TORRINGTON >> Every high school team wants to be a family.
None more than Torrington High School’s football team after the upheavals it has endured.
This year, new Head Coach Gaitan Rodriguez spent much of his effort rebuilding the family.
Its team banquet Monday night was as much celebration of his success with that as it was in the Red Raiders’ three victories in the last four games of a 3-8 season.
“You went out a winner,” former Torrington great Scott Langenheim told the seniors.
From all appearances Monday, they’re still winning.
“Gaitan wanted the banquet at the high school to bring it all back together,” said parent Carol Finn.
Instead of footing a bill for a commercial establishment, parents made deserts for the catered dinner in the cafeteria. Parents served the dishes. The family worked together.
“It took me several months to put together all the names with the faces,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to learn about them as players and as people.”
Rodriguez also got to know a brand new staff — assistants Mark Magelinkx, Ollie Gray, Drake Carnot, Brian Becker and Andrew Therriault.
“They’re good football coaches, but even better role models for the kids,” beamed Rodriguez.
Call them additional fathers.
“Our mission is to help you grow as people, students and athletes — to help you become complete people,” Rodirguez said. “We must be strong in mind, spirit and body. I want to see the total package.”
By banquet time, family love flowed around the high school cafeteria and into the high school theater for awards.
Like bonded soldiers after boot camp, it came hand-in-hand with pain and discomfort.
“In our win-less seven-game stretch, I was very proud. They never quit. They kept together and believed that next week would be theirs,” Rodriguez said. “In the Holy Cross game (seventh in the season), for the first time, I saw that look in their eyes. We lost the game, but I knew the win was around the corner.”
He was right — a 21-0 win over Kennedy, followed by a loss to state champion finalist Woodland, then big wins over Sacred Heart and Watertown.
“Every member of this team is a great person and I feel fortunate being able to coach them,” said Rodriguez.
The coaches presented a table full of awards to share the pride.
Senior lineman Ernie Tracy headed the list as team MVP.
“I’m proud to be part of the team,” he said in a ceremony that would have been as much at home in the locker room as it was in the theater, thanks to cheers and good-natured banter that came with every award, from teammates sharing their pride with teammates.
Senior awards went to Desmond Langs (Offense); Joe Kenney (Heart and Hustle); Matt Hoxie (Scholar Athlete); Alex Rintharamy (Unsung Hero); Dave Kisiel (Coaches Award); and Damian Lajoie (Most Improved).
Underclassmen and freshmen had their own awards.
Among the underclass varsity, Ben Bonvicini (Scholar Athlete); Dylan Heller (Heart and Hustle); P.M. Killmartin (Special Teams); Nate Bresson (Defense); and Connor Finn (Offense) took home trophies.
Freshman winners were Tory Hammonds (Heart and Hustle); Yarmouth McClellan (Defense); Domonick Phengkaen (Offense); and Andrew Schamanski (Scholar Athlete).
On this team, coaches also get awards from players.
It makes the family circle complete.