ast season Ansonia football became the Tajik Bagley and Tyler Bailey show. Bagley, a senior running back, and Bailey, a senior wide receiver, gave opposing defenses headaches and have been inseparable on and off the field.
“He’s like my brother,” Bagley said of Bailey.
So it only makes sense that the dynamic duo spent the off-season getting ready for the season. Coach Tom Brockett said the two add a dimension to Ansonia football that is hard to stop.
“If you want to beat Ansonia, you’ve got to stop the run,” he said. “It puts you in a bit of a bind with Bailey on the outside.”
And when Bailey is on the outside, he’s a dangerous target. He also plays defensive back and made last season’s Register/GameTimeCT.com All-State team.
The versatile athlete said when Bagley is on his game, it makes his job a lot easier.
“When the teams worry about Tajik running the ball, that’s my chance to run right by them and catch it,” Bailey said.
Whether by air or grinding it out on the ground, Ansonia can pick apart opposing defenses. Still, Ansonia fell in the Class S-Large final to Valley Regional/Old Lyme in the final seconds 21-20.
Bouncing back from adversity is never easy, but for Bagley and Bailey, it’s nothing new.
Playing Through the Pain
Last season was not an easy one for Bagley. Banged up, he trudged along for the Chargers, giving them the lift they needed. It doesn’t make matters any easier that he was replacing Arkeel Newsome, who set record after record for the Chargers and is now at UConn.
Still, Bagley never felt any pressure.
“I wouldn’t say pressure,” he said. “But I have to live up to (what Newsome did).”
And Bagley held his own in 2014. He was a Register/GameTimeCT.com All-Area, All-Naugatuck Valley League and a Class S Coaches All-State pick. The running back ran for 1,405 yards and 24 touchdowns, on defense he had 41 tackles and picked up three interceptions.
All of that was accomplished with a sprained ankle and MCL.
“It’s always hard when you’re hurt to play through it and he only battled through it all those games,” Brockett said.
Actually Bagley missed one game, but it was not because of any of his nagging injuries.
“I actually had a doctor’s appointment,” he said.
Last season, Bagley pushed through and this off-season, he’s pushed himself to build up his body to take the pounding of the high school season. He’s spent countless hours in the gym, leaving and returning for multiple workouts per day.
“At least two to three times a day,” he said of his workout regimen. “I try to do something. Whether it’s conditioning, lifting weights, I’m trying to get better every day.”
And his coach has taken notice.
“He’s bigger and stronger than he’s ever been this year with all the time he’s put in the weight room,” Brockett said.
Spending the summer between his junior and senior year of high school submerged in his training has taken a toll on his social life. However, the running back is fine with it.
“You have to separate yourself,” he said. “There’s a lot of bad going on and I try to stay around a good crowd. I try to bring hard workers around me. A lot of my teammates are hard workers.”
And so is his best friend.
The Silent Assassin
Brockett knew he had a talented receiver in Bailey. He knew he had a good kid, too, even if he didn’t say too much.
“He’s a very quiet, unassuming kid,” Brockett said.
Not on the football field.
Bailey had a breakout season with 735 receiving yards, seven receiving touchdowns, 941 rushing yards with 18 rushing touchdowns and on defense 68 tackles and six picks to snag a spot on the All-NVL team.
“I don’t think we expected him to have the kind of year he did last year,” Brockett said. “We knew he was going to be a good player, but he turned into a great player.”
Bailey said he had to. After Newsome departed for college, Bailey said he took it upon himself to try to provide some help to Bagley and quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight. He did more than help and together with Bagley form arguably the best skill position duo in the state.
That will help as Ansonia looks to erase the memory of last season. Valley Regional/Old Lyme picked up its first state crown as quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre scored from 4 yards out on fourth down and Jared Roche drilled the extra point to edge the Chargers.
“We’d be lying if we said we didn’t have a real sour taste in our mouth,” Brockett said. “Most certainly, it didn’t end how we wanted it to. We take a lot of pride in what we do, so we’re going to be really hungry.”
Bagley said there are no words for how determined Ansonia is to get back to the final and win a state crown. Bailey, who tends to stay quiet, said the team will make a lot of noise on the field in 2015.
“We don’t want to go out our senior year losing a championship,” he said.