NVL notebook: Records, late nights, rubber and steel

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Woodland quarterback Tanner Kinglsey rewrote the record book last season –FILE PHOTO
Woodland quarterback Tanner Kinglsey rewrote the record book last season –FILE PHOTO

A little less than a year ago, as seemingly every week I was opening the state football record book to check where another passing performance by Tanner Kingsley or receiving game by Anthony Scirpo or rushing output by Arkeel Newsome stacked up, it became pretty obvious what needed to be done.

This August, therefore, I published on my Naugatuck Valley League Football Blog (www.nvlfootballblog.com) the first-ever compilation of NVL football history and records.

It took more than a few long nights and some internet savvy I’ve acquired over the years, but it all resulted in an accumulation of local football history in which fans of all ages can immerse.

The crown jewel of the research, which is all gathered on one section of my website, as far as I’m concerned, is the timeline of the league’s history and changes. Using some of my internet tricks, I found all sorts of newspaper articles concerning the history of the league and its football — the articles date to as early as a 1901 edition of the Hartford Courant — and you can actually read e-clippings of those articles throughout the timeline.

I uncovered some pretty neat facts that I couldn’t believe. For example, did you know:

         The first semblance of a Naugatuck Valley League of high schools came in 1901, when Naugatuck, Seymour, Ansonia, Derby, Torrington and Winsted joined up to play baseball. We don’t really know what happened to this league.

         The first incarnation of a Naugatuck Valley League of high schools in football came in 1918, when Naugatuck, Torrington, Crosby, Meriden and Bridgeport played. It looks like the league disbanded after the 1919 season — Naugatuck and Bridgeport left, and Crosby forfeited a win to Meriden because fans stormed the field in Waterbury and stopped the game.

         The Naugatuck Valley League has always claimed that it was founded in 1931 (that year was emblazoned on the former emblem) but the league actually started in December 1930 with a basketball season. Naugatuck, Ansonia, Torrington, Crosby, Wilby, Gilbert, Harding and Bridgeport Central were the founding members. Teams came and went through the years.

         The league started officially crowning football champions in 1951. The first title went to Ansonia after a Thanksgiving victory over Naugatuck. The following year our predecessor, the Naugatuck Daily News, published the first All-NVL football team.

There’s plenty more where that came from, and you should check it out. The records are pretty cool, too. Just last year, Kingsley, Scirpo, Rahmi Rountree, Mick Pernell and Jason Bradley all joined the record book in some way or another, whether in the career, single-season or single-game departments.

Also included in the section are all-time postseason results, a growing list of All-State and All-NVL teams and plenty more. For an area as football-rich as this one, I’m glad I could be part of making the history come alive. If you know of any other players or performances that should be included, drop me a line at kylebrennan1@yahoo.com.

Bring back Saturdays: In today’s terms, crowds around the NVL in Week 1 were pretty decent. Most games had between 800 and 1,200 fans — I guess that’s a good figure nowadays.

I’ve had conversations with a number of coaches and athletic directors over the last few years to try to figure out what can be done about the dwindling crowds. Everyone brings up valid points: Kids have more things to do, the born-and-raised-through-generations aspect isn’t as strong as it once was, etc. But lately I’ve been thinking about a change that could work if we tried.

Why don’t we try a few Saturday morning games like old times?

The peak crowds around here ended in the early ‘90s, at the latest. That was also around the time when common practice had just about totally switched from Saturday mornings to Friday nights. The Friday night lights were cool for a while — they still are, when there’s a good atmosphere.

But it’s pretty obvious by this point: Something needs to be changed. Why not try something as easy as a 16-hour switch?

Naugatuck’s best non-Thanksgiving crowd of the last few years came last year when its game against Holy Cross was rescheduled to a Saturday afternoon. Makes you think about the possibilities, doesn’t it?

Games are no longer over in an hour and a half. Now they stretch well beyond two, two and a half hours. Nobody really wants to be out on a cold Friday night at 9:30 or 10 p.m. The kids want to start their weekends earlier, and the older fans don’t need to be shivering that late.

Give it a try, athletic directors. You don’t have to make a permanent change, but isn’t it worth a shot? They say football works in cycles — maybe it’s time to cycle back to Saturday football.

Rubber or steel: Speaking of the athletic directors, they have a lot of things to figure out this year, all precipitated by next year’s addition of Oxford High. One of those things is what to name the three divisions.

The Brass and Copper divisions appear likely to stick around. My understanding is that the Brass Division name will be applied to the Waterbury schools’ group, and the almost-Valley division, which includes St. Paul, is going to be the Copper. That leaves a name for the other division, which includes Naugatuck, Woodland, Torrington, Watertown and Wolcott.

As far as I’m concerned, the new name should be either rubber or steel. Rubber makes the most sense, since that was Naugatuck’s signature industry, but if we need to make it an all-metal league steel would also work.

Anyway, the athletic directors want some input on the third division’s name. You can either tweet the league (@NVL_Athletics) or send an email to us and we’ll get it to the powers that be.