First Woman To Win CT High School Football Game Takes On Co-op Team Challenges



A Friday night that started with Jenn Stango Garzone wondering if she was going to be able to field a football team ended with Connecticut sports history and a drenched head coach.

“Luigi Velardi, he’s a legend,” said Stango Garzone. “He said he had to get me my first water bath-Gatorade. He was on a mission for that.

After quarterback Ben Conti scored on a 21-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left to seal Northwest United Co-op’s 26-14 victory over Platt Tech, after the last 20 seconds have passed, well Of course, Stango Garzone carried the contents of the well-known orange cooler.

Velardi, his assistant, came over and tapped Stango Garzone on the shoulder. The former Watertown head coach, who was due to take over the Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech-Nonnewaug co-op before Sacred Heart closed, is a man bear.

Stango Garzone is 5 feet 1 inch tall. So she jumped. Velardi lifted her a few feet off the ground for an embrace that looked like Yogi Berra leaping into Don Larsen’s arms after the perfect 1956 World Series match.

And why not? Stango Garzone became the first female coach to win a game in state high school history.

“I know how important it is in the grand scheme of things for young women who love football, who are looking to play or get into coaching and sports administration,” she said. “I know that in the grand scheme of things, a wall has been knocked down.

“But like I said, I just love being a coach. All credit goes to the children and I have been fortunate to have such an amazing and experienced staff. I joke with my athletes that I hope one day I limp on a cane watching football or some other sport from the stands and that they take over the reins. Keep it up, man or woman. The more mundane things get, the more consistent the opportunities will be. “

There is an undeniable sporting pragmatism and sense of humor in Stango Garzone. After all, she played soccer, basketball and softball at Sacré-Cœur and Post. For 11 years she played semi-pro football in all positions except kicker. Despite turning 38 on Friday, Stango Garzone is not officially retired as a player.

“I got married, I got pregnant,” she said. “When I was ready to come back, the women’s season was canceled. It was last year, but Boston was the closest team. No way I could drive two hours round trip twice a week with a toddler. Would love to have another season or two if the body allows and the location was ideal.

She continues to coach women’s basketball and softball at Wolcott Tech. It was there that she taught social sciences and special education and was a football assistant for seven years before the program grew into a cooperative with Housatonic Regional and Wamogo. When she became the first woman to be named Connecticut football coach with MCW United, I asked her a big difference between coaching boys and girls.

The girls keep their mouthguards clean and in their case, she replied, while the boys will drop it on the floor of the bus, find it a week later and put it back in their mouths.

“I can’t explain it,” she said. “I saw it.”

When she started coaching football, opposing teams occasionally sent a player. They thought she was the coach. Stango Garzone would say, “Sorry, I’m not certified to bind ankles.”

So here it is 20 minutes before a kick off at 7 a.m. at Foran High in Milford, a player short of a squad. His 10 Wolcott Tech players had arrived on the familiar blue bus from the state’s tech schools. The yellow bus with 17 Nonnewaug and four Wamogo players was nowhere to be found. Finally, finally, it has arrived.

“They got off the bus in single file, looking like the complete annihilation of everyone in their way,” Stango Garzone said. “But first, they had to run to the bathroom.

“We had a kid who has played in a college game before and I have told them now that you know how to fight in the face of adversity.”

Yes, Stango Garzone is a female football coach.

She is also a coach of a cooperative team. His first went 0-10, but then again he was on a 0-40 run when he disbanded. She preaches integrity and character.

“The co-op program is probably the most difficult coaching job, just because you don’t have to deal with just one school,” said Stango Garzone. “You deal with multiple schools and that means you also deal with different education boards, different health departments. You have to deal with different schedules, rules and regulations. It’s taxing. “

When there was extreme heat a few weeks ago, for example, a school district canceled all afternoon activities. Nonnewaug, the host school for the program, has an air-conditioned weight room and could have used their gym for training, but the other district was bound by their overall decision. No exceptions.

“In times of pandemic it is even more trying,” said Stango Garzone. “Now you have to worry about the protocols of each district. “

Only students at tech schools can take the blue buses, said Stango Garzone, until approved otherwise by the district central office. She works there. The coordination of transport and drivers was difficult. There are days when she’s asked co-workers to drop children off at Nonnewaug, so at least they have a turn to practice. A common practice was closed because one school was quarantined and another was not allowed out for three days due to the heat.

“I was worried going into the season of unrepresented games for these kids,” said Stango Garzone. ” We were lucky. We still had our scrum with Woodland and took joint training with Watertown. “

No wonder she called the four pre-season weeks before the opening kick-off as the most chaotic of her career.

“One of the most rewarding things about a co-op is seeing kids from multiple cities come together,” said Stango Garzone. “Coach in the technical high school system (which is based on different cities), I’ve seen that before. The fact that this has happened in such a short time is one of those things that can unify a region of a state.

Nonnewaug had his school renovated and his pitch redone, so the team has a weight room and a grass pitch with lights. With Housatonic Regional as MCW’s host, there was no light. All home games were scheduled to take place on Saturday.

“One day a week might not seem like a lot,” said Stango Garzone, “but that’s almost two weeks of travel time and wear and tear you save. Loved being at Housy. (AD) Anne Macneil is phenomenal. It just got to a point where the board the numbers had gone down so low they couldn’t stay on budget to continue hosting. I think they had less than five kids at that time -the.

Housatonic joined the Gilbert-Northwestern cooperative to form a new club. Granted, this is the rural northwest, but these three schools cover 12 towns. Teammates can live within an hour of each other.

“Housy was a state powerhouse for a while in football,” Stango Garzone said. “Now they’re cooperating with their nemesis (they played every Thanksgiving). There was a time when Gilbert and Housy were never meant to be spoken in the same sentence.

There was no passing league for any of the tech schools last year. Despite coming out of a junior college program, the Nonnewaug players, led by Conti and running back Jason Mauro, worked with Sacred Heart and Kaynor. Stango Garzone said it definitely shows.

Yes, coach co-ops are tough and crazy, regardless of gender. Although it is safe to say that none of the others gave birth.

Geneviève is 2 1/2 now. She is cuter than cute.

“Cute and fiery,” Mom said. “She’s become very vocal and very independent and is definitely testing the waters of insubordination. Its good. I know it goes fast. I try to make the most of every second that I can.

With a kick-off at 7 p.m., the trip and a bedtime from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Geneviève could not make the game on Friday. With a home game against Cheney Tech and a 6pm start, she might be there for Game 2. Her husband Francesco, a math teacher and musician who sometimes sings the national anthem at Jenn’s games, won’t. not.

After this historic victory, several coaches, teachers and former players congratulated her. Among them was Jamie Coty, whom Stango Garzone assisted at Wolcott Tech and is now Cheney’s defensive coordinator.

“We spoke last Friday and Saturday and said he could only speak after the game – all business until then,” said Stango Garzone. ” Found that. My husband is going to see the Foo Fighters in Bridgeport on Friday. Jamie’s wife also goes to Foo Fighters. Big game between us and they chose Dave Grohl.; @ jeffjacobs123


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