WOODBURY – The Nonnewaug High School football program will compete for a second-straight season as a sub-varsity program, Nonnewaug Athletic Director Declan Curtin told Just Woodbury.
Curtin said there was hope that Nonnewaug, which played a sub-varsity schedule in 2018, could combine forces with the Kaynor Tech-Sacred Heart co-op program. Curtin said Nonnewaug was very close to making a deal with the Kaynor Tech-Sacred Heart co-op program, but the terms did not favor Nonnewaug.
“I know some people are frustrated, but if we became a co-op, we would have worn their uniforms and played and practiced at [Waterbury] Municipal Stadium.” Curtin said. “The Board of Education wanted to support Nonnewaug football being our own entity and wants to see us continue to build the program.”
According to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the governing body for high school sports in the state, if a CIAC member school does not have a sufficient number of participants to offer a sport program they may merge with any number of other CIAC Member Schools who also do not have a sufficient number of participants.
For football, the maximum number of players a school can have if it wants to join a co-op program is 32 in grades 9 through 12. Last season, Nonnewaug suited up just 23 players, but chose to play a sub-varsity schedule. Nonnewaug had 34 players in 2017.
The CIAC’s deadline to declare co-op status was May 1. However, the CIAC granted Nonnewaug an extension since it started exploring options in April.
Meanwhile, also in April, Nonnewaug Head Football Coach Zach Mihaly resigned, as did the assistant coaches. Curtin posted job listings for the head coach and assistant coach positions today.
“The last coaching staff had best interest of the kids in mind, but they had significant challenges,” Curtin said.
Mihaly became the head coach in the summer of 2017, and Nonnewaug was closed for construction that summer and the summer of 2018. The school has also been without a weight room, and currently the gym and locker rooms are closed for renovations.
Also, Nonnewaug has not benefited from a feeder program since Nonnewaug Pop Warner folded in 2012. Region 14 elementary and middle school students who want to play tackle football can play with the Pomperaug or Water-Oak Pop Warner programs, or with Woodbury-Bethlehem teams that compete in the Oxford Flag Football league.
An attempt by a Roxbury resident in 2018 to revive the defunct Nonnewaug Pop Warner program did not materialize.
“Woodbury Middle School is thriving as a feeder program for many sports.” Curtin said. “Football is a sport that usually requires five, six, or seven years of experience before putting on pads in high school. A lot of schools having a problem with numbers as other sports are becoming popular.”
Once a new coaching staff is in place and a proper weight room opens at the high school, Curtin said football could turn into a 12-year commitment for the kids.
“The construction project has hurt the football program, but you have to pay the price to get the glory at the end,” Curtin said. “There will be growing pains, but we will have a proud product. What’s happened to the program these past two years is no reflection of the previous coaching staff.”