The pots are bubbling on the stove as the aroma of the holidays begins to steam up the windows. There is nothing quite like the ritual of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Before you dig into that sumptuous feast that’s still five hours from completion, there’s the tradition of the Big Game. With still more than enough time to get your coveted parking spot, you retire to the living room with your newspaper in tow. You need to allow the cook plenty of time to work her culinary magic, so you sit back and read about the game to be played.
This tradition has been a fixture for generations of families. The Naugatuck-Ansonia football rivalry is 112 years old and your attendance is almost (or should be) required.
I can’t believe this will be my 17th year covering the Big Game. Where has the time gone? I have seen Naugatuck Valley League championships won and state playoff hopes dashed with final touchdown drives. I’ve seen everything from excitement to tragedy.
On a few rare instances snow entered the picture and I actually got the day off when the game was postponed for a few days. I usually relished those opportunities to strap on my lobster-clad apron and dig right in as a sous chef.
My wife JoAnn, on the other hand, never really looked especially excited about my helping hand. She usually tried to get rid of me with a casual, “Don’t you have something to write? I got this.”
Some fans go to the game to watch their son’s last game, while others are there to see their daughters cheer on the Garnet and Grey. Band parents are always willing to lend a helping hand, anticipating the grand halftime show.
Aunts, uncles and cousins fill the stands to add a little more family support as the whole town comes together as one. Grandparents stand along the fence shouting out instructions to grandsons, who can’t help but smile.
It looks like the entire student body shows to support their classmates on the gridiron. Teachers and school administrators greet each other, obviously in a good frame of mind with school being out — if only for a brief period.
Many alumni and former athletes mingle among the crowd, trying to relive past memories while rekindling old friendships. A few fans exchange banter with the local scribes, who scribble furiously into their notepads to capture the entire essence of the holiday scene.
Heroes are born on this day and they will take with them those precious memories that will last a lifetime. A few years will pass and those heroes will be the ones mingling through the crowd in search of former classmates looking to stir up old friendships. The tradition will live on.
I remember when the Greyhounds staged a 14-13 win over Ansonia to win the 2001 NVL title in Naugatuck. Larry Bennett jetted 76 yards on the second half’s opening kickoff return to get Naugy back in the game.
With 8:06 left in the game and Naugatuck trailing 13-6, Matt Paradisi rambled 66 yards for a touchdown. Pablo Couvertier, who had 25 touchdowns on the season, plowed in for the two-point conversion behind the blocks of Chris Roberts, Dom Pucci and Joe Meagher up front. Naugatuck had its first undefeated regular season season in 20 years under rookie coach Rob Plasky.
In 2002 I worked for WWCO radio, and the day before the game Ansonia senior Damontis Johnson was killed. The Chargers shined in their toughest hour and came away victorious with Johnson’s No. 32 emblazoned in the grass at midfield.
I saw the 2010 Greyhounds visit Jarvis Stadium and stun the Chargers in a convincing, 38-20 win to take the NVL title and earn a trip to the state playoffs. Aaron Echevarria had five sacks and was a monster on defense, and quarterback Erich Broadrick played the best game of his career.
I have seen it all on this very special day for high school football in Connecticut. But as we approach this special day in 2012, I outwardly am hoping for a Greyhounds victory. Inside I’m silently wishing for snow.
I can’t wait to jump into that apron with the big lobster on the front of it. JoAnn will inevitably look at me, roll her eyes and say, “Just go up to your office. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
Ken Morse is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.