#TrainingCampTour Day VI: Ansonia

The Chargers, led by Tyler Bailey (left) and Tajik Bagley (right) are poised for a run at a 20th state title in 2015.

Adversity and Ansonia Share A Sentence???

Don’t expect the proud Nutmeggers that live anywhere, but Ansonia to shed a tear for the Chargers. Since the CIAC started sanctioning championship football games in 1976, Ansonia has appeared in 27 such contests. They have won 19 titles.

It could have been 20. Senior quarterback JaiQuan McKnight decided to take off and made it 93 yards into the end zone to put Ansonia up over Valley Regional 20-6 with 5:01 left in the game.

“It really was the worst loss that I have ever been apart of,” lamented Ansonia head man Thomas Brockett. “There’s no way to cut it. It has been a long offseason.”

Brockett intimated to me that he does not think much about his five state titles in the wake of last year’s championship loss to Valley/LOL. A sixth title may help him forget that blemish.

It took The Warriors one minute and 35 seconds to answer. When Ansonia got the ball back, Valley/LOL forced a turnover on an unbelievable Dan Figuenick play on Chargers RB/WR Tyler Bailey. A Chris Jean-Pierre touchdown scamper followed by a Jared Roche extra point sealed the victory for the Warriors.

“It wasn’t a good feeling,” added Bailey. “I would never want to go through that again. I kind of take some of the blame because I shouldn’t have ever fumbled, but I gotta get over it and move on, but that’s a bad feeling.”

Bailey is doing his best to make sure that no one cries for him either. He has put on a whopping 17 pounds this offseason to push himself to 195 pounds. He collected 14 rushing touchdowns and 6 receiving scores in 2014. Bailey is determined to go for more in 2015. So much so that when he touches the ball in practice, his teammates are sure to try as they might to rip the ball from his death grip. That is per Tyler’s request.

Tajik Bagley was the team’s top running back in 2014 and heir apparent to Mr. Ansonia, Arkeel Newsome. I told Bagley that he looked a bit bigger than last year. He responded by telling me that he has gained 7 pounds in an effort to add more bulk to his exceptional rushing frame.

“I’m working a lot harder than I did last year because we lost in the state championship game and that motivated me,” said Bagley.

Bagley contributed eight yards per carry (158 handles for 1,259 yards) inside an Ansonia rushing attack that averaged 292 yards per game! He also crossed the goal line 22 times for the Chargers.

“I think I am close to where I need to be because I have been working hard, but there’s always room for improvement,” claimed Bagley. “I should be getting better as the season goes along.”

Ansonia has long been known to produce pulse-pounding rushers (ie: former Yale RB Alex Thomas) and powerful offensive linemen (how does SCSU T Matt Simon grab you?). The next great Charger linemen may currently be in camp and if he is, he has yet to start a single game on the offensive line. For the first time in at least Brockett’s tenure, he will line up five starters on the o-line who have never began a high school football game on the field.

Ansonia’s coaching staff will rely on some new blood up front to protect a new quarterback and some outstanding running backs.

Will coach Brockett choose Jake Palmieri to replace JaiQuan McKnight at quarterback?

Mike Caple, Frank DeLibro, Artie DeLibro, Joe DeCiucis, and one more player will make up a fresh offensive line. They will block for a new quarterback: either Bryson Cafaro or Jake Palmieri.

Palmieri suffered a torn ACL in 2014, abruptly ending his season. He spent the season on the bench learning from McKnight.

“His speed was unbelievable out of his cuts and everything, so I have just been picking up his moves, but his dropback mainly, his accuracy… so I picked up a lot from him,” recounted Palmieri. “Now that he’s gone, I have to lead my team like he led the team.”

Those are confident words from a young man determined to not lose the starter’s job. Brockett pushed his men through intense conditioning Monday, which included a session where the team took turns hustling up and down a hill beyond Nolan Field. Palmieri stood out with his knee brace clinging to his right leg. He also looked good at defensive back during passing drills, where he may play if he loses out to Cafaro.

“It’s just been hunger all offseason, passing, running just to get this knee back, but now I feel like I’m where I need to be just to get this team back,” said Palmieri.

Ansonia will also feature a defense with just four starters who have starting experience. But, the 19-time state champs don’t expect you to feel bad for them.

Follow the #TrainingCampTour as it happens on Twitter. Please check in to cptvsports.org nightly for other team training camp recaps. For more on the Chargers, tune in to the 2015 High School Football Training Camp special on September 4, 2015.

Elsewhere in the Naugatuck Valley…

“Beyond this wrapper…is a little taste of Heaven…”

I called in a favor to the Nardelli Family and asked if CPTV Sports could come in for one more dance with the Italian combo to end all Italian combos. Diane obliged my request and it was on from there.

The longest standing Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe in Naugatuck was the site of my date with prosciuttini, capicola, salami, provolone, mayo, lettuce, the Classic Mix of diced veggies, tomato, olives, and hot sauce. Tune into the special to find out which of the ingredients is my favorite!

I could not resist adding a savory Cannoli to that delicious dish.

It was a good day.

Holy Cannoli!