Category Archives: Sports

How CCSU Football Went From Last To NEC Champs

by Daniel Fappiano

In 2016 the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils won just two games and were tied for last in the Northeast Conference. Going into the season, they were predicted to finish no higher than fourth in the NEC, with very few expecting them to compete for the championship. After losing the first three games of the season, it seemed as if Central was in for another lost season.

However, the Blue Devils didn’t let their 0-3 record discourage them. They kept fighting and rattled off six straight wins prior to their championship matchup against Duquesne. As the underdogs, not many expected CCSU to be able to knock off the preseason favorite. But as the clock hit zero and the scoreboard read 28-27 in Central’s favor, they had done the unthinkable and won their first NEC Championship since 2010.

On the field, many different players stepped up to help lead the Blue Devils to eight straight wins, giving them an overall 8-3 record for the regular season.

Senior running back Cameron Nash had his breakout campaign, rushing 197 times for 1,003 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season. Voted Second-Team All-Conference, Nash led the NEC in rushing touchdowns and was one of only three running backs to eclipse 1,000 yards.

Outside of Nash, Central had six players voted First-Team All-Conference. Rookie lineman Connor Mignone was voted as the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year, making him the first non-skill position player to win the award. Of the other five, defenders Randall Laguerre, Seth Manzanares and Jarrod Cann made the biggest impact.

Laguerre led the team with 83 tackles, putting him at sixth most in the NEC. Manzanares led the team in sacks with 3.5, tied for ninth in the NEC while Cann led the Blue Devils in interceptions with four, tied for second most in the NEC. Overall, Central’s defense was vastly improved and finished the year tied for most defensive touchdowns in the FCS with six.

Clearly there was improvement on the field from both the offense and defense. However, the Blue Devils success could be attributed to something much less apparent.

As CCSU begun to rack up win after win, you could see the player’s emotion on the sideline. They would jump up and down, trying to get the crowd in the game. They started having fun and stopped stressing over the outcome.

Following the team’s win against St. Francis, players on the sideline began to jump around and try to make other players who were being interviewed laugh. The team was having fun; they were building bonds, and you could tell the aura around CCSU football was changing.

Head Coach Peter Rossomando credited that new aura to the players on the team believing. Believing that even though they started out 0-3, even though no one thought they could be champions, that this could be their year.

Throughout the season, Rossomando touched on how his team’s belief in themselves was crucial to their success.

Following the team’s win against Bryant, their fifth straight, Rossomando said, “Our guys have done a good job of understanding where we are and that you’re the same team that was 0-3 at one time. You’re a good team then, you’re a good team now.”

Rossomando held the same sentiment following the Blue Devils win against St. Francis one week later. “Our players quite honestly just believe right now. They believe in everything that’s going on, they believe in each other, so important.”

As CCSU defeated Duquesne and became NEC Champions, Rossomando knew how important the victory was. Although, he knew it would be impossible without the team’s belief in one another. “It’s been one heck of a ride since I got here and seven in a row to do it, in that fashion, down 13 late, our kids never forgot and always believed, it’s great for our university.”

After a 0-3 start, it would’ve been easy for the Blue Devils to look down on themselves and pack it in. They weren’t expected to compete for a championship; they could’ve looked at the 2017 season as pointless. But they didn’t, they fought for each other, their brothers, and did everything in their power to win a championship.

A box will tell you the stats, but it could never tell you the amount of heart Central showed during the 2017 season. They knew the odds were stacked against them, yet they worked as a team to achieve their goals.

CCSU’s magical season might’ve come to an end against New Hampshire in the first round of the FCS playoffs. However, the 2017 season will not be easily forgotten. The Blue Devils did the unthinkable. Not only did they bring the university their first championship since 2010, but they gave the community something much greater, a reason to believe.

What Has Happened To The NFL?

by Tyler Roaix

For years, the National Football League was booming. It became everyone’s favorite sport. They were making billions of dollars every year. Everyone was happy.

And then, in a matter of a year or so, everything changed. Aaron Hernandez happened. This led to further discovery of CTE and football’s effect on the brain. Colin Kaepernick started his protests, and a lot of people decided, for some reason, that it wasn’t okay.

And now you have the Cowboys, who have decided to wage war on the NFL. Ezekiel Elliot gets suspended for six games and he decides to spend all year fighting it. Now he has backed down, is now serving his suspension, and “America’s Team” can’t muster up any offense.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to make a case that he is bigger than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, threatening to sue the league if the other owners move forward with Goodell’s contract extension, which reportedly includes a close-to $50 million, the use of a private jet and health insurance for life.

But Jones has backed off of his fight recently, further proving that the league has been become a dictatorship, run by Goodell. The players and owners simply serve Goodell’s will.

The fact that Jones needs to face is that someone like Goodell is the perfect league commissioner. Why? Because he makes the owners a lot of money. The new TV deal he orchestrated a few years ago made the league and owners millions. That is just one small example of the profitability of the Goodell-era.

But when you tell businessmen, as all the owners are, that you can make them “x-amount” of dollars, they will only ask for more.

That is what the NFL has become; a bunch of wealthy, money-hungry businessmen that could not care less about the quality of play their teams put out on the field. When they see Colin Kaepernick, they don’t see a quality quarterback with more talent than half of the starting quarterbacks on active rosters. They see someone who “disgraces the country” and drives NFL ratings down.

Perhaps it’s more disgraceful that the only reason the NFL actually does the national anthem before games is because the U.S. Military pays them a ton of money to do so. Maybe the league and it’s owners should look in the mirror before blaming their own problems on everyone else, especially their own players.

To be blunt, the NFL is imploding on itself. Players are revolting. Owners are pretending like they have a say. Goodell is imposing his will upon the entire league. NBA owner Mark Cuban said in 2014 that “the NFL would fall apart in 10 years.”

Frankly, the once-strong NFL is way ahead of schedule. If Goodell and the owners don’t get a handle on their league soon, the league as we know it will be history.

 

Senior Spotlight: Maddie Smith

by Tyler Roaix

As Central finished up its season falling to LIU Brooklyn in the NEC Championship, the entire team was overcome with emotion. But one player brings a feeling of stability and strength, despite knowing she has played her final volleyball match in a Blue Devil uniform: senior Maddie Smith.

Smith is originally from Pleasanton, California, which is near San Francisco. Smith was first reached out to via email by assistant coach Greg Shell. Central head coach Linda Sagnelli later approached her at a travel tournament in Las Vegas. From there, the decision to come to CCSU was not that difficult.

But the move to Connecticut was tough at first for Smith. Coming across the country by herself was a tough adjustment. But the team and school made life easier on her.

“Coming here, I didn’t have any family. Everyone was back home. So the coaching staff and team really became my family. It was definitely an adjustment at first, but they took me in with open arms.”

Off the volleyball court, Smith has been a model student in the classroom as well. Despite being a double-major in in Marketing and Management, Smith downplayed the expected difficulties of the work, citing how the two majors share a lot of similar classes. Still, Smith has been recognized as a member of the Northeast Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll the past two years.

Sagnelli was grateful of what Smith has brought to the volleyball program, both as a player and a person, highlighting her consistency and leadership on and off the court.

“The growth I’ve seen in Maddie over the past four years has been remarkable,” Sagnelli shared. “She is a great player, but more importantly a great person. She cares about her teammates. She has been a phenomenal representative of CCSU, and a great model for the younger players to look up to.”

Smith ends a career highlighted by a senior year for the record books for the Blue Devils. 161 total blocks this year are second-most in a single season and are just two fewer than Rachel Dunlap’s 2013 total. Smith’s 14 blocks against Sacred Heart on Nov. 3 of this year are tied for the most in a single match for Central.

Smith also had a .377 hitting percentage in 2017, just .001 behind Jennifer Cote’s 2004 season for the best in a single season for Central.

Despite her volleyball career coming to a close, Smith plans to remain involved in CCSU athletics. She remains an active member as the Vice President of the CCSU Student Athlete Advisory Committee, also known as SAAC. She will also be an intern within the athletic department in the spring semester, which she said she is excited to learn from several of the leadership members in the department.

Smith hopes to eventually move back home to California soon. Her end goal is a career in Sports Management.

“She is very bright,” Sagnelli said of Smith. “She will be successful in whatever she does after leaving Central. It has been such a pleasure to know her.”

Smith offered a piece of advice to younger players and students.

“Soak it all in. Those four years are going to go by faster than you think. I still can’t believe I’m in my last year, that I won’t be at spring workouts next semester. It goes by so quick it almost doesn’t feel real. So enjoy the time as much as you can while you’re here.”

Smith’s career will last in the CCSU record books for years. But her presence and leadership have created a lasting effect on the team, program and school that may never go away.

Cann’s Guardian Angel Leads Him To Being An NEC Champ

by Kimberly Pena

Jarrod Cann, the free safety for the Central Connecticut State University football team, is coming off one his best, yet roughest seasons as a Blue Devils athlete.

The team just won its first Northeast Conference Championship since 2010, while remaining undefeated in their respective conference. Despite the accomplishment, it has not been all smiles and high-fives for Cann. He lost his mother, Sherry Brown, on Oct. 23 with her battle against leukemia, something he knew his mother was battling coming into the season.

“It was very hard,” Cann said. “That was my biggest problem coming into the season, trying to stay focused. That is what she would have wanted. She would have wanted me to do something productive with my life. She was always my biggest fan and wanted to see me go far.”

According to Cann, his mother was supportive of Cann’s dreams and was a firecracker in terms of personality. She always carried the load and provided Cann and his other three siblings, from her side, a great childhood and assuring that there was always enough love in the home.

“She always stuck with me, she always loved me to death. She was a fierce woman,” Cann said smiling.

Cann says recovering the loss of his mother was tough, but he had a family at CCSU that stood by him and made sure he got through this tough moment in his life.

“Everybody, not just my teammates and the guys I am around every day, the whole CCSU family really came together and helped me get through this. Of course, I am going to go through this for a while, but everybody really came together and all checked in on me, you know the administration and people I really don’t know,” Cann said.

Cann began a GoFundMe campaign to help pay funeral costs and to provide his mother the ceremony he believed she rightfully so deserved.

His end goal was for 12 thousand dollars, but it came up short as he raised $8,965 instead. However, he says he is grateful to those who contributed and was appreciative of the support he received from his fellow peers.

He says that he still hears his mother’s voice while on the field and can see her in his dreams, something he says he takes great comfort in.

During the NEC Championship game against Duquesne, Cann states he felt his mother with him there and thinks she is the reason why CCSU came out on top.

With only five seconds remaining in the game and Central leading by only one point, Duquesne was in prime position to snatch victory by just needing a 19-yard field goal to go through. But it was no good.

“It was incredible. I believe my mom blocked that kick, honestly I totally believe that,” Cann said with a laugh. “It was a great game and I am very happy that we came out on top.”

With an NEC Championship already under his belt, Cann says he is looking forward to his future as he hopes to embark an NFL career, a promise he made to his mother. With his guardian angel by his side, Cann feels he is on the right path to do it.

The Man In The Middle

by Patrick Gustavson

One of the newest faces to Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team, Deion Bute has already made his presence known, just six games into the season. And at 6 feet 9 inches, it’s hard to miss him on the court.

Bute comes to CCSU from Tallahassee Community College, but originally hails from St. Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, where he lived until he was 18 years old. Though basketball was popular as a recreational sport, it wasn’t viewed as something one could go to college for, or be recruited for. But Bute knew since he was young that he wanted to play basketball.

He was left with the choice between Monroe, New York and Tallahassee, Florida, and it was his distain for the cold that made his decision easier. At Tallahassee, his accolades consisted of the coaches’ All-Panhandle Conference second team, and the FCSAA all-tournament team.

Following two successful years, it was his mother that brought him to CCSU. “My mom was going through a tough time, with her mom passing, so she’s the main reason that I came up here,” he said.

Bute knew immediately that CCSU was the right place for him. “With the coaching staff, I already felt a love as soon as I came up here,” he said. “It wasn’t ‘get the recruit to commit,’ it was ‘this is what we’re doing, and we want you to be a part of it, because we know it’s going to be special.’ The players were straight up with me. I saw that they had a dream, and that the dream was progressing.”

Bute’s stature and skillset put him in a position to immediately contribute. The Blue Devils lost big men Tidell Pierre and Tafari Whittingham to graduation this season, leaving a massive void in both rebounding and presence in the paint, something that Bute was ready to fill.

“I really didn’t feel any pressure; I was looking forward to it. This is a new situation. I want to play 30 minutes a game, I want to help this team, so, whatever I’ve got to do to fill this void. And I’m looking to do it at an even higher level than they did last year, to help us win,” he said.

Bute has started four of the first five games for the Blue Devils, averaging 11 points and over seven rebounds a game, as well as two blocks. Two games in particular showed his true potential. Against St. John’s and East Carolina, Bute averaged 15 points, ten rebounds and a block, on an astounding 72.2 shooting percentage. This performance led to him being named the Northeast Conference player of the week.

“I wasn’t really expecting it; I didn’t even know we had that from week to week, but it’s a great honor,” Bute shared. “It makes me want to get it again, not in a selfish way, but to keep playing at a high level and give the team their best chance to win.”

“I know I’m a big, and I’m going to be inside, and I’m limited, just because of the style of offense we play, but I don’t mind, because I love this group. But I aim to be the best player on the court, or at least the second-best player on the court. On a week to week basis, I don’t want the co-NEC player of the week, I want the NEC player of the week, every week and every month,” he continued.

Bute strives to continue to improve and play well, with support from his coaches, teammates, and even his peers and teachers at the university, saying: “There’s been a lot of love, especially from the teachers. They’ve been easy to work with, they know that I’m not from here and that I’m still adjusting to things. I adjusted to Florida, and now I’ve got to adjust to Connecticut. People have been doing whatever they can to accommodate me.”