushing. But his team is 0-2 and plays Cheshire this weekend. Cruel, sometimes, isn’t it?
Inside the Numbers
55 Number of points scored by North Haven in a 55-0 rout of Hamden. It’s been more than a decade since Anthony Sagnella was rumored to be headed to Hamden to coach at his alma mater, where he’s a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. But he’s obviously stuck with it at North Haven and it’s hard to argue with his choice. He’ll also be pleased the 50-point rule is a thing of the past, as are most of us.
Game of the Week
Hillhouse at Fairfield Prep, Friday, 6 p.m.
If you look down the road, should the Academics win this, there’s not a whole lot separating themselves from a possible undefeated regular season (and a playoff home game at Bowen Field in December).
Teams like Amity and Cross should not be taken lightly, but they’ll be favorites in every game the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Fairfield Prep still has six Division I teams left to play. But at 3-0, they can start to dream, too, can’t they?
1) West Haven (2-0; Last Week 1) – Creed gets its official initiation into the SCC by going to Ken Strong Stadium Friday.
2) Shelton (2-0; LW 2) – It’s a much different offense, but appears just as effective for Gaels, who have tough road ahead.
3) Notre Dame (0-2; LW 4) – Yeah, they’re still here even though they stand at 0-2. Could have won both, but didn’t.
4) Cheshire (2-0; LW 5) – Should move to 3-0 this weekend, and then toughest schedule in state commences in full.
5) Xavier (1-1; LW 3) – The one team that doesn’t get a lower-division opponent this week, have to play Mass. opponent.
6) Hillhouse (2-0; LW 7) – Still not perfect last week, but would be a major shock if Acs aren’t in Class M playoffs.
7) North Haven (1-1; LW 8) – Not tested, but should get good confidence boost out of win. Still long way to go.
8) Fairfield Prep (2-0; LW 6) – Will have to get its offense sorted out to contend, but better to be 2-0 and figure it out.
9) Hand (0-2; LW 9) – Should win this week, but going to be a tough road to finish with a winning record again.
10) Wilbur Cross (1-1; LW 10) – Schedule hands them a bye this week, meaning they’ll be really busy at end.
11) Foran (1-1; LW 11) – At least they got the offense going, but defense will have to be better to threaten North Haven.
12) Creed (1-1; LW 16) – Look like they should be able to play with whatever Division III has to offer if healthy.
13) Branford (2-0; LW 13) – Still not really clicking, but they’ll take the wins to start, thank you very much.
14) Amity (0-2; LW 14) – Have just one Division I team on schedule until Thanksgiving, so some respite coming.
15) Jonathan Law (1-1; LW 19) – Did not see that comeback coming. Or the amount of people turning out for comeback.
16) Guilford (1-1; LW 18) – Still have ND, Hillhouse, and Hand left, but things appear to be improving for Indians.
17) East Haven (1-1; LW 12) – Have a favorable schedule after Hand, so that Law loss is a tough one for them.
18) Sheehan (0-2; LW 17) – Still giving up way too many points and yards to win games. It will be tall order this week.
19) Hamden (0-2; LW 15) – Been outscored 96-0 in first two games, so probably good they’re not in Division I, I guess.
20) Lyman Hall (0-2; LW 20) – Might think they have a decent shot to beat struggling Hamden this week.