NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Rod Fox doesn't emphasize winning with his football team in New Canaan. Still, the victories have rolled in over the past five years for two eighth grade teams in the Fairfield County Football League.
Fox's Black team, which he coaches with David Jahns, went 9-0 last season and outscored opponents 214-73. The Red team, coached by Mike Cognetta and Brian Hetherington, went 10-0 with seven shutouts. The teams played as one unit in third grade and won the league championship. Since they were divided in fourth grade, the teams have shared the league title every year. They have accumulated a 93-2-1 record in that span.
"We never talk about winning,'' said Fox, whose team opens the season Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Dunning Field against Fairfield. "We talk about getting better every day. These kids come out here every day and just enjoy playing. We try to give them an outstanding athletic experience."
Despite the success, Fox says the team has not lost any incentive to improve. The coaches and players want to surpass the high bar they’ve set for themselves. "If we work harder than anybody else, everything else will into place,'' Fox said. “There's no special carrot that we have to dangle in front of them."
The New Canaan Red team opens Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Darien. New Canaan's fifth grade Red team also kicks off at Dunning on Saturday at 5 p.m.
New Canaan has two teams in each age group from grades 3-8. Last year, New Canaan teams shared the league championship in the sixth and seventh grade divisions. The third graders also won the title, giving the organization three winners in six age groups.
The success of the New Canaan High School football team can be directly attributed to the foundation the players get as youngsters coming up through the ranks. High school coach Lou Marinelli and his staff work with the coaches at the younger levels to maintain consistent instruction.
As Fox's team approaches its final year in the league, he's expecting the players will continue to excel. That's bad news for the other teams in the league. "We're looking for them to play the best football they've played, both mentally and physically,'' Fox said.
The complete schedules for the New Canaan teams are on the Fairfield County Football League website.
TheDailyNewCanaan.com encourages parents to send pictures and game reports to post online. Send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.