Tim McCarthy remembers that not-so-chilly November evening in 2005 when West Haven, big underdogs against undefeated Southington, battled the high-powered Blue Knights score for score before finally falling 30-24 in the Class LL semifinals.
“They hit every extra point and we didn’t,” McCarthy said. “That was a tough night, a tough loss.”
Of course, 2005 was yesterday, wasn’t it? But then you do the math and compute that the stars of that team like James Alford are all in their mid-twenties these days, and Tim McCarthy – standing in front of you at 6-foot-2 – had just had his seventh birthday a few weeks before that contest. He has been a fixture on the West Haven sidelines ever since, occasionally mimicking his father Ed’s gestures when things went awry and sometimes when they didn’t.
McCarthy looked every bit the coach’s son last Friday night in his first varsity start, finishing with a modest yet effective 144 yards passing (going 8-for-18), but making very few mistakes as West Haven gained a measure of revenge for last year’s season opening loss by beating Greenwich, 35-22.
If Ed had any qualms about putting his son out there as a sophomore, they were quelled on the game’s first play when Tim hit Zatrell Lyons for a 61-yard touchdown. Not a bad start to your career. Or your 44th season at the helm.
“We ran it at a scrimmage in Massachusetts for a touchdown and then we didn’t score again until the fourth quarter,” Tim McCarthy said. “It was a little different tonight. That definitely calmed me down.”
Said Ed: “I’d like to take credit for that one, but that was (assistant coach) Tim Nixon’s idea. He’s been throwing the ball really well, and he’s got a great receiver out there in Zatrell.”
Time, of course, waits for no one, and like all the players he’s coached over the last four decades, Ed McCarthy will step aside after this season. He has missed games in the past due to health concerns, but mostly he just wants to sit back and watch his son play. McCarthy went without a headset in the Greenwich game, allowing his assistants more authority. But after a calm first quarter, McCarthy began to work the officials after a pair of questionable calls. Then he got on his team after some sloppiness threatened to let Greenwich back in the contest.
By the end, with time management now in play, McCarthy was in complete control, ordering people in and out, and finally telling Tim to do something he was telling quarterbacks to do well before Tim was born: take a safety to help kill the game off.
As Ed McCarthy looked around in his final home opener, he likely noticed some other old friends of his, including former long-term assistant Bert Siclari and his distinct voice from behind one end zone.
“I remember when Eddie Junior (Ed’s son from his first marriage who quarterbacked the Westies in 1994) was little and drawing up his own plays while the coaches were meeting in the other room,” Siclari said. “They were all messed up, but he was really little. That’s the benefit of being a coach’s kid.”
Sitting not too far away from Siclari was long-time public address announcer Tinker Blake, who would have loved to be in the press box, but has been undergoing a valiant battle against MSA (Mutiple System Atrophy) recently. Blake played for West Haven’s 1972 title team, and – in addition to being in the West Haven High Athletic Hall of Fame – has been honored by the West Haven Twilight League, been given a Gold Key by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance, among many, many other accolades for his work behind the scenes of youth athletics in the area. Blake’s predecessor Steve Dargan has returned behind the mic.
Who knows how many other former players might have been in the stands, not to mention those scattered through the country? And when the 2015 season begins and McCarthy is no longer on the sidelines for the first time since 1979, things will be different around these parts.
However, there will be still be young kids playing the game, making those memories, forging those bonds that will last through the decades. And through 2016, at least, one of those kids at West Haven will still be named McCarthy.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, ever since I can remember, which is probably that game in ‘05,” said Tim McCarthy.
And the circle of high school football life continues.
FCIAC 9, SCC 8
Like the Korean War, I guess you can technically say the SCC-FCIAC Challenge never really ended after Saturday’s Trinity Catholic-Sheehan game was stopped with just over a minute remaining and the Crusaders leading 33-3.
Trinity’s win (after going 0-11 last season) was the clinching win for the FCIAC, which won both Challenges by the same 9-8 total. SCC Commissioner Al Carbone is adamant that reports of its permanent demise are exaggerated, but it would take some concessions by many people with the regular season schedule returning to 10 games for the foreseeable future (part of the new deal that returned the quarterfinals to the CIAC playoffs).
One solution on the SCC end would be to eliminate one of the two crossover games, which most Division II coaches would run to their pens to sign for, but Division I coaches (and ADs) might need a little bit of convincing. Or a lot of convincing.
It might be even tougher on the FCIAC side of things, where the FCIAC final counts toward those 10 maximum regular-season games, and asking coaches to go to an eight-game conference schedule may be a concession too far.
Of course, we can just go to a district model and you can play whomever you want at the beginning of the season, right?
While it was evenly split last season, Division I teams went 6-3 last week, with Division II recording just a 2-6 mark (North Haven and East Haven winning). Notre Dame and Hand were the only two Division I teams not to win either year, but quality of opponent had a little to do with that.
Cheshire not only beat Ridgefield, but pummeled them 41-14, even without Jack Cunningham and Tucker Ecke. Four interceptions in the first half helped. Other Division I teams with Cheshire on their schedule I’m sure aren’t all that thrilled … They also may be not be able to count on Wilbur Cross as a win after the Governors handled McMahon 29-14, also with the help of some timely turnovers. Darien almost repeated the FCIAC afternoon difficulty in New Haven the next day before pulling away late for a victory … It appears to be Ryan Whelahan who will attempt to replace Tommy Wilson in the Hand backfield. Whelahan finished with 51 yards on 12 carries as the Tigers fell 21-14 to New Canaan at the Surf Club. Of course, Hand looked much worse against New Canaan last season and still made the playoffs … If you haven’t yet, follow me on Twitter at @currenscc.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Andrew Yamin, Cheshire – When one person goes down, the next person steps up, and in Cheshire’s case it was Yamin Wednesday night, as he finished with 221 yards rushing on 19 carries. Yamin was slated to be a big part of the Rams’ offense anyway, but now he stands to be the focal point, and that was certainly a good start.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Number of points combined for Xavier and Staples, as the Falcons gutted out a 3-0 win with a field goal in the final seconds. With overtime now mandatory and scoreless ties eliminated, it’s nearly impossible to get a lower scoring game. With an emphasis on the word nearly, though, because on Oct. 30, 1998 (about a week after Tim McCarthy was born, by the way) Hand defeated North Haven by a score of 2-0, which will forever stand (it can’t be beaten) as the lowest scoring game in SCC history.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Fairfield Prep at St. Joseph, Saturday, 1 p.m. – There was talk that this game might get moved to a bigger facility, but St. Joe should be packed to the hills for this one Saturday afternoon, which is a rematch of perhaps the Game of the Year in both the SCC and FCIAC last season (won by St. Joseph). The Cadets went on to win the Class M title, while Prep was a half away in Class LL, and both should be in the mix again this season.
- 1) Fairfield Prep (1-0; Last Season 1) – Prep has given up 78 points in its last six quarters. Need to figure that out.
- 2) Shelton (1-0; LS 5) – Struggled a little bit early against Trumbull, but made fairly short work of it after that.
- 3) West Haven (1-0; LS 2) – Very young, but the weapons are everywhere, first and foremost, Zatrell Lyons.
- 4) Hand (0-1; LS 4) – Don’t want to overreact too much to one loss, but we know what the schedule has coming.
- 5) Xavier (1-0; LS 6) – Win wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but Falcons won’t care in December if they’re still playing.
- 6) Cheshire (1-0; LS 13) – Again, one game does not tell you everything, but Rams didn’t look like a 4-7 team.
- 7) Notre Dame (0-1; LS 7) – Was competitive with St. Joseph for second straight year. Would like to build on it.
- 8) North Haven (1-0; LS 3) – Didn’t exactly put Bridgeport Central away early. Will know more about them Friday.
- 9) Wilbur Cross (1-0; LS 12) – Seems like Governors are always up here at this time of year. But for how long?
- 10) Hillhouse (0-1; LS 11) – Put up a good fight against Darien, can take a lot of positives out of that performance.
- 11) Foran (0-1; LS 8) – Kasuba was his usual self last week, but the supporting cast may take a while to sort out.
- 12) Amity (0-1; LS 9) – Battled against Seymour, but again, that Division I schedule looms in the window.
- 13) Guilford (0-1; LS 10) – Going to take a while for them to get started as well, but some promising signs.
- 14) Hamden (0-1; LS 15) – Next verse, same as the last it appears for the Dragons right now. But early yet.
- 15) East Haven (1-0; LS 18) – Highest point in these rankings for Yellowjackets since ..? Hamden this week.
- 16) Branford (0-0; LS 19) – Hey, get to move up in the rankings by not playing, huh? Only works once, though.
- 17) Lyman Hall (0-1; LS 17) – Final score was ugly, but it was only 6-0 at half if you’re looking for positives.
- 18) Jonathan Law (0-1; LS 16) – To be fair, Harding’s freshman quarterback looks like he might be a player.
- 19) Sheehan (0-1; LS 14) – Score was bad enough, but Titans also had to deal with ejections from players and parents.