Rivalry games are a commonality in the world of high school football. The buzz and intensity of the Thanksgiving game has become almost as sacred as the holiday itself.
The Naugatuck vs Ansonia rivalry has stood the test of time and provided high school football fans with memorable battles throughout the ages.
As the masses of ‘Hounds and Chargers fans prepare for another chapter in the storied rivalry, there are nine Greyhounds that will be taking the gridiron for the final time.
Seniors Antoine Sistrunk, Etty Ilunga, Paul Cavagnoulo, Logan Bond, Blayde Bragg, Matt Dumont, Austin Messenger, William Chockey, Freddy Sanchez,and Matt Jackman have seen their fair share of Greyhound football as they have grown under the leadership of head coach Craig Bruno.
“I’ve enjoyed the senior class. This really is my first class here because this is my third year,” Bruno says. “I’ve had them pretty much the whole time and these kids have been great. They’ve stuck with us.”
2015 has been a rollercoaster of a ride for Bruno and the Greyhounds. With a record of 5-4, Naugatuck is eliminated from the playoffs, making Thanksgiving’s game the end of the line for the veteran ‘Hounds and their high school football days.
“It goes by fast. It shocks me how fast everything goes by,” Ilunga says. “It feels like yesterday I was coming in as a freshman, but now it feels like everything [has gone] by fast. … I never thought it would come this quick, and as much as I want to go out into this game, at the same time in the back of my head it’s like my last high school game, so it feels kind of weird.”
The very first matchup between the Greyhounds and Chargers took place in 1900, Ansonia won the game 5-0 at time where the sport of football was rather different — to say the least. Over a century and 115 games later, the NVL foes have continued to be the cornerstone Thanksgiving rivalry in the state and draw in hundreds to watch them duke it out. This has created an atmosphere and tradition that leaves Greyhounds chomping at the bit to be a part of.
“It means a lot,” Bragg says. “Since freshman year I’ve been waiting for this; my senior year, finally getting on the field playing. It’s a real big game. It dates back [over a] hundred years. They got our number, but hopefully we can get them this year.”
Out of the 115 meetings between the two schools, Ansonia has maintained the better part of the record. With 68 wins to Naugatuck’s 37, and 10 ties between them, the Greyhounds-Chargers tradition has become a yearly Holy Grail quest for victory for the Garnett and Grey.
In the last 15 years, Naugy has bested the Chargers twice; first in 2001 in a close 14-13 victory and most recently in 2010 when the Naugatuck defeated the Ansonia for the NVL Championship 38-20.
With another win streak going strong for Ansonia, there are plenty Greyhounds that are looking to be David to the Chargers’ Goliath. According to Cavagnoulo and Bond, there is plenty of confidence in the Naugatuck locker room that the Greyhounds can overcome the undefeated Chargers, regardless of the odds.
“It’s sad because it’s the last game, [but] we want to do as much as we can. No regret is basically all there is to it,” Cavagnoulo says.
“I have full faith that we can win it as long as we go all out,” Bond says. “I don’t really care what their record is. As long as we go hard it’s any given Sunday.”
Editor’s note: This article appears in the Citizen’s News’ special Thanksgiving football section published the week of Nov. 27, 2015.