BHS football players take a breather during the 2013 Offensive Linemen Challenge.

Annual Linemen Challenge pushes forward

Berlin High School played host to the fifth annual Offensive Linemen Challenge, where the emphasis on cohesion and overall skill held true Saturday, July 27.

The Southington 1 squad walked away victorious in the yearly gathering, which has grown into a highly-anticipated preseason competition in central Connecticut.

This year’s Challenge, which featured more than 30 teams from around the state, consisted of eight contests before a final tug-of-war battle decided the winner.

Points are awarded through each competition based on a team’s finish; the lower point totals going to the higher placed finishers.

Entering the tug-of-war double-elimination bracket, Southington trailed Guilford by six points for the Challenge crown. But a second-place finish by the Blue Knights in tug-of-war was just enough to help them claim first place overall.

The host Redcoats walked away with the most first place finishes. The team, comprised of Anthony Duong, Dante Vasi, Connor Morrin, Mike Burek, Bill Conticello, Dan McLeod and Joe Chatlas, won, handedly, the crab sled relay, Move the Mountain, and the heavy bag fireman carry.

Berlin finished seventh overall.

Duong, Morrin, and McLeod were Berlin’s top finishers in the bench press, tire toss, and agility events, respectively.

The Linemen Challenge was formed back in 2008 by the brain trust of Capodice and his offensive line coach, John Paul Demko, who had been looking for a way to get their trench men involved in summer training other than lifting.

“Coach Demko went online and started doing some research on what they were doing out in Texas and Florida in regards to high school linemen. And he saw that they were doing linemen challenges,” said Capodice. “So he started looking into what events they were doing, how was it being organized. And then we started to formulate some ideas and put our competition together.”

Berlin’s first Linemen Challenge fielded 12 teams from across the state. Since then, the competition has grown to include nearly three dozen teams, including representatives from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“The challenge gives us, as coaches, an opportunity to see how we compare to some other teams,” said Demko. “It also gives the kids a chance to compete and evaluate themselves to see what they can work on the last few weeks of the summer to make themselves better.”

Berlin won the CIAC Class M state championship in 2009, and made it back to the state finals last season, losing to Hillhouse, 34-12.

The Challenge has seemingly had a positive impact on plenty of other teams as well,

“We’ve been really fortunate to have teams from out of state come and participate,” said Capodice. “We’re always looking for more teams to come and increase the level of competition.”

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