Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Kyle Brennan
Kyle Brennan

Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

There are as many stressors in this day and age as there ever have been when it comes to the final two months of the year. Let’s see how many we can figure out in a short space.

  • You may worry about your uncleaned furnace blowing up when you finally decide two sweatshirts and wool socks aren’t cutting it in your living room anymore.
  • You may fret about how you’re going to fit all the hungry, hungry hippos at the table while managing to keep the mashed potato and broccoli casserole (Aunt Sheila’s, of course) dishes full.
  • You may wonder how much easier your life could be with a double oven (or, at the very least, why turkeys can’t be flatter and fit in your one oven without taking out all the racks).
  • You may roll your eyes, sigh in disgust and/or eviscerate a family member because you “just don’t understand how anyone could vote for (insert Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton).”
  • You may get irrationally angry at seeing Walmart’s outdoors section turn into a Christmas wonderland way before Thanksgiving. (Actually, that happens before Halloween nowadays.)
  • You may hear that Salvation Army bell when you’re trying to fall asleep.
  • You may watch your grandmother channel her inner sailor because people don’t know how to drive anymore.
  • You may scramble to figure out how you’re going to decorate a firetruck to win a trophy an hour before a Christmas parade begins. (Maybe that’s just us at Beacon Hose.)
  • You may walk into a Home Depot, ask a sales associate if they carry a double-male extension cord and have him laugh at you while telling you to go take down your Christmas lights and start again.
  • You will dread your next credit card statement.
  • And, if you’re a high school football coach, you’ve been spending two weeks thinking: “How in the hell are we going to beat them?”

But amid all the anger, stress and occasional humiliation that come along with the holidays, I hope you’re able to step back and realize that everything’s going to be OK. ‘Tis the season for appreciating what we have, forgetting what we don’t have, enjoying friends and family, resisting the urge to share a political Facebook post, and supporting your community.

You can start this week by watching Woodland or Naugatuck play their rivalry games. Then you can sit back, watch the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and kick off your happiest holiday season in ages.

In the meantime, here are a few odds and ends during my brief pit stop back in my old stomping grounds at Citizen’s News.

Time to Blow It Up

Nice segue, yeah?

I’ll always staunchly defend the Connecticut tradition of high school football on Thanksgiving. I’d rather see Thanksgiving football than state championship games. But just because we love the institution doesn’t mean it’s exempt from change to keep it viable.

Listen, it’s time to tinker with the local holiday football matchups. They can be better, as I wrote about in this week’s Sunday Republican.

If we’re being honest, it’s been a long time since Naugatuck has been regularly competitive with Ansonia. Yes, the rivalry’s more than a century old. But when your grandmother’s 100 years old, do you let her keep her driver’s license? No, because she’s going to do a lot more damage than it’s worth.

The recent history of the Naugatuck-Ansonia series (we’re probably talking about the last 20 years) has been uncompetitive more often than not. Folks don’t want to go watch a blowout, so they stay home. It’s killed the historic atmosphere of the Thanksgiving football tradition.

There’s only one way to try to bring it back: Change the matchups.

If you ask Naugatuck players, they’ll say their biggest rival is Woodland. If you ask Woodland players, they’ll respond with Naugatuck. Ansonia will say Derby, and Derby will probably say Ansonia. Seymour is getting to the point where it says Oxford, and Oxford’s at the same point.

The school’s biggest rival should be its Thanksgiving opponent, shouldn’t it? Ansonia and Naugatuck are rivals only because they’ve played for so long. They don’t come across each other on weekends or at parties. Woodland and Naugatuck players do.

Woodland was partially borne from Naugatuck. What a cool homecoming it would be if we got to have a Thanksgiving reunion every year.

It’s time to make the change.

Potpourri

I made fun of potpourri once upon a time in this Thanksgiving leftovers column. I stand by that, but I’ve got a few notes that don’t have a place anywhere else. Here are some quick hitters.

  • This Thanksgiving marks the 15th anniversary of the first high school football game I ever watched. Yep, my first one was the 2001 Turkey Day classic between Naugatuck and Ansonia. The Greyhounds won a 14-13 thriller on Pablo Couvertier’s two-point conversion run in the fourth quarter. It was a beauty.
  • Former Woodland standouts Sean McAllen and Levi Fancher have enjoyed terrific college seasons in Massachusetts. McAllen, a freshman at WPI, was named the Liberty League Rookie of the Year after running for 701 yards and five touchdowns. Fancher, a junior at Assumption, helped the Greyhounds make the Division II playoffs with 62 tackles, fourth-most on the team.
  • To those headed out for the always-entertaining Valley New Year, good luck. As Ansonia native and ESPN producer Steve Coughlin said on Scott Van Pelt’s radio show a couple of years ago, “It’s every man for themselves.” A special shout-out goes to Joe Dorosh, owner of The River’s Edge Pub and Grille on Main Street in Beacon Falls. He’ll be trying to fend for himself on his first Valley New Year as a bar owner. If you drop by, ask him about his van.

Coach ‘Em Up

Jack DeBiase, pictured, and Cody Kingsley have gone from playing for the Hawks to coaching the Hawks. –RA ARCHIVE
Jack DeBiase, pictured, and Cody Kingsley have gone from playing for the Hawks to coaching the Hawks. –RA ARCHIVE

It’s been a chaotic few years for the Woodland coaching staff. Four head coaches in four years isn’t an easy situation for kids to face.

But the program is definitely in the right hands with Chris Moffo, who was an assistant coach with the Hawks for almost a decade before finally getting his chance. Moffo is committed to stimulating the youth program, which is badly needed for Woodland’s future success. He’s a good man who’s doing things the right way. That’ll pay off.

It’s also fun for me to see a number of alumni on staff. Woodland isn’t a young program anymore, and former players have come back for years to help out. But this is the first time that alumni occupy the two coordinating positions (Cody Kingsley on offense, Jack DeBiase on defense), so the program is approaching its second generation. Those guys both love Woodland football and will continue to grow into their spots.

The win-loss results might not have shown it this year, but Woodland’s going to be OK.

Fan Club

This group of Naugatuck seniors has a fascination with me. I don’t know where or why it started, but it’s a thing. And it’s weird.

Republican-American sports reporter Kyle Brennan, fifth from the left, poses for a picture with members of his Naugatuck ‘fan club’ following the Greyhounds’ victory over Woodland Sept. 30 in the annual Pinho Game. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Republican-American sports reporter Kyle Brennan, fifth from the left, poses for a picture with members of his Naugatuck ‘fan club’ following the Greyhounds’ victory over Woodland Sept. 30 in the annual Pinho Game. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

I think Matt Johnson holds more responsibility here than anybody else. I interviewed him at one point last year and wrote of the interaction: “It was as if Santa Claus himself had walked onto the sideline.”

It continued this year, but more guys jumped on the train. Johnson direct messaged me on Twitter to ask my feelings on Ken Bone and requested I follow him on Twitter and Snapchat. (No.) Josh McFarland tweeted me to ask if he was close to the NVL record for longest punt. (No.) Ben Rossi asked me after a game if I had a girlfriend. (No.)

It’s been out of control. They’re good dudes, though. I took a photo with a few of them — McFarland, Johnson, Rossi, Brandon Papp, David Verrilli and Tyler Deitelbaum — after their Senior Night game and had another one with most of the senior group after the George Pinho Trophy game. You’re all welcome.

When the Greyhounds are in need of a rally they turn to their ‘rally bear.’ –CONTRIBUTED
When the Greyhounds are in need of a rally they turn to their ‘rally bear.’ –CONTRIBUTED

They paid no attention to an NVL semifinal volleyball game so they could get my attention and show me a ragtag stuffed bear. It looked like something that had been in Sid’s workshop from Toy Story. Johnson called it their “rally bear” because whenever they need a rally, they bring it out.

Hopefully Mr. Rally Bear has enough stuffing left to work on Thanksgiving.

Reach Kyle Brennan at kbrennan@rep-am.com or on Twitter @kylebrennan1.

Editor’s note: This article appears in the Citizen’s News’ special Thanksgiving football section published the week of Nov. 25, 2016.