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The sound of a 17-year rivalry: Ansonia high school football plays Seymour

In the high school football Naugatuck Valley League, the Ansonia Chargers reign, with over 100 straight wins in the league in the last decade. The winning streak goes even further with the Seymour Wildcats. For 17 years, Seymour has “pulled an L” and lost when they went up against Ansonia. But this year, going into last week’s game, the Wildcats were undefeated and looking strong.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher for Seymour High School Principal Jim Freund. Earlier that day, he had promised the football team that if the Wildcats beat the Chargers, he would let them give him a buzz cut.

“I wanted to try to motivate the kids the best I could,” Freund said.

Not shaved, he clarified. He needed to keep it at least a quarter-inch for a wedding he was attending the following weekend.

“Plus, we haven’t beaten Ansonia in such a long time, it would be a great thing to see,” Freund said. Of the 15 teams in the Naugatuck Valley League, Ansonia has been the one to beat, he said.

And if his varsity team could end Ansonia’s streak? Freund said, “It would be -- it’s actually getting me a little choked up -- you know, it would be absolutely thrilling.”

Hope was high in the first quarter, when Ansonia scored and Seymour’s offense was looking strong. But then in the second quarter, the Chargers racked up 20 points, making a Wildcats comeback less likely.

Senior running back Darell McKnight (9) completes another touchdown run in the 4th quarter. In total he ran 257 yards for 4 touchdowns.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public
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Connecticut Public
Ansonia senior running back Darell McKnight (9) completes another touchdown run in the fourth quarter. In total, he ran for 257 yards with four touchdowns.

There was more than one wager on the game. Colleagues and friends Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti and Seymour First Selectwoman Annmarie Drugonis made a bet of their own: dinner courtesy of the losing team’s top municipal official.

“Where’s Cassetti taking me to dinner?” Drugonis said. “I haven’t decided yet, maybe Crave.”

When asked the same question in the third quarter, after a touchdown by the Wildcats but with time to tie it up waning, Cassetti said he would probably choose a restaurant in Seymour.

With the final score Ansonia 33, Seymour 8, Cassetti changed his tune.

“Hopefully it’ll be maybe in Ansonia. I mean, I think that’s the only right place because we’ve got a lot of good restaurants,” Cassetti said. “I haven’t decided yet.”

At the end of the game, with parents and students draining out of the stadium, Drugonis read off her texts with Cassetti: “I said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ He says, ‘Let's go to Copper City in Ansonia. They have great short ribs.’ I said, ‘OK.’”

Listen to an audio postcard version of this story above. 

Sophomore tight end Preston Dziubina (26) is lifted into the air after receiving a touchdown pass bringing Ansonia's lead to 26-0 at the end of the first half.
Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public
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Connecticut Public
Ansonia sophomore tight end Preston Dziubina (26) is lifted into the air after receiving a touchdown pass that gave the Chargers a 26-0 lead at the end of the first half.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.