At the outset of this all-decade project, there was nearly nothing set in stone. There was an enormous amount of research that needed to be done to properly choose the members of each team and best rank each of the top lists. There was a least one thing that was a sure bet from the beginning, though, and that was Naugatuck’s top athlete of the decade: Brian Mariano. Mariano’s exploits in Garnet and Grey are stuff of legend: He won 11 NVL titles in 11 varsity seasons, was a combined six-time all-NVL selection, a five-time all-state honoree, once an All-New England pick, twice an All-America honorable mention, twice an All-America choice, and a national champion, all of which came in soccer and diving (of course, the latter was his bread and butter). Not bad for a guy who never planned on stepping foot on the one-meter springboard.
The fire everyone knows about, the one that’s the flaming hub of a spirited Thanksgiving Eve pep rally, will take place Wednesday night, just hours before the Greyhounds host rival Ansonia. The one that players and alumni know about, the one that’s the flickering center of a pensive gathering, will take place just a few hours before the other. It’s called The Burning of the Shoe, a tradition Naugatuck head coach Rob Plasky brought with him from Springfield College when he took the reigns of this already tradition-rich program in 2001. And it’s just what it sounds like: The Hounds gather around a burning cleat and just talk … and listen.
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School football and soccer teams are usually among the best teams in the Naugatuck Valley League. The fields they play on, though, are a completely different story. The Greyhounds’ soccer pitch and football field are marred with ruts, dirt spots, and major drainage issues. Boys soccer coach Art Nunes, who is in his 17th year with the team, has been critical of the field for which his players have to settle.
BEACON FALLS — The procession curled off Exit 24, toward North Main Street, and paused as ladder trucks from Seymour, Prospect, Bethany, Roxbury and Middlebury joined firefighters marching on foot, the Connecticut Firefighters Pipes and Drums and the 1929 Seagrave bearing the reason for the assembly. Kevin Swan, 68, a 49-year veteran of Beacon Hose Company No. 1, suffered a heart attack shortly after responding to a 5 a.m. call last Wednesday. Swan signed on the radio but never arrived at the Susan Street fire; he was found in his pickup truck, still in the driveway of his 95 Skokorat Road home, and was pronounced dead at Griffin Hospital, around 9 a.m.
BEACON FALLS — The Woodland Hawks came into Tuesday’s battle with Ansonia with all the incentive they needed. Only two wins separate the Black and Gold from their goal of extending the season into the state tournament. Woodland lost an earlier Brass Division contest to the Chargers by a slim, 64-57 margin so there was no reason to believe this one wouldn’t go down to the wire. Apparently, Ansonia didn’t get the memo; it led by as many as 20 and went on to win, 81-73. The Chargers (10-6) have been red hot, winning 9 of their last 11 games and are poised to battle Seymour next Tuesday with the Brass Division hanging in the balance.
NAUGATUCK — Jessie Ballenger was ready to take on public office when she found out she had been nominated as African-American mayor of the day. “You just never know when something good happens out of the blue,” Ballenger said. “You never know when people are watching you and been taking you into consideration for honors and recognition.” Mayor Robert Mezzo handed his office over to Ballenger Monday as part of the town’s observance of Black history month.
NAUGATUCK — The Greyhounds have struggled this season trying to run and gun with the best of the Naugatuck Valley League. They changed their tactic Friday and came out against Seymour with a defensive presence that knocked the Cats off their game. But while working to keep Seymour in check, the Hounds lost a little bit of their own offensive oomph and came up on the short end of a 54-42 final. “Our goal wasn’t to go out there and slow down the pace of the game,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said. “We did want to limit them to one look at the basket and pick it up on the other end. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen the way we had planned it. Seymour did a good job of working the ball around, and they were very patient. We really had no answer for Kyle Moran, especially in the final period.”
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys’ basketball team held the lead against Wilby until the 3:06 mark of the third period before the Wildcats went on to close out a 75-64 win over the Greyhounds Tuesday. Matt Zahornasky and Kyle Krupa were saddled with four fouls each, and Wilby began to exploit the lane, a move that led to the turnaround. Lemar Larson led the Wildcats with 20 points, and he had a lot of help from Terron Robinson and Landen Manning, who scored 15 points apiece, as Wilby racked up 22 points in the third period and 23 points in the final stanza to pull away the win.