FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Fairfield Wildcats teams have a new look in several ways as they kick off their eighth season in the Fairfield County Football League.
The Wildcats are wearing new uniforms this fall to reflect the colors of the town’s two public high schools, Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe. What’s more, more players are wearing those uniforms. Registration is up nearly 14 percent, according to league president Tom Grace, with nearly 200 players enrolled.
The players like the new uniforms, a combination of black from Warde and blue from Ludlowe. “We thought our other uniforms were getting a little tired,’’ Grace said. “We look to draw from both communities. It’s a good combination.”
Grace, who has been working in the league for six years, is encouraged by the growth. “There are twice as many youth football players in Fairfield as there were before it started,’’ he said. “There are a lot of good things about football in Fairfield and the Fairfield County Football League.”
Fairfield has two youth football programs. The Fairfield Giants, who play in the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner Conference, have been in existence since 1966. Fairfield has two baseball programs as well, and both have been successful.
“When you look at the baseball talent, I think it demonstrates that there’s a lot of football talent as well,’’ Grace said. “We all want the same thing. It’s about teaching the boys the skills and the things they need to be successful on the field.”
The Wildcats have had some successful teams in the past few years. Fairfield won the sixth-grade championship in 2011 and the eighth-grade title in 2009. The seventh-grade team, coached by former Yale player Buddy Zachery, will be one of the top teams in that division this fall. The sixth-grade squad coached by John Lawson is 2-0 and also looks solid.
“We’ve had some positive results, the program is growing,’’ Grace said. “But it’s not all about results. It’s about patience and teaching sportsmanship. The boys respond to that. It’s all about participation, not winning at all costs. They've had success, and they are competing in a league where they will continue to compete against these same young men in high school. Our players are growing confidence against these opponents they will face in high school.”
Like the other teams in the league, Fairfield looks to establish a connection to benefit the high schools in the years ahead. He believes the program is on the right track toward that goal.
“It’s important to remember that neither high school coach has been around very long,’’ Grace said. “It takes a while to change a program in the high schools. It’s trying to change a culture. (Warde coach) Duncan Della Volpe has been extremely supportive of our program and recognizes the skills they learn at the youth level are the foundation of the success for football in Fairfield.