The back-to-school movement begins in August, so we have to finish looking back at the best of the best from last school year’s sports before the calendar turns on July.
In the last of a three-part series, we’ll review the top 10 stories of the year. Naugatuck and Woodland were both involved in plenty of championship hunts, exciting games and unforgettable moments, so we picked our top 10 and listed them in rough chronological order.
We hope you enjoyed our three-part series of the best in 2012-13 local high school sports, and we’re only about six weeks away from the start of a new sports year.
Top 10 Stories
Plasky resigns amid recruiting violations: The Naugatuck football team looked like a potential contender in the Naugatuck Valley League — especially with the supposed transfers of Sacred Heart stars David Coggins, Javon Martin and Xavier Woods. But former coach Rob Plasky and the Naugatuck High School Football Alumni Association violated CIAC regulations by paying for the trio to attend a summer camp and to help resolve outstanding tuition at Sacred Heart, costing Plasky his job and throwing the Greyhounds into turmoil. Thanks to interim coach Shawn Kuczenski and stars Mick Pernell and Brandon Kuczenski, Naugy salvaged a 6-4 season.
Hawks dominate pitch but can’t grab NVL crown: It’s tough to remember the last time a team owned the NVL soccer regular season quite like the Woodland girls did in 2012. The Hawks hadn’t trailed but for a few minutes as they went unbeaten through the NVL regular year, despite losing star forward Steph Dumond for extended time due to a broken arm. Keri DeBiase, Audra Blewitt and others powered Woodland’s offense while Alma Rizvani was nearly impenetrable in net until the NVL championship, when Watertown pulled a 2-0 upset.
Woodland makes dramatic run to volleyball final: After being swept by Seymour in the NVL semifinals, the Hawks regrouped to make the school’s deepest run in any state tournament since the football team won the 2005 Class SS championship. The top-seeded Hawks survived a five-game battle against No. 8 Plainfield and fended off Division I recruit Morgan Griffin’s 26 kills to reach the semifinals, where they dominated No. 5 Tolland to the tune of allowing only 12 kills. Ledyard ended Woodland’s run in the final with a sweep in East Haven.
Kingsley, Scirpo fly into record books: In leading the Woodland football team to its first state semifinal since 2007, quarterback Tanner Kingsley and wide receiver Anthony Scirpo plastered their names all over the school, league and state record books. Kingsley set state records for single-game passing yardage (615 vs. Seymour) and single-season passing touchdowns (51) while also setting NVL records in single-game passing touchdowns (eight vs. Seymour and Naugatuck), single-season passing yards (3,227), single-season completions (246) and single-game completions (33). Scirpo, his top target, broke Aaron Hernandez’s state record with 25 touchdown catches and set an NVL record with 34 career touchdown catches.
Scheithe retires after 24 seasons: Fred Scheithe, one of the most respected and successful coaches in Naugatuck’s recent athletics history, stepped away from the Greyhounds volleyball program after coaching his 24th season in 2012. Scheithe joined the program in 1988 as an assistant to Lisa Green and took the varsity reins in 1998. His best season came in 2001, when he led the ‘Hounds to the NVL tournament title and the state quarterfinals.
Bruno the big-name hire for Naugy gridders: Local high school football fans expected Naugatuck’s coaching search to lure big names, and the Greyhounds sure landed one in Bruno. He won the job in January after several rounds of interviews, which also saw Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps vie for the position. Bruno, known for devising unique and high-powered offenses, won a pair of state championships during his 12-year tenure at Bunnell.
Grieving Hawks stun No. 2-ranked Wilby: The night after the funeral of George Pinho, father of Woodland junior Jack Pinho and longtime area coach, the Woodland boys basketball team upset undefeated and state No. 2 Wilby, 79-76. Pinho unexpectedly passed away Jan. 19, and in the Hawks’ first game after his death Woodland kept up with the Wildcats’ quick offense to hold off the eventual NVL runner-up. Rahmi Rountree scored 33 points and grabbed 15 rebounds while Dave Uhl (21 points) hit two free throws with 13 seconds left to help ice the game.
Athletic complex overhaul starts at Naugy: After construction was delayed to this spring, the $81 million renovation at Naugatuck High began with the first major target being Veterans Field, the crown jewel of the Greyhounds athletic complex. Artificial turf is almost completely installed with it scheduled to be in use by the beginning of the fall season. Also underway is work to the locker rooms, gymnasiums, natatorium and pool, baseball and softball fields and other areas.
Hawks’ track dynasty continues, but ‘Hounds steal a title: Woodland won three of the four NVL track titles awarded in 2013, and the Hawks likely would have swept all of them if not for a disqualification in the boys indoor sprint medley relay. That error opened the door for Naugatuck to take the championship, but it was a simple blip on Woodland’s radar. The Hawks dominated the outdoor meet in winning both titles. Mike Lang racked up another season’s worth of gold medals, and he ended it by jumping at the New England championships.
Beynor, Milek make for local-themed tennis final: Woodland’s Kyle Beynor dominated the NVL tennis scene over the last couple of seasons like few others ever have. But Naugatuck’s Julian Milek, an exchange student from Germany, put an end to Beynor’s NVL unbeaten streak by defeating the defending NVL singles champ late during the regular season. The pair met again in the NVL championship, where Beynor took a straight-sets victory. It was Beynor’s second straight NVL singles crown, which capped the Hawks’ third league title in a row.