BY KYLE BRENNAN
If it weren’t for a pandemic, Jason Palmieri would be a few months away from earning a Woodland Regional High School diploma.
Instead, the Beacon Falls native is a reclassified junior at Cheshire Academy, fresh off a football season in which he earned a slew of accolades that have him looking toward a Division I college career.
Palmieri was happy with his situation at Woodland in 2020. He was entering his junior year with all of his friends and two years of high school football left. His career was promising, especially after earning All-State honors as a sophomore in 2019.
But when the CIAC pulled the plug on the 2020 high school football season due to COVID-19 precautions, Palmieri realized that he might have to leave his hometown school in order to reach his goal of playing college football.
“I would say that if I never lost my junior season to COVID, then I would still be at Woodland right now,” Palmieri said. “It never crossed my mind to transfer until then.”
He weighed the pros and cons of transferring to Cheshire Academy, the prep school located about 20 minutes away from his home in Beacon Falls.
“The biggest thing for me was reclassifying [from a 2022 to a 2023 graduation] to get an extra year of playing football to help with college recruitment,” Palmieri said. “The next most important thing was the level of play.
“This was the hardest decision I have ever made,” he continued. “Knowing that I would be leaving all of my friends that I have grown up with since I was young is something I didn’t want to do, but at the end of the day, it was the best decision for me and I think I made the right choice.”
When preseason practice at Cheshire Academy began Aug. 20, Palmieri was a new kid on the field and knew he’d have to earn the starting spots that he gave up when he left Woodland.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Palmieri said. “I’ve never been the kid to be on the bench or be second-string, so I didn’t want transferring there to be any different. As soon as those practices started, I made sure that I was the hardest working person on the field.”
It worked. Not only did Palmieri become a starter, but he played everywhere — slot receiver, running back, wildcat quarterback, outside linebacker, safety, and kick returner.
His impact on the Cats was obvious judging by his postseason accolades. He was the team’s only player to make the Northeast Prep Football Conference first-team offensive squad, and coach David Dykeman recognized Palmieri with the team MVP award.
“It felt really good,” Palmieri said. “I was happy that all the hard work I put in during the summer and throughout COVID paid off. Going into the year, I just hoped to start and play as much as I could. But to end up getting first-team All-Northeast, first-team all-league, and team MVP, I was beyond thankful.”
Palmieri is starting to turn his attention toward college recruitment. He said he is “looking at a lot of places right now” and talking with coaches from several coaches at Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, programs. He plans on playing receiver in college and plans to wait until after his senior season to announce a decision.
Wherever he ends up, he said the experience of playing prep football at Cheshire Academy will make him more successful when he reaches the next level.
“Compared to the NVL, I would say that everything is multiplied times two,” Palmieri said. “Everything and everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster, not only physically but mentally. I think that is only going to help me because when I get to college, I won’t be a step behind. I will have already competed against the best competition in the Northeast, and that has helped me mentally and physically.”
Palmieri’s move to Cheshire Academy paying off
BY KYLE BRENNAN