- Front Porch
WALLINGFORD — These last afternoons of June are playing out like so many others for Rafael Dominguez, Tom Francis and Brandon Gauthier.
Out on a Sheehan football field, repping plays.
Dominguez takes a handoff and makes someone miss. Gauthier runs a route and out-jumps coverage to make the catch. Francis sheds a block and makes a tackle.
The only difference is it’s early summer, not autumn. Other than that, the three Titans are going out like they came in and just like they did most afternoons mid-August through November for the past four years: as teammates.
Not only that, they’re doing it with their coach, John Ferrazzi, who after a decade of serving as a Connecticut All-Star assistant, has his first turn as the head man. He leads Team Nutmeg into Saturday’s “Super 100 Classic” at Rentschler Field (4:30 p.m. kickoff) against Xavier coach Sean Marinan’s Team Constitution.
Among Ferrazzi’s “Super 50” are the three players he’s guided for four years. Dominguez and Francis both played varsity as freshmen. Gauthier was playing both ways starting his sophomore year.
They intend to continue their careers — Francis (Hudson Valley) and Gauthier (Dean) in junior college and Dominguez (Post) in sprint football. For now, they’re enjoying one last turn around a block that had seemed to end last Thanksgiving in the Carini Bowl.
“It’s been a great journey through my whole high school career playing those with those guys, especially that we get one last chance to play together on the same team,” said Dominguez.
At first glance, a cynic might accuse Ferrazzi of playing the old Little League All-Star coach and padding the roster with his own guys.
Not so. Ferrazzi reports the Sheehan 3 made the grade at the All-Star combine back in March under the watch of objective eyes.
“It’s great having your own guys out here, but they are guys who have all earned their spots,” Ferrazzi said. “They did a great job in the combine, and they weren’t just evaluated by me, they were evaluated by the rest of the staff.”
And then they had to continue earning their keep once practices began two weeks ago.
Helping Dominguez and Gauthier is their familiarity with the offense. Team Nutmeg, led by quarterbacks Logan Marchi of St. Paul and Nick Roberts of Trumbull, features an attack very similar to the one Ferrazzi runs at Sheehan.
Dominguez, the premature infant who grew up to be a 1,000-yard rusher by his senior year (139 for 1,050, to be exact), is one of three running backs for Team Nutmeg. Shelton’s Jason Thompson and Rocky Hill’s Chris Young are the two others.
Gauthier, who set a Sheehan record with 62 receptions for 1,205 yards last season, is part of a receiving corps that includes Windsor’s Tynique Woods and Marchi’s favorite target at St. Paul, Reid Morin.
Then there’s Francis, who was so versatile as a Titan that he was used at multiple positions, from end, outside linebacker and middle linebacker on defense to line and fullback on offense. On Team Nutmeg, he’s an outside backer, but will also see time at fullback.
That’s good, because otherwise he and Dominguez would spend too much time ribbing each other about which unit is better, offense or defense, just like they did in their Sheehan days.
It was four years, not terribly long on the clock of adult routine, but a quarter of a lifetime by high school measure. Francis can still remember the day Ferrazzi tapped him on the shoulder for varsity.
“When I came here I was like, ‘Alright, I’m obviously going to play freshman football.’ Then one day Coach Ferrazzi said, ‘I want you on the varsity team.’ I was only a 15-year-old freshman. I had no clue what to expect. Obviously, I’d say it was a blessing to be starting the fourth game into my freshman year. Ever since then, having Coach Ferrazzi coach me all four years, I can’t be more grateful for him.”
Who knows, maybe Ferrazzi will up the degree of gratitude on Saturday. Maybe, just maybe, on a goal-line play, Francis will get his number called at fullback.
You never can tell about these All-Star games.
No matter what happens, the Sheehan boys can be sure of one thing: They’re riding it out as one, gearing up for All-Star limelight at the gridiron office where they punched the clock every day.
“It’s nice to see how they’re doing,” said Ferrazzi.
“To be together, ending their career out here, working hard.”
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