SOUTHINGTON — The eight remaining football teams gathered at the Aqua Turf on Wednesday for the annual CIAC press conference leading up to this weekend’s four state championship games.
Wallingford’s Tom Brockett, head coach of storied Ansonia, has become a regular at this event. His undefeated No. 2 Chargers (14-0) will play for the program’s 19th state title tonight in the Class S final against NVL rival No. 4 Woodland Regional at CCSU’s Arute Field at 7 p.m.
Ansonia is riding a 42-game winning streak, which includes 14-0 state championship sweeps in 2011 and 2012, and is the only undefeated Connecticut team left standing in 2013.
“It’s been a great run,” UConn-bound Ansonia running back Arkeel Newsome said. “We would be the first class at Ansonia to go undefeated three years in a row with three titles.”
The Chargers are going for their fifth spotless season in Brockett’s eight-year tenure. The 36-year old coach has already earned four state titles, two state runner-up plaques and six NVL conference championships.
The 1995 Lyman Hall grad is not only gunning for his fifth state title tonight, but the 100th victory of his career against just seven losses.
“It means I’m getting old,” Brockett said of his latest milestone. “It’s not something I’m focused on this week. The most important thing is to send our these seniors out the right way.”
Brockett spent six years an assistant at Ansonia, including five as offensive coordinator, before taking over the helm of the storied program eight seasons ago.
“I always knew I wanted to coach ever since I played football,” Brockett said. “It’s a lot of fun and hard work and a lot of sacrifice. I don’t think anyone other than a family members of a coach could appreciate everything that goes into it. I’m very fortunate to coach high school football in such a great community with such great kids.”
His players have completely bought into the Ansonia way.
“He’s very tough on us,” Ansonia senior left guard Antone Mack said “If you do something wrong, you know you are going to get yelled at so you don’t do it wrong the next time ... Even though he is not that tall of a guy, the demeanor he coaches with, I’ve never been coached like that before. You don’t want to let him down. You just want to play how he wants you to play.”
Brockett said he expects a lot from his players.
“We are very aggressive and are old school,” Brockett said. “We are hard on our kids. They know what they are signing up for. We are extremely hard on our kids and we ask a lot out of them. We are fortunate our kids respond to that.”
With seven exceptions, the Chargers have responded with nothing but wins. Still, the pressure to be undefeated is strong.
“Going undefeated is a great feeling,” Mack said. “I can’t explain it, but there is tremendous pressure. You don’t want to be the team to stop the streak. You don’t to be the one the made the hard work that you have done, stop.”
The last team standing in the way of Ansonia and Brockett is Woodland, a team they routed in the NVL championship game 48-7 on Nov. 20.
“It’s a big challenge,” Woodland Regional coach Tim Shea said. “We watched the film from our NVL game. You have to want to tackle. Arkeel is going to get his yards. We have to slow them down a little bit. We have to put up some more offense to make the game more interesting.”
Newsome, the first running back in Connecticut high school history to rush for over 10,000 yards, said Brockett made him a better player. He also said his coach’s game preparation gives the Chargers an edge.
“We have a lot of talent, but we also have put in a lot of hard work and have a lot of character,” Newsome said. “Coach Brockett is always ahead of the game. He knows how to get us ready. He’s definitely tough on us, but it pays off. Hopefully, we will finish 43-0.”
Mack said the offensive line takes a lot of pride in Newsome’s stellar career.
“If someone knows what you are going to do and they can’t do anything about it, then you are unstoppable,” Mack said of Ansonia’s potent ground game. “We have a great offensive line. We know ourselves that we get the same amount of yards. Even though he gets all of the glory, we feel that we are just as good as he is.”
Another championship and it will be five in eight years and Brockett would be considered an all-time great in the state at the tender age of 36.