Thanksgiving leftovers

Kyle Brennan

I don’t know how this year has been for you, but 2017 has been the most bizarre year of my life. A quick recap for those who care follows in the next couple of paragraphs; those who saw my headshot and rolled their eyes in disgust can feel free to conclude your reading now or skip to the “Stat Chat” section.

When this year started, I had a full-time job, a girlfriend, an ability to wake up whenever I wanted, a properly functioning left shoulder and a waste that could snugly fit in a size-36 belt.

Now I have none of those (the nice thing about having your own newspaper column is that it can function nicely as a personal ad if needed, so …). But this is the time of year when we really should take pause and reflect on the name of the holiday that is shamefully little more to many folks than a reason to develop a food coma and a start to Christmas shopping.

I’m thankful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to start my new career with the great teachers and colorful students at Seymour High, where I’m interning during my year-long pursuit of a master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport. (Yes, this sort of presents the first conflict of interest I’ve ever had in the Thanksgiving eve game, but black and gold have been the colors of my week in school.)

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to resume my relationship with Citizen’s News and continue it with the Republican-American, because scaling back to the freelance work reminded me that this job is still fun when you’re not sitting in an old train station in Waterbury at 11 p.m. on a Saturday.

I’m thankful that I live in a little town where my family’s been rooted for 120 years and where we can help make a difference with the work of our friends at Beacon Hose.

I’m thankful that I can still use my right shoulder. I’m thankful to have had enough money and food to warrant a new belt. I’m thankful that we’ve decked out our basement gym at home so I can eventually fit back into a size-34 belt. And I’m thankful that I made some pretty cool memories with the girl I used to date.

So my advice to y’all on this Thanksgiving, as a not-so-wise 26-year-old kid who isn’t really a kid anymore, is to try not to get sucked in by all the negativity. It’s far too easy to give into sadness, doubt and hopelessness — God knows I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on those emotions this year.

But each one of us has something — hopefully many more than one thing — to make us realize that life usually isn’t as bad as we make it seem. On some days, it’s really hard. But if it takes me putting myself on a limb to say it for thousands of readers, I hope we all realize that it’s OK to not be OK. Be thankful for those who are willing to listen and tell you everything’s going to be all right even when neither one of you are sure of it.

As Allen Saunders wrote 60 years ago in Reader’s Digest, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” Be thankful and let go a little bit. I’m going to try to take my own advice on this one.

Saunders probably also would have encouraged you to go to a football game this week, so let’s do it!


There’s nothing more fascinating in high school sports to examine by the numbers than the tradition that is Thanksgiving football. We used to have our own section in our special holiday section for this, but here’s a quick summary of some key numbers entering this year’s games.

4.9: Points per game allowed by Ansonia in nine games this season. Only Darien (3.9 ppg) has allowed fewer points this fall. The Chargers haven’t allowed more than one touchdown in any game this season.

Former Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley threw for 615 yards and eight touchdowns against Seymour in 2012. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

7: Games of the last 10 played between Woodland and Seymour in which the winner scored more than 40 points. The only exceptions were Seymour’s win in 2008 (27-10) and Woodland’s victories in 2011 (28-7) and 2013 (22-19).

10: Years since the legendary “Fog Bowl” game between Woodland and Seymour at DeBarber Field. The soup was so thick during this game that fans in the bleachers could barely see the guys on their own sideline. The Hawks’ Jon Murren scored a 33-yard touchdown inside the final minutes, but the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed and the Wildcats earned a 36-35 win. Murren ran for 247 yards and three touchdowns. The teams met again less than a week later in the Class SS semifinals, and Seymour again claimed a 46-28 win en route to the state title.

615: Passing yards for Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley against Seymour five years ago to set a single-game state record that still stands. He also threw eight touchdown passes, four each to Anthony Scirpo and Rahmi Rountree, to tie an NVL record he had set earlier in the season vs. Naugatuck.

1994: Last year in which both Naugatuck and Ansonia entered Thanksgiving with undefeated records. That game, of course, was the legendary overtime game that saw Ansonia earn a 28-21 victory to claim the NVL title. This year’s matchup will be the first time in 23 years that both squads enter unblemished.

2001: Last year in which Naugatuck knocked off Ansonia at home. The Greyhounds rallied for a 14-13 win on Pablo Couvertier’s two-point conversion run to win the NVL championship.


Chris Moffo didn’t enjoy the most successful start to his head coaching tenure at Woodland. The longtime Hawks assistant coach went 1-9 at the helm last year, and his team was 2-4 this season entering an awkward afternoon game against St. Paul in Bristol on Oct. 28.

Suddenly, it all turned around. The Hawks pulled a 15-8 upset of the then-playoff-bound Falcons and followed it up with two more victories. They now carry a three-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game at Seymour.

During Woodland’s 49-12 blowout win over Kennedy on Nov. 9 — which, by the way, was made a lot better thanks to some chili and cornbread secretly stashed in the Beacon Hose ambulance courtesy of Sherrie Lubinski — I saw the loose side of Moffo for what might have been the first time ever in the decade he’s been at my alma mater.

He joked with his players. He poked Mike Farina after his 93-year interception-return touchdown by saying, “We’re never going to hear the end of that.” He finally looked like he was having some well-deserved fun.

“It was great for the seniors to finally come out with that ‘W’ at home,” Moffo said. “It was fun. The kids had fun and we were able to be loose and excited.”

He might not yet have all the victories to show for it through two years at the helm, but no coach works harder and is more dedicated to his players than Moffo and his wife, Jess. The Woodland community ought to be thankful for the job he’s done so far.


It is not an easy job to be the head coach of the Naugatuck football team. The Greyhounds have an alumni base as fervent as they come in Connecticut, and those guys have a way of being heard.

I don’t know if Dave Sollazzo knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the Naugy job in March. He was a lifelong college assistant coach with no ties to the Valley — not exactly the ideal candidate that many around here had in mind.

I remember calling him up on a Friday night, the night after he was officially hired to succeed Craig Bruno, to chat for our Rep-Am story. He sounded gruff, almost as if you could hear the decades of effort that landed him in places like the Orange Bowl.

Naugatuck first-year head coach Dave Sollazzo has brought a grittiness to the Greyhounds. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI


We talked about a lot of things, but two things particularly stuck with me.

“Being a football guy, football’s been my whole life,” Sollazzo said. “This is what we thrive on. I saw that at Naugatuck, so I turned (several) other jobs down hoping that I’d have the opportunity to get this one. I’m looking forward to the fact that the community is behind the football team 110 percent. You’ve got people in this town who have been here their whole lives and will do anything to support this team.

“I want to be recognized as a tough football team,” he continued. “That’s the most important thing. To me, I’m an old-school guy, and I believe in coaching fundamentals, technique and toughness. That hasn’t changed in 100 years; that’s what wins football games.”

I remember hearing some reaction from the Naugy faithful in the ensuing days. Most of it followed the general line of, “He said all the right things. Now let’s see what happens.”

I think everybody’s pretty happy right now.

Flashy? No. Gritty? Yes. It seems as though Naugatuck football is once again what Naugatuck football people want it to be.

Look, the Greyhounds are a real longshot Thursday morning. I think there’s a better chance that Ansonia wins by 40 than Naugatuck wins by three. I hope not. I hope it’s the best game any of y’all have ever seen in the borough. But if it goes the way it’s been going in recent series history, just remember how much the current Naugy football culture has realigned with its past self.

Be thankful that the old ball coach took a chance and has helped make Naugatuck alumni proud again.

Reach Kyle Brennan at or on Twitter @kylebrennan1.

Editor’s note: This article appears in the Citizen’s News’ special Thanksgiving football section published the week of Nov. 24, 2017.