We called Bill Riccio on Monday to ask what it was like for the New Haven Football Officials Association’s commissioner, rescheduling so many crews through all this Eastern Equine Encephalitis shuffling.
Well, Riccio said, only five minutes earlier he’d been told that Hillhouse’s game against Harding on Friday was moving from the evening to the afternoon.
“All the league commissioners I’ve talked to are having trouble rescheduling, I don’t care what sport it is,” Riccio said. “All the games are at one time.”
It is a statewide jigsaw puzzle: Match teams with open times (in a shrinking window as the days grow shorter), with open fields, with available officials. Some football games move dates, even to Sundays. Naugatuck-Watertown on Friday moved to Nov. 22.
“We had to help Hartford with a game this weekend,” Riccio said. “They’re the biggest board in the state, but they couldn’t do it. That’s what we’ve been doing for each other.”
Last year’s constant bad weather forced a lot of rescheduling, too, but Riccio said he doesn’t remember it quite this bad recently. He has sometimes been on the computer 12 hours a day to work everything out.
The shifts began in the eastern part of the state and have been working westward as more mosquitoes test positive for the virus. Schools are moving outdoor games earlier to avoid dusk and dark.
The New Haven and Fairfield boards keep crews of officials together each week, Riccio said, which complicates matters in cases like this. He gets word of changes and sends them to the crews, and naturally there are conflicts.
“We’ve got college officials who can’t work a game on Saturday, and now we’ve got to fill in,” Riccio said.
“Generally, it hasn’t been as bad as it could be. But it’s not easy.”
After an 0-10 season in 2018, New Milford has its first winning streak in almost two years.
After a close loss to Enfield, the Green Wave rebounded with one-point, come-from-behind wins over Hamden and Brookfield the past two weeks to even their record at 2-2.
“They’ve done far more for me than I’ve done for them,” first-year coach Sean Murray said. “(They’ve shown) not to quit. Certain kids had reputations, things of that nature, and these kids have been so good to me. They work hard. They never give up.”
Murray said he wants the players to feel part of the program, even getting their input on decisions.
When sophomore quarterback Reese Vanek scored with 3:20 left Friday to cut Brookfield’s lead to 21-20, Murray said, he turned to a captain and asked what the player thought.
“He said, ‘Let’s try to win,’ ” Murray said.
Vanek was injured on the play, so senior J.T. Snowden went in and threw the winning conversion pass to Emilio Mejias.
New Milford 1 yard touchdown run and JT Snowden gets his first snap of the game and throws this two point conversion to give New Milford a 22-21 lead with 3:20 left in the game #cthsfb pic.twitter.com/3VhULHuFhu
— SWC Sports (@_swcbasketball) October 5, 2019
They’d been down 22-8 to Hamden the week before and came back to win 30-29, snapping a 12-game losing streak.
Murray teaches at New Milford and had been an assistant coach with the Green Wave before being off the staff for a couple of years.
“I’m really excited for the kids,” Murray said. “They’ve worked hard. They stuck it out through all the hard stuff. They’ve come out and played very, very hard in all four games.”
The Green Wave opened the season with a 42-0 loss to Newtown, now the No. 5 team in the state. The week after, Enfield beat them 29-25.
“The Enfield game showed (the New Milford players) they could play with teams,” Murray said.
“The loss hurt so bad, they didn’t want to feel it again. It helped the last two weeks in tight ballgames. A couple of breaks went our way, and we were fortunate to win them.”
Vanek has stepped up as a young player. The offensive line has created room for senior running back Sergey Holcomb. The defense has been there when the Wave needed them, Murray said.
The coach said he has tried to focus on the players’ experience as much as anything.
“Whatever comes as far as wins after that,” he said, “is gravy.”
In addition to that Hillhouse-Harding game on Friday at Bowen Field, pushed up to 3:30 p.m., four other Week 5 games had moved by late Monday afternoon. Only one date change so far: Platt’s visit to Newington is now Saturday morning at 10:30.
On Friday, Prince Tech’s visit to Cheney Tech is a 3 p.m. start, and Bacon Academy-Plainfield moves up a couple of hours to 4 p.m.
Saturday’s Enfield visit to Glastonbury, already moved from Friday, moves a smidgen earlier to 2 p.m.
DIFFERENT KIND OF RESCHEDULING
No blood-sucking insects involved in this one: Because of work on the track surrounding the field, Danbury has moved its next game, Oct. 19 against Trumbull, to Brookfield at 6 p.m.