A week is in the books for HS sports so here are some observations from what I've seen and heard.
On the football front, New Britain isn't getting much respect from around the state based on its past performance but this year's team is deep in talent. How it maifests itself remains to be seen but coach Paul Morrell has size, speed, experience in key spots and an embarassing wealth of offensive talent.
The five-point margin of victory against Conard doesn't truly tell the story. When the chips were down, the 'Canes took command and held a 24-13 lead late in the game that looked like it would stand. A blocked punt led to Conard's late score, and the Chieftains could have put themselves in a position for a dramatic comeback win if the ensuing onside kick had bounced their way.
The 'Canes went to the air early, exploiting the depth and talent they possess in their wide receiving corps.
It's easy to look at the name "Tebucky Jones Jr." and surmise that any son of the former NBHS, Syracuse and New England Patriots star would have to be the second coming. But Jones the Junior should be respected in his own right. He's explosive, elusive and has that intangible quality that the great athletes have. He had the wherewithal to snag what proved to be the winning touchdown pass as he lay flat on his back in the end zone. He was also effective on the end sweep.
QB Rafal Garcarz, a junior now in his third year as a varsity starter (freshman starter at St. Paul), has other go-to guys on the outside. Tarik Hightower and Markeith Cirenna were effective against Conard. Speedsters Selwyn Cartie and Chris Linares, presently concentrating on their defensive assignments as cover corners, can be used in Morrell's spread when he chooses to leave an empty backfield.
I have seen two volleyball matches thus far and came away impressed with both Berlin and Southington.
Berlin whipped a talented, well-coached Avon team three straight on the road in a brand, new gymnasium. Outside hitter Katelyn Zarotney, Herald athlete of the week, may be the top female athlete in the area this season. As it is with Tebucky Jr., she has that Larry Bird quality of savoir-faire (that's roughly translated as 'know how' but it sounds so elegant in French). She can hit them hard, but she has a knack for hitting 'em where they ain't.
But Berlin also has a deep, experienced group with Sarah Byrnes, Lindsay Roeder, setter Erica Bukowski and Krystie Luczynski. Byrnes has the benefit of playing with the Berlin basketball team that made a dramatic run in the postseason last year. She knows how to win.
Defensive specialists Carina D’Amato and Francesca Pedemonti are relative newcomers to varsity play who are learning quickly from their veteran teammates.
Southington exhibited a well-balanced attack force in ending nine years of frustration against Bristol Eastern.
The Eastern defense could not focus on any one SHS hitter because spikes were coming from nearly every place on the floor. Lexie Broytman, a 6-1 junior, led the way but Katie Byrnes, Liz Nichols, Lauren Bauchiero and Elyse St. Amand all smashed away at the Lancers' defense.
The Lancers had won 15 straight matches against Southington, several which SHS coach Rich Heitz recalls like they happened yesterday, but the Blue Knights weren't riding any waves of emotion. With setter Rachel Volpe guiding the way, they methodically turned back an Eastern squad that had been to the Class L finals three consecutive years and walked away with two titles.
But the pendulum swings at most smaller public schools when it comes to prolonged success and Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira has to bring together an inexperienced group if the Lancers are to retain their lofty spot in CT volleyball circles this season.
See you at the game.