Somehow or another, we’ve made it through another 12 pages of the calendar. And with 2014 already here, let’s take one last look back at the 10 biggest happenings of 2013 on the local sports scene.
Bruno makes a splash leading Naugy gridders: Many high school football fans still consider the head coaching gig at Naugatuck High to be one of the state’s best. When it opened after the tumultuous 2012 season, it was sure to attract big names and it did. Craig Bruno, the two-time state title-winning coach at Bunnell, earned the job last January and lived up to the hype in his first season. His high-octane offense led the ‘Hounds to a 9-2 overall record.
Grieving Hawks stun No. 2-ranked Wilby: The night after the funeral of George Pinho, father of Woodland student-athlete Jack Pinho and longtime area coach, the Woodland boys basketball team upset undefeated 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 No. 2-ranked team in the state. 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.
Beynor, Milek make for local-themed tennis final: Woodland’s Kyle Beynor dominated the NVL tennis scene over his last two 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 pulling an upset late in 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.
New turf, track set tone for Naugy’s new athletic complex: The much-awaited artificial turf at Veterans Field made its debut in mid-September and turned out to be the crown jewel for which everyone had hoped. The two-toned turf with painted end zones was home to three winning teams in the fall and will open up for track and field season in the spring. Also in the works are the new baseball and softball fields, renovations to the natatorium and new locker rooms, a weight room and more.
Dean rockets up to Triple-A: Naugatuck native Pat Dean entered the 2013 season on a high note, getting a chance to start his first campaign with the New Britain Rock Cats. He spent most of the season with the Minnesota Twins’ Double-A affiliate, compiling a 6-11 record with a 4.68 ERA. In early August, Dean got the call to join the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. He pitched lights-out, going 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in six starts. Five of those starts saw him allow two earned runs or fewer, including a seven-inning four-hitter in his last start Sept. 1 against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Naugatuck loses a legend in Mariano: Ed Mariano, a borough icon, died in August at the age of 88. The patriarch of one of Naugatuck’s best known families, Mariano was a three-sport star for the Greyhounds in the 1940s before joining the U.S. Navy and fighting in World War II. He became a decorated umpire before he returned to his hometown as a longtime educator and coach. Mariano continued to officiate for 30 years and was inducted into the Naugatuck Hall of Fame in 1974.
Hawks edge ‘Hounds in emotional football battle: With the first annual George Pinho Trophy on the line in Beacon Falls, Woodland held off Naugatuck for a 25-22 victory before an estimated 2,000 fans. Both teams entered the Week 4 matchup undefeated, and both held multiple leads during the game. Jack Pinho, George’s youngest son, caught a touchdown pass before halftime and was first to hoist the trophy after the game.
Woodland runs to titles, but ‘Hounds steal some: Woodland won four of the six NVL track and cross country titles awarded in 2013, and the only other school to bring home any hardware was Naugatuck. The Hawks girls won the indoor track, outdoor track and cross country titles while the Woodland boys took the outdoor crown. Mike Lang racked up another season’s worth of gold medals, and he will end his All-New England career this spring.
Second time’s a charm for Woodland spikers: In their second straight trip to the Class M volleyball final, the Hawks pulled out a 3-1 victory over Foran to claim the program’s first state championship and Woodland’s first state title since 2005. Brianna Pacileo, tabbed by Hawks coach Jim Amato as the best player in school history, earned tournament MVP honors as she spiked top-seeded Woodland to the title. The Hawks also won the NVL title and lost just one match, a late-season game against Naugatuck.
Inspired Hawks reach Class S football final: Suffering from a late-season slump, Woodland took a two-touchdown deficit into halftime the day after Thanksgiving against Seymour. From that point forward, though, the Hawks rallied for some of the most memorable wins in program history. Woodland’s defense forced game-clinching turnovers in the comeback against Seymour and in the Class S semifinal against Bloomfield, while quarterback Tanner Kingsley set the state’s all-time passing touchdown record with 113. The Hawks eventually fell to No. 1-ranked Ansonia in the final, Woodland’s first appearance in the championship since 2005.