Editor’s note: During the summer of 2012, the New Haven Register ran a New Haven 200 series to commemorate its 200th anniversary. GameTimeCT.com will share high school related stories from that series periodically throughout the summer.
In an era when high school football looked more like rugby, and the odds of a game ending in a scoreless tie were better than average, Andrew “Bubby” Natowich was decades ahead of his time.
Natowich, Ansonia’s first football superstar, was considered a radical because he carried the ball with one hand — coaches of the day preached using both to protect the football from swarms of tacklers.
Few utilized the forward pass, defensive schemes centering around loading the line of scrimmage to stop the run. But tackling Natowich, speedy and elusive at 170 pounds, proved to be darn near impossible. He racked up yardage and touchdowns at a pace that, even for today’s high-octane offenses, are almost unheard of. His 451 yards rushing against Naugatuck on Thanksgiving Day in 1936 was a state record that stood for 66 years until Farmington’s Brandon Willard went for 508 in 2002. Alex Thomas brought the record back to Ansonia five years later with a 518-yard day against Woodland.
Natowich, only a junior, scored a state-record seven touchdowns (which stood until 1999) that afternoon in a 79-0 victory he’d been thinking about for eight years.
“When I was a little kid (in 1928), I saw Naugatuck beat Ansonia 73-0,” Natowich told the Register’s Bob Barton in 2000. “I felt real bad and thought, ‘Some day, we’re going to get them.’ When we had Naugatuck on the run, our coach (Arthur Stewart) began taking our starters out. I refused to come out. I wanted to get another touchdown and erase that score.”
He could beat the opposition with his arm, too. In an 80-0 win over Shelton as a senior, he ran for six touchdowns and threw three more. The nine touchdowns was another state record, as was his 58 total points. That mark stood for 73 years until Brenden Lytton of Torrington accounted for 59 points in 2010.
He led the state in scoring twice, with 105 points in 1936 and 128 in 1937, when he was named to the Register’s All-State team. Ansonia was 15-1-1 over those two seasons.
A three-sport star in high school, Natowich went to Holy Cross to play football and baseball. In football he was a triple threat who could run, pass and kick. In 1941, he helped the Crusaders knock off Louisiana State in Baton Rouge and whitewash North Carolina State a year later.
He also scored the final touchdown in a stunning 55-12 upset of No. 1 Boston College at Fenway Park in the final game of the season. Natowich was sparsely used because he was in Holy Cross coach Ank Scanlon’s dog house.
“He was a nice guy, looking back on it, but he used to yell at practice and I never took to it,” Natowich told the Springfield (Mass.) Union in 1965. “But I thought we had a good chance. Never by that score, of course.”
Holy Cross, unranked and a three-touchdown underdog, knocked the Eagles out of Sugar Bowl consideration. It also saved their collective lives. A celebration for BC at the Cocoanut Grove club was canceled in the wake of the loss. That night, the club burned, killing 491.
Following a stint with the Washington Redskins in 1944, he took a job teaching social studies and coaching football and baseball at Brattleboro (Vt.) Union High. He went on to win four state championships in football, his final season in 1965. He continued as baseball coach until 1974. Considered one of Vermont’s legendary high school coaches — the school named the football field for Natowich — he has been honored numerous times through the years. Last winter, the Vermont Principals Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame.
Natowich died at age 95 in Brattleboro. Natowich was listed as one of the oldest living NFL players prior to his death. He came back to Ansonia often over the years — he has family here — occasionally popping in for the Ansonia-Naugatuck games on Thanksgiving. Naugatuck won 17 of the first 33 games of the ancient series, but managed only 18 in the 79 years since Natowich entered Ansonia High.