Dave Cadelina steps down as Central football coach

It wasn’t that long ago that Central football was one of Connecticut’s most downtrodden programs.

Then the school hired Dave Cadelina and began one of the great turnarounds in state football history.

Now, after 16 years, 93 victories, a pair of state tournament appearances and two FCIAC championship game appearances, Cadelina has decided to hang up his whistle.

The 47-year coach, who’s came to be known for his flair for drama, using movie themes, quotes and even game-day makeup to help motivate his players, made his decision after several months of mulling it over with his family.

His decision made, Cadelina met with his players this afternoon.

“Feel that it’s time for me to step aside,” said Cadelina, a math teacher at the school. “Throw Excalibur back into the lake if, you will, and open it up for somebody new to come on in.

“Have had nothing but enjoyment being here for 16 years serving players and the community at Central.”

Cadelina, a Bethany native and Amity graduate who was a freshman on the Spartans’ 1979 state championship team, was an assistant coach for nine years, including time spent at Harding under Bob Cole.

When Cadelina took over in 1997, Kennedy Stadium was a dump, Central hadn’t had a winning season in 25 years, nor had it beaten crosstown rival Harding in recent years.

It didn’t take long for Central to smash down barriers.

“My first goal when I got there was beating Harding,” said Cadelina who was 93-71-1 at Central. “I really wanted to help even out that series. We accomplished that goal fairly early.”

Central beat Harding in his first season. It went on to win 15 of 16 meetings, including the last 14 years, under Cadelina’s watch.

“Our next goal was to have a winning season,” he said. “We took care of that too.”

Central went 6-5 in 1999.

In 2004, Cadelina and the Hilltoppers stunned the rest of the FCIAC by going 9-0 in the regular season and reaching the school’s first FCIAC championship game. Central lost to Greenwich 43-27, but also reached the state playoffs. Kennedy Stadium hosted its first state playoff game, but Central got hammered by eventual state champion New Britain, 59-7.

Three years later, Central returned to the state playoffs. But they were defeated twice by Greenwich. First in the season opener, than in the Class LL semifinals.

In 2009, Cadelina had one of his best, most physical teams. The Hilltoppers defeated Greenwich and New Canaan on the way to a second straight FCIAC championship. They led Staples 10-7 with 1:55 remaining, but Brendan Rankowitz broke their hearts with the winning 66-yard touchdown catch-and run.

“I was dying to win that FCIAC championship,” Cadelina said. “We came close.”

That was Central’s last, great team. Though the last three Central teams didn’t win as consistently as Cadelina would have liked, he said his decision to leave had nothing to do with wins and losses.

“Some of my losing years have been the enjoyable,” he said. “I’m 100 pct proud of accomplishments we’ve had at Central in 16 years.”

“But as most coaches will tell you, it’s a year round job and I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. Only the future will tell if this is a good decision. For me and for team, I believe I’m making right one. I will miss it terribly and I have no aspirations on coaching anywhere else but at Central High School. I’m sure it’ll be in good hands.”

Sean Patrick Bowley

13 Responses

  1. R-MAC says:

    Dave will be missed but not forgotton. He put respect back into Central football and got respect back from all the players who came under his wisdom and guidence. God Bless and Good Luck with your future sir.

  2. GHS1973 says:

    Great photo…He looks like Bear Bryant or Tom Landry with that hat..I remember that 2009 team…They were really good, and I was rooting hard for them to beat Staples…Whatever happened to the Gil kid?…He was the QB, and a DB…Real good player, who I thought was going to UCONN…Anyway, best of luck to the Coach..

  3. fball5 says:

    He deserves a lot more credit and dues than most coaches based the job he has done there.. Some of the most difficult circumstances, issues, changing the losing culture, and thousands of other factors to go up against and he did it with class. They always displayed great sportsmanship and never gave up. What a job he did. Coach of the decade for what he started with and turned it into.

  4. old man says:

    dave did a great job at central. his teams were always amongst the strongest weight room kids in the state. he instilled pride and discipline in his teams. Christian Gill, Tevardo Williams and others have gone on to play college football and represent dave’s program well.

  5. GHS1973 says:

    @old man…Thanks for the update on the young men, Gill & Williams (who I forgot)…Glad to hear they are still in school where they belong…And yeah, that’s a fitting legacy for any good High School Football Coach..

  6. RAY BROWN says:

    didnt know him but he did a good job—–maybe land a better job elsewhere

  7. RAY BROWN says:

    GHS—great comment on pic—-you may have been the only one that noticed the hat comparison-wow

  8. the ruler says:

    A former player told me their motto at central was “no weights no states”, was fun to watch that jet sweep right behind all those big linemen. Good luck in your future endeavors coach.

  9. Master Legend says:

    @2- Christon is playing at Western Carolina now. They finished their season at Alabama. (lost 49-0, but still, a game in Bryant-Denny is great for a kid from BPT)

  10. jeb says:

    A real class act who along with his players and assistant coaches deserve much credit for turning Central into a well respected program . Great job Dave!!!

  11. Observer says:

    I think he did a remarkable job in a difficult environment overall. I hope that Central gets a coach who can continue a tradition of success and competence. Too often you get someone who shows you how truly exceptional the last guy was.

  12. Frank says:

    I love the way he talked to his players, lots of mutual respect. It’s a tough job, and a tremendous sacrifies for himself and family. Until you have done you will never understand!

  13. Kyle25 says:

    As a former player for coach cadelina(04-08)I’m sad to see him step down but he did a great job with his players, he was a great mentor & father figure for us and he instilled excellence within the hilltopper program wish him the best of luck & by the way Trevardo Williams a former teammate of mine recently was drafted by the Houston Texans he’s living proof of a great model coach cadelina helped groom