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Wednesday, July 17 High School Sports

Fairfield’s Stearns ‘really just wanted to play football again’ in Super 100 Classic

PLAINVILLE — This is an exotic enough destination for a kid from Fairfield that he just pops the high school’s address in his phone and follows directions. He has no idea what route they took, with traffic that held up him and his teammate, made him late for football practice.

So why is Will Stearns, set to go off to Bryant to play football, one of the few Fairfield County seniors trekking an hour a day (if he’s lucky) to the middle of the state to prepare for the Super 100 Classic all-star football game?

“This year, we don’t have spring football. We haven’t really played since the season,” said Stearns, an All-FCIAC East Division receiver for Fairfield Warde.

“I thought this was a great opportunity to just play football again, and against great competition to get me ready for college.”

He and Team Constitution have been preparing at Plainville to face Team Nutmeg on Saturday afternoon at New Britain’s Veterans Stadium in Willow Brook Park. The annual senior all-star game, sometimes played as the Governor’s Cup against Rhode Island all-stars, is again an intrastate affair this year, set to kick off at 4:30 p.m.

Super 100 Classic

WHAT: Senior high school all-star football game

WHEN: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Veterans Stadium (Willow Brook Park), New Britain

PLAYERS: Seniors from around the state. See GameTimeCT.com for rosters.

COACHES: Tim Shea of Plainville coaches Team Constitution. Brian Mazzone of Stafford/Somers/East Windsor runs Team Nutmeg.

TICKETS: $8.

—MICHAEL FORNABAIO

“I really just wanted to play football again,” said Joe Gjinaj, Stearns’ Warde and Constitution teammate. “I wanted to get back on the field. I love football. I’m really just working out nowadays. It’s fun to come back and play football.”

He’s hoping he gets a chance after pulling a hamstring in practice last week.

The middle of the state is well represented in Saturday’s game, but the southwest corner decidedly isn’t. Harding’s Kevin Bednarz, slated to play for Team Nutmeg, is the only other FCIAC player. There are only a couple from the SCC and fewer from the SWC.

That’s OK, Stearns said.

“I like the guys on our team. I think it’ll be fun to see how we play against the other team. I don’t really know what they’re like,” Stearns said. “It’ll be fun to play with a team I’ve never played with before, with guys I’ve built relationships with.

“A lot of these guys have played each other, seen each other. I’ve played some of these kids, but this is completely new to me. It’s fun to meet them and hear about the teams they play for.”

All-state players dot both rosters, so the game shouldn’t lack for talent.

There’s Stearns, who found a fit at Bryant.

The level of football there is what I wanted. The academics were up to par with what I like, too,” said Stearns, who plans to major in marketing. “I visited there and got along great with the guys. It felt like a good fit for me.”

Gjinaj, an all-FCIAC defensive end, hopes to walk on at UMass and try to earn a scholarship.

Playing one more game together, Stearns and Gjinaj used the same word to describe each other.

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“He’s a beast, I don’t know,” Stearns said. “I’ve been playing with Joe since we were kids, and he’s been an animal on the field, big and strong. He’s worked really hard to get where he is today.”

Gjinaj has seen the same “beast”ly work ethic Stearns used to improve as a player.

“He turned on the jets and just separated himself from the rest,” Gjinaj said. “He was a starter sophomore year but really wasn’t a standout. Junior year he really started standing out, and senior year was when he really blew up.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp

Michael Fornabaio|Sports Reporter

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