CTC squads Bullard Havens, Immaculate hope to end league drought in states
Chris Pace has heard it all before.
The coach at Bullard Havens Tech knows all about his league’s previous struggles in the state playoffs. A tech school has yet to win a state playoff game and most defeats were not close. But as the CTC champions prepare to enter that realm again, trying to block out the noise about their postseason legitimacy, and attempting to make history, is the lone focus in Bridgeport.
The No. 2 seed in Class S will welcome Plainville to Kennedy Stadium hoping to reach the semifinals. Pace has enjoyed consecutive 10-0 regular seasons in his two years and is approaching Wednesday’s contest in the same vein as the opposition.
“We know it’s out there and rightfully so,” said Pace, who coached at Weston before joining the Tigers. “No tech school has ever won and they’ve been close a couple of times. It’s hard to block it out as much as it’s out there. But the kids deserve a shot, we know the guys going onto the field and that’s all that matters. We’re going to go to a battle with those guys and our family.”
The Tigers won their games by an average 30.1 points per contest this season, all by double digits. Bullard Havens beat Abbott Tech/Immaculate, which finished second in the CTC, 39-20 in October. Quarterback Cyrus Cotto tossed 25 touchdown passes and ran for five more as the offense averaged 432.5 yards per contest.
“He didn’t attempt a varsity pass before we got here,” said Pace. “It’s just another year of experience for him this year. He’s done exceptional; he’s learned the offense and is playing smart football. He dedicated himself in (the) offseason by going to passing leagues and he’s made big plays for us all year.”
Junior back Deontre Eaddy is as electric as can be and finished the season with 1,385 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Seniors Barry Jean-Pierre and Jamai Duncan have combined for 1,071 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns.
The memory of a 52-0 loss to Haddam-Killingworth at Kennedy a year ago is still there for the Tigers. But a 20-14 defeat to Stafford the previous season shows the program can compete out of their league when the stars align. Pace has built on an already steady foundation at the school, but shedding the image remains a challenge that will only change with success at this stage.
“It’s just the image that’s out there on the tech league,” Pace said. “They’ve yet to prove it wrong but hopefully this is the year. Kids here are going to school to learn a trade; we get some kids without experience and we coach them to the best of our abilities.
“These kids have hearts that are incomparable to anywhere I’ve coached.”
UNITED WE STAND
Rich Holmes delivered a similar message to his team as Abbott Tech/Immaculate tries to extend its season at the expense of SWC squad Weston in the No. 4-5 matchup in Class M. The United finished second in the CTC and earned its first playoff berth since 2015.
“Time to roll the dice,” said Holmes, who teaches at Danbury. “Let’s go play and see what we got. Nobody gives us a chance, which is fine with me. We don’t have a lot of respect around the state but that doesn’t show in our attitude. Our kids are pretty cocky and think they can play with anyone. They hear (the chatter).”
Holmes — who will retire from coaching whenever ATI’s season ends — has been with the co-op since its inception. He coached at Abbott Tech for a year before the two Danbury schools joined forces and immediately realized what he was in for.
“I had just one senior in my first year and I laid into him about (several players forgetting equipment for a road game),” said Holmes. “He said back to me ‘welcome to Abbott Tech’. Right there I just realized that’s not happening anymore, I’m going to demand commitment because we’re not going to anywhere if we don’t — tech school or not.”
Just like Bullard Havens, the past few seasons have included plenty of wins. The senior duo of CJ Cianflone and Anthony Frasier have been much of the reason for that, and both will have a mountain to climb to extend the season past Wednesday.