(Editor’s note: This column, published in the Dec. 11, 2011, edition of the Republican-American, discusses the unusual motivation taken by the Ansonia High football team prior to a state championship victory. This column won third place at the 2011 Connecticut SPJ Awards among sports columns in the 50,000-plus circulation category.)
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Three days before Ansonia and Ledyard were set to meet for the Class M state championship at Rentschler Field, a YouTube rap video caught the Chargers’ attention.
The “Ledyard Football (State Championship)” rap, recorded by Colonials supporter Sean Moriarty, called for an upset on Saturday morning.
With the benefit of hindsight — also known as a 38-0 Ansonia shellacking — perhaps that was a poor idea.
“It was cute, that little jingle,” Ansonia senior quarterback Elliot Chudwick said. “We put in on our iPods and listened to it on the way here. It turned into our fight song.”
“I was already hyped up but that put me over the top,” Ansonia senior defensive end Jake LaRovera said. “We were playing it in our classes in school. I tried to remember the lyrics so once we won we could sing it, but I couldn’t think of them.”
Here’s a little refresher of some noteworthy lines in the piece:
“LHS soon to be the only No. 1, celebrate the win with a ring when it’s done … They think they got a title, but wait ‘til you rob it … Run ‘em over, run it up, they can’t even get a break … We callin’ an upset, Ledyard for the game …”
But Chargers senior star linebacker Tyler Wood had his own favorite:
“Ledyard gettin’ hungry ‘cause Ansonia’s a good meal.”
“My favorite thing was that rap,” Wood said. “I believe they said they were hungry, but they don’t look too full.”
That’s because all the stuffing belonged to Ansonia’s defense.
The Chargers held Ledyard to 145 yards — only 51 through the first three quarters — and kept the Colonels from gaining a first down for almost a quarter and a half to start the game. Ledyard finished just 2-of-11 on third downs and averaged just 3 yards per play.
Twenty-seven of Ledyard’s 49 plays went nowhere (or backwards) thanks to Ansonia’s 10 tackles for loss and 17 other stops for no gain.
Wood was everywhere. When he wasn’t patrolling the middle of the field, he was busy wreaking havoc in the backfield. Of his seven tackles, five were for losses.
“They have a lot of big guys but we beat them with speed and beat them with heart,” Wood said. “It’s not just one player on this defense. Other guys have their holes to fill and everyone does their job. There’s not just one MVP. The whole defense is the MVP.”
But really, Wood stood out.
“Woody was awesome,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “He’s a first-team all-state linebacker if I’ve ever seen one. He’s been unbelievable.”
Both of LaRovera’s tackles were also in the backfield, and he disrupted a handful of other plays.
“Everybody did their job,” LaRovera said. “The D-line did a good job of getting pressure, the linebackers got good penetration, and the secondary came through. We played team football.”
More importantly, they played shutout football like never before.
“We’ve pitched them before and in some other games we should have pitched them before we put the JV in,” Wood said. “But this is the greatest shutout I’ve ever been a part of.”
“I wanted a shutout,” LaRovera said. “We got one in the NVL championship (against Holy Cross) and now we got one here. This is most important. We had to prove this was one of the best senior classes Ansonia has had.”
The numbers back it up. The Chargers won their 17th state championship and became the first team in the history of Connecticut high school football to complete a 14-0 season.
Oh, and there’s that Arkeel Newsome kid. His 364-yard performance broke former Ansonia great Alex Thomas’ single-season state rushing record to give him 3,763 for the season. He added three scores to his touchdown record, which stands at 62.
He didn’t need any extra motivation to reel off another 300-yard game, but that little old rap didn’t hurt.
“It motivated me a lot,” Newsome said. “We just kept our mouths shut and let them say whatever they had to say.”
Brockett was plenty fired up without trying to wrap his mind around the rap.
“Their coach could have punched me in the face before the game and I couldn’t have been any more ready for this thing,” Brockett said. “That stuff has nothing to do with anything. I don’t listen to rap. I tried to listen to it. I heard about 30 seconds. I don’t even understand it.”
In reality, that had no bearing on what happened between the lines. Ansonia was not finishing this season without a state title.
“We were more focused on the game instead of all the rap and stupid stuff,” Ansonia senior lineman Tyler Williams said.
“That did make it pretty sweet, though.”
(Editor’s note: Here’s how the column looked in print.)