Connecticut High School Football

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Bunnell’s Craig Bruno named Naugatuck football coach

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Craig Bruno will leave Bunnell after 12 years, four state playoff appearances and two state championships.

Craig Bruno

Craig Bruno, the only football coach to ever win playoff games and state championships at Bunnell High School, will be named next head coach at Naugatuck High School.

Bruno, 44, played at Bunnell in the 1980s and was elevated to head coach in 2001 to replace his mentor, Bob Mastroni.

He leaves as its most decorated after 12 years, four state playoff appearances and two state championships.

Bruno says he began thinking about his future shortly after the Bulldogs finished 3-7 in 2012, his second losing season. Naugatuck is closer to Bruno’s home in Oxford, where his daughter will begin high school in the fall. It also presented a new challenge.

“I felt that I’ve accomplished all my goals in place I built,” said Bruno, who is also the athletic director at Bassick. “I’m leaving this situation on good terms. I have a lot of great feelings and memories there, but I felt at this point in my life had to make a change.

“I feel good about this. It’s 10 minutes away from my home and I’m excited about a new professional challenge.”

Bruno takes over at Naugatuck after a tumultuous 2012, which saw the school embroiled in a recruiting scandal involving former coach Rob Plasky and Sacred Heart receiver David Coggins. Plasky resigned in August. The Greyhounds went 6-4 under interim coach Shawn Kuczenski.

Bruno beat several candidates, including Woodland offensive coordinator Tim Phipps. He said he is not certain if he will remain as Bassick’s athletic director.

Naugatuck last went to the state playoffs in 2010. But that was its first appearance in 10 years. The Greyhounds havent’t won a state championship since 1993. It’s last NVL title came in 2010, but it has only beaten arch rival Ansonia three times since 1987.

“All the reports about Naugatuck are very good,” Bruno said. “The school is committed to football and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to build new era for myself and new career and help a new school move into a direction we want to go.

“Obviously, the challenge at Naugatuck is immense,” Bruno said. “To go from playing Stratford every year to playing Ansonia is a bit of a change. It’s definitely going to be difficult to win on Thanksgiving but I know what they’re about. I’m obviously great friends with (Ansonia coach) Tom Brockett. I’m looking forward to practice and I can’t wait to get started.”

He’ll meet with Naugatuck’s player next week.

But Bruno said he is leaving his alma mater with a heavy heart.

He starred as a linebacker there from 1982-1985 under Bob Mastroni and later came back as an assistant. Athletic director Dave Johnson elevated Mastroni’s pupil to head coach in 2001.

As good a a coach Mastroni was regarded in town, Bunnell had never been to the state playoffs.

Bruno brought his own brand of football to the region. His teams became know for their unorthodox, aggressive style: always going for 2-points, attempting fourth-down conversions at traditionally inopportune times, odd formations and elaborate trick plays.

His players thrived in it. It took Bunnell just two years to qualify for the school’s first state playoff game. The program never had a losing season until going 4-6 in 2009.

Bunnell’s signature win came in his fifth season. Behind quarterback Steve Smith and Michael Easley, Bunnell upset Staples 28-26 in the 2006 Class L Championship.

“The day we won the championship, it forever changed the way the school and the program would be looked at,” Bruno said. “It wasn’t about me, it was about our team. I’ve told my players so many times, `You will never play there again without playing under the past history of winning a state championship.’”

In 2007, Chris Sloat and Mark Harrison led the Bulldogs to the best season in school history. Bunnell went 13-0 for the first time, earning the No. 2 ranking in the state media poll. It defeated Masuk 22-14 in the Class L title game.

At one point, Bunnell won 21 consecutive games under Bruno.

He’s been honored as the Connecticut Post’s Coach of the Year in 2006, Walter Camp’s Coach of the Year and the MSG Network’s Tri-State Coach of the Year in 2007, and the New York Jets’ Coach of the Year in 2003.

“Honestly, I did not I felt when I got there we’d have the success that we did,” Bruno said. “All of the all success was really humbling and it was a tremendous ride. I still have great relationships with players I coached and the people around Bunnell. It’s a sad day for me in sense, at same time it is the opening of a big opportunity. I’ll never forget the all the great memories.”

In a rare meeting, Bruno and Naugatuck will face Bunnell in Week 6 of the 2013 season.

Sean Patrick Bowley

23 Responses

  1. fciacfan says:

    Does this mean Coach Bruno leaves his job as A.D. at Bassick as well? Is there a teaching position at Naugatuck?

    John Murphy, Stratford resident, to Bunnell????

    Lots of intrigue….

  2. High School Football Fan says:

    Good luck to coach Bruno @Naugatuck.I had a hunch back about a month ago this would happen.Finally a rumor that comes true in Connecticut High School Football.Now waiting for the Hamden job to open up.

  3. screscue9 says:

    Just wanted to say that Naugatuck hired a awesome coach and a better person. I wish nothing but the best to Coach Bruno in the future.

  4. SHS98 says:

    Typo – Marcus Easley, not Michael Easley…

  5. Mike Easley. Marcus graduated in 2005. Mike has the ring.

  6. SHS98 says:

    Well played…This is why I read the blog and don’t write it! Apologies SPB!

  7. SHS89 says:

    Would love to see Duane Sheridan take he helm at Bunnell. He never received the resources or talent he needed at Stratford. Its amazing how one school in Stratford can be committed to football and the other not…….

  8. Hsfan says:

    Svatik back to bunnell?

  9. BHSFAN says:

    Congratulations to Coach Bruno, one of the real good guys in coaching.

  10. WCC of Old says:

    Murphy to Bunnell??? After all he played half of his home games on that field already in the past few years LOL! Good luck to coach Bruno good coach, good guy!

  11. Hsfan says:

    Shirden didn’t have resources? Had plenty of talent. It is true that one school is more committed than the other.

  12. Vin Hirschbeck says:

    Stratford had the two best running backs in the state in Mc coy and Mack when Bunnell beat them on Thanksgiving their senior year. Sick of people saying Stratford does not have talent. Look what Bruno did with less talent. Bunnell is on the map in the state of Connecticut because of football. No team has ever won anything at any level without talent. It’s the Bruno”s and the Murphys that seize the oppurtunity and win when given half way decent talent.

  13. CTFB12 says:

    @Vin Hirschbeck,
    Mack and McCoy their JR year absolutely smoked Bunnell(with S Smith) on Thanksgiving to qualify for the state playoffs in 2006

  14. CTFB12 says:

    Also Bruno with less talent????????????????????????? are you serious, he coached more NFL WR’s then maybe anyone, WOW, seriously, WOW

  15. vh says:

    Thats exactly what i’m saying they had talent with a very good coach in Sheridan but I,m saying that when Bruno capitilzed on it. And by the way Marcus was a good High school receiver but lets not get crazy he did not get a scholarship till his fifth year after walking on at uconn. His brother Mike was a much better high school football player. Some blossom later or maybe he brought what he learned in high school to the next level. Also you need to get thebest in these guys by highlighting them in your offense which he always did. By the way what did stratford ever win besides one championship when they had all the talent before redistricting or before Bunnell took all their talent. what was the reason then

  16. SWC future says:

    Two top coaches(Murphy and Bruno) leave their SWC teams? what is going on here? It is bad enough that 95% of SWC teams are not competitive now you get the two best coaches in the league running for the exit?

  17. pdarcy556 says:

    Beloved coaches like Mastroni and Czekzj made those programs what they are today. Hopefully, the new coach will carry on their legacy

  18. WCC of Old says:

    It’s time to have the SWC & NVL join together to form one league. Some schools may want to go to other leagues in the state, but that’s ok. Many ways that league could be set up, by size, S,M,L or east, central, west, north, central, south? To name a few.

  19. Donyall_21 says:

    i hear murphy is coming to bunnell… any confirmation on this…? He would be great fro us.

  20. FFLD_County says:

    It’s too bad Stratford doesn’t have an opening. Three times I’ve gone to an SHS game it looks like I’m watching an offense straight out of 1968.

  21. tim says:

    Plasky is interviewing for Bunnell, he would be good, he’s a good recruiter, oops, that’s not allowed.

  22. dogzzfan says:

    Plasky may be able to recruit, but Murphy is a better recruiter, look how he recruited at Masuk with New London players. Had to do that to beat us.

  23. Hsfan says:

    Have to recruit in stratford to make sure kids stay in town and don’t go to prep or st joes. A lot of stratford kids on st joes.

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