BY RYAN SCARFURI
Few positions in sports are as defined as the American Football defensive end. There is one job on every down, and it changes in only the rarest of circumstances. The job? Find the ball carrier and do one thing. Knock. Him. Down. And for the state of Connecticut’s 2018 high school football season, few did that quite like Canton defensive end Joey Fitzgerald managed to.
Fitzgerald enjoyed a remarkable season during which he played in all three phases of the game: finding the end zone as a running back, helping to impact field position on special teams, and most notably, dominating off the edge by getting to the ball carrier. When it comes to someone teams game plan around, seeing number three in the maroon and black rushing at the right tackle, the best course of action was to get him some help. Help or not, seemingly no offensive line could stop Fitzgerald this season.
But it’s not just talk; the numbers don’t lie. In fact they tell a staggering truth. A school record 19.5 sacks for Fitzgerald jumps off the stat sheet, demanding your attention. It put him at number three overall for single season sacks in history for the Pequot Uncas conference, and number 10 all time in the entire state of Connecticut across a ten game campaign. Simply put, it was dominance. An unstoppable force with one goal in mind: getting to the quarterback. But it wasn’t something that fell into the lap of Fitzgerald, not even in the slightest.
As part of a senior class that went through some trying times, including three coaches in four years and a combined record of 2-38 over their four years of high school football, Fitzgerald never wavered from the demands of the sport. As Fitzgerald described it: “Freshman year, everyone [in the current senior class] would agree that it was completely awful.”
After a remarkably successful 2014 campaign, the 2015 and 2016 Warriors would fail to win a game. Then assistant Coach Dante Boffi took over in Fitzgerald’s junior year. Fitzgerald recalled how his talented graduating class was able to truly shine with their new coach and “have more free reign over what occurred on the field.” The team’s good ideas started to transform into results, culminating in a win over Nonnewaug in 2017.
Fitzgerald, of course, finds the end record to be disappointing, even though it fails to tell the full story. “Our record doesn’t really show it, but most of our games were very close against some pretty good teams. The occasional blowout for sure, but, for the most part, we had a fairly successful team,” Fitzgerald said. Another win in 2018 over Woodstock Academy ensured no winless season would occur, and in its place a record setting campaign would ensue.
The game of football shows just how much every member of a team must contribute. But when one individual on a team sees this much success, one can only sit back and admire just how well one cog in a much larger machine works.