Retired New Haven Register editor Bob Barton, in his 5oth season of covering high school football in Connecticut, is the most entertaining and knowledgeable gridiron scribe in the state bar none.
His insight into the National Federation rules that govern the game and his understanding of how to compile game statistics are unparallelled. His work on the Connecticut High School Football Record Book, along with that of Gerry deSimas Jr., has revived the brainchild of the late, great Hartford Courant scholastic editor Bohdan Kolinsky and former Hartford Weaver administrator Tim Sullivan.
But has Mr. Barton misstepped in downgrading the New Britain High football program? He provided the Hurricanes some poignant bulletin board fodder in the New Haven Register's comprehensive football preview section when he wrote, "You may not find me at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain, where what I've seen the past few years makes me think New Britain football is headed for a decline."
Granted the Hurricanes' results since the departure of the oft-vilified coach Jack Cochran after the 2004 season have fallen short; they have not qualified for the Class LL tournament in the first two seasons of the Paul Morrell era after four consecutive appearances under Cochran.
Anything less than a state title is viewed as failure by those who revel in New Britain's proud tradition but Morrell's 15-5 record over his first two seasons doesn't signify a collapse. Early returns may indicate that Greenwich and Shelton are the teams to beat in the 'LL' division, and anybody who discounts Southington and coach Bill Mella can't be thinking straight, but the 'Canes are a legitimate threat to unseat the Blue Knights in the CCC North.
Senior tailback B.J. Aponte is a potent offensive force. He's lightning quick and runs behind one of the state's bigger and better offensive lines. He's also wields a major impact from his outside linebacker slot on defense, but can he withstand playing both ways all season? Does Morrell have other players in his arsenal to capture the attention of opposing defensive coordinators so he'll have Aponte when he needs him most?
Fleet senior Jamal Redding didn't push Aponte from the headlines that followed New Britain's 41-30 win over a Bristol Central squad that will win its share of games in the weeks ahead but he scored three touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Rafal Garcarz has plenty to learn but he's long on ability.
If Morrell gets some of his players with bumps and bruises back in the fold and his team can avoid the mental mistakes (penalties), Mr. Barton may yet regret not placing Willow Brook on his 2007 itinerary.