Tarrell Freeney of Holy Cross of Waterbury set the state single-season rushing record back in 1996. He ran for 2,513 yards. It was a pretty big deal.
Weaver of Hartford's LaTroy Oliver ran for 2,425 yards that same year. It was the second-most rushing yards in a season. Farmington's Brandon Bliss ran for 2,017 yards, too.
It was nutso at the time that three players broke 2,000 at in the same year. That kind of thing didn't happen back then.
Shoot — a 2,000-yard rusher had only happened five other times in state history, according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book.
Freeney's record has since been broken. He's barely in the top 10. Oliver isn't in the top 10. And Bliss is way down the list at number 40.
A player has rushed for over 2,000 yards THIRTY SEVEN TIMES over the last 16 seasons.
It ain't easy tracking the sport's significant statistical marks anymore as they're being set at a frenetic pace. It's like trying to watch a J.J. Abrams' flick with all the once-a-second camera jumps.
Check it — this past season, five players ran for over 2,000 and two quarterbacks passed the 3,000-yard mark.
It's not too hard to figure out why players are accumulating chunkier stats. A 10-game season used to be the norm, provided a team didn't make states, or wasn't one of those magical calendar years that allows an extra week of football.
The CIAC added a semifinal round to the playoffs in 1996. A team could play 12 times in a season — an 11-game regular season schedule, plus two playoff games.
A quarterfinal round was added three seasons ago.
More games. More carries. More pass attempts.
Back in 2000, folks marveled that Tim Washington ran for a then record 3,005 yards in 10 games.
Ansonia has had THREE players rush for over 3,000 yards the last six seasons. All three did so in a season with 13-or-more games.
The offensive nature of the game has led to gaudier numbers, too. Everyone here at Polecat HQ blames the spread offense and increasing emphasis on the forward pass.
Southington had a quarterback throw for over 3,000 yards from 1999-2001. It was the first program to ever break that mark because then-coach Jude Kelly and offensive coordinator Frank Stamilio were ahead of the passing curve, utilizing a no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense. The Blue Knights were chucking while most everyone else was running.
Eleven quarterbacks have thrown for over 3,000 since 2005. Casey Cochran did it twice. And 11 of those seasons have occurred since 2008.
The score management rule has even played a role in things. Team A takes a commanding lead early and yanks its starters so as not to beat Team B by more than 50 points. Team B keeps its starters in and carves up Team A's second-string.
We're not trying to diminish what players have done lately. It may have gotten easier to accumulate greater stats, but the sport hasn't gotten any easier. The extra games mean more practice and more wear-and-tear, too.
The statistical accomplishments just don't resonate like they used to, though, because the bar keeps getting jacked up every season. Three-thousand yards passing has become the new 2,000.
Perhaps it's better to use a player's average yardage to put their statistical marks in better context. Example — Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome ran for a state-record 3,763 yards in 2011. He did so playing 14 games.
Fourteen games gave Newsome an extra game to add to his numbers, but he averaged 269 yards. Many teams don't have that kind of average.
Newsome also ran 313 times that year, which is pretty economical for a 14-game season. That comes out to 22 carries for a 12.02-yard average. That's, like, really, really good.
Yeah, in the grand scheme of things, the statistical ballooning doesn't mean much. Chances are that, 20 years from now, only the diehards and those who attend Ansonia will remember Newsome's magical season. And his most impressive statistics that season were 14-0 (the Chargers' record) and 17 (as in Ansonia's record number of CIAC titles).
We do wonder about Bob Barton and Gerry deSimas Jr. though, the duo responsible for putting together the Record Book. Barton diligently pours over papers at the state library and asks schools for their record books. DeSimas produces the product. They do so without seeking for funding or acclaim.
■ ■ ■ ■
Some more numerologies from this past season:
■ The five 2,000-yard rushers were Cromwell's Derrick Villard (2,393, 10 games), Newsome (2,245, 13), Rahkeem Jordan of Prince Tech (2,185), Avon's Colin Moore (2,144, 11) and New Fairfield's Joe Pacheco (2,001, nine). Villard would rank 12th all-time on the single-season rushing list, wildy impressive given that, again, he did so in 10 games. Newsome is 16th and Jordan 20th.
■ There were two 3,000-yard passers — Tanner Kingsley of Woodland of Beacon Falls (3,227, 12 games) and North Branford's Brandan Basil (3,191, 13). They're sixth and seventh, respectively, for most passing yards in a season.
Kingsley also passed for a state-record 51 touchdowns.
Cromwell's Anthony Morales threw for a state-record 3,688 yards and 43 touchdowns last season. He did so throwing a relatively-low 260 times for a Peyton-esque 14.2 yards per attempt.
(Note that the Panthers' ran a pretty balanced offense as Villard ran 244 times for 2,125 yards last season, so the two almost balanced the other out. They also made Cromwell the first team in state history with a 2,000-yard rusher and 3,000-yard passer.)
■ Ansonia tied a state-record for most points in a season (695). The 1999 Fitch team scored that many in 12 games.
■ North Branford had 610 points in 13 games, ninth all-time.
■ Ansonia had a state-record 102 touchdowns. Its 2003 team previously held the record (100, 13 games).
■ The Chargers averaged 49.6 points, 10th all-time. The 2002 New Britain team averaged a state-record 60.3 in 10 games.
(For all you sadists out there, New Britain won its regular season games that year by scores of 35-6, 42-35, 61-14, 65-0, 79-6, 79-6, 70-7, 69-0, 77-0, and 84-0).
■ ■ ■ ■
The afforementioned Bob Barton, a giant of a man, can only find so many old football clippings at the state library and is always looking for schools to send in their program's records.
COACHES AND ATHLETIC DIRECTORS OF CONNECTICUT — you may send your football records to Barton at RbrtBarton@aol.com.
We're certain that Mr. deSimas wouldn't turn you away, either. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ ■ ■ ■
The Naugatuck Valley League got much more interesting Thursday as Naugatuck athletic director Tom Pompei recommended Bunnell of Stratford coach Craig Bruno to fill its vacancy.
The town's Board of Education must approve the recommendation at its Feb. 14 meeting, meaning that it will be a happier Valentine's Day than usual for Bruno.
Sean Bowley of the Connecticut Post was the first to report the news. Kyle Brennan of the NVL Blog/Waterbury Republican-American/Bikini Bottom News wrote that Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps was the other finalist.
Bruno helped transform his alma mater into a major player. The Bulldogs went 94-36-1 over 12 seasons, had four playoff appearances and won the program's first CIAC state titles (2006 and 2007).
The affable Bruno may be the state's most unorthodox coach, and his teams were never boring. The Bulldogs squibbed on kickoffs because a study said a team is likely to recover the ball more than half of the time. He'll go for it on fourth-and-short just about anywhere on the field. And there's no offensive play he won't try (think Boise State coach Chris Peterson after chugging two liters of Mountain Dew).
Everyone here at Polecat HQ can hardly wait for next Thanksgiving's Ansonia vs. Naugatuck game as it'll match Bruno up against one of his BFF's, Chargers head coach Tom Brockett.
Bunnell joins the ludicrously long list of programs that need a new head coach. Those NINETEEN....
EDIT: Eckert-C (Chris Eckert of Cromwell? Is that you?) tweeted that Lewis Mills of Burlington coach Greg Todd stepped down.
RESTART: Those TWENTY programs are Abbott Tech of Danbury, Avon, Bacon Academy, Branford, Bridgeport Central, Ellington/Somers, Fairfield Ludlowe, Fitch. .... (takes moment to inhale). ... Lewis Mills, Maloney of Meriden, Masuk of Monroe, New Milford, Old Saybrook/Westbrook, Rockville, St. Bernard/Norwich Tech, Stamford, Torrington, Wilby of Waterbury and Woodstock Academy.
(Are we missing anybody?)
Senor Bowley breaks down all the coaching shifts in more detail than we care to do.
Vaya con dios...