Tradition thrives in season of change

Former Naugatuck football coach Craig Peters, left, and first-year head coach Dave Sollazzo keep a close eye on the action during the Greyhounds’ game against Waterbury Career Academy Nov. 11 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Peters and former Naugatuck boys soccer coach Art Nunes have been helping with the team this season. –KEN MORSE

NAUGATUCK — There is an old proverb that states, the more things change the more they stay the same. That’s been evident on the sidelines of Veterans Field this season.

Naugatuck first-year head football coach Dave Sollazzo made bringing back that sense of Naugy tradition his first priority.

This nine-letter world — tradition — holds a profound meaning as an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior.

“When I first got here I heard about the past and the glory days of Naugatuck football and I wanted to bring that tradition back to this program,” Sollazzo said. “The game of football is so deep in tradition, and Naugatuck had it. I wanted to know who the coach was that had the two state championships and won all those games.”

The coach Sollazzo wanted to get to know is Craig Peters, who lead the Greyhounds for 28 years before retiring after the 2000 season. Over those 28 years, Naugatuck won eight Naugatuck Valley League championships along with the two state titles.

As fate would have it, Sollazzo would get his chance.

“One day at practice someone told me Craig Peters was sitting up in the stands watching practice,” Sollazzo said. “So I went over there and introduced myself and asked him to come help us. He is a heck of a consultant for us and a great man.”

Peters has played an integral role this season in mentoring the Greyhounds and offering advice to the coaching staff on the nuances of the game.

“Having a legendary coach like Peters on the sidelines has been a huge influence to every player on this team,” senior quarterback Mike Plasky said. “He is a wealth of knowledge and so encouraging to the players.”

Peters isn’t the only legendary Naugatuck coach that can be spotted on the sidelines.

“I heard about (former Naugatuck boys soccer) coach (Art) Nunes and he works in our main office,” Sollazzo said. “I ran into him one day and he decided to come out and help our kickers, and there is no one better. I’m so happy to have those guys around. They bring back so much of that tradition.”

Nunes, who coached for 21 seasons, retired after the 2015 season. His resume includes 14 NVL titles and two of his own state championships.

Nunes lends his expertise to the Greyhounds’ kicking game.

“I work with the kicking game on Wednesdays, and there is a lot to cover,” Nunes said. “Extra points, field goals and working with the snaps. The kickoffs and the punts. There is a lot to attend to, and the kids are working hard to get better.”

The Naugatuck kicking game is in good hands with Nunes. There are many intricate parts to the kicking game, starting with long snappers Malachi Gatison, who handles extra points and field goals, and AJ Patel, who snaps on punts. Back-up quarterback John Mezzo is the holder, Zack Koslosky kicks, and Plasky is the punter.

Koslosky has converted nearly 72 percent (38-for-53) of his extra points so far this season and is one out of four on field goals. That’s 41 points on the scoreboard.

“I met up with Coach Sollazzo and offered to help and he was more than happy to see that we had the time to practice and get better,” Nunes said. “We won the game in Torrington by two points and it was the kicking game that provided the margin of victory. It was of course an entire team effort, but without a kicking game we might not have been successful.”