For Cheshire High School senior Charles Kurtz, there was a special feeling playing football on Friday nights at the David B. Maclary Complex. With his teammates alongside him, Kurtz made the traditional walk down to the turf and then felt the energy of the crowd in stepping onto the field.
“It was great to feel my friends behind me on Friday nights. I got to see my parents and grandparents in the stands,” stated Kurtz. “You leave it all on the line for the team.”
Wearing a Ram jersey for the last four seasons, he is part of a family legacy that spans back almost 60 years. Last fall, Kurtz joined his father and grandfather as a senior captain for the CHS football program.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Kurtz, who also captains the CHS boys’ lacrosse program. “It is good to have had family members involved in the program. You have a lot of people supporting you and that is a great feeling to have.”
His grandfather Charles captained Cheshire football back in 1963. Kurtz’s father Charles led the team in 1987.
“They told me about their buddies and how they had a lot of fun,” recalled Kurtz. “They got to lead those guys in their favorite sport.”
Back in third grade, Kurtz started his journey in the Cheshire Junior Football program.
“I learned how to work hard and saw how if you have a good group of guys supporting you, you can go far,” explained Kurtz. “I also learned how you can get up when you get knocked down.”
Throughout his youth career, he enjoyed attending high school games.
“Almost every game on Friday night, I dreamed of being on the field,” Kurtz reflected.
After years of waiting, he had his chance to join the Rams program in 2019.
“It was great,” said Kurtz. “I got a glimpse of it (the experience) by looking at the seniors. I saw what it meant to them and it motivated me to get more involved.”
He looked forward to his sophomore season, but due to the pandemic, 11-on-11 tackle football was canceled in 2020.
“It hurt to see the seniors not to get a season,” recalled Kurtz. “We still had time to get better instead of sitting at home. I got in better playing shape, especially in lacrosse. It (the pandemic) was a blessing in disguise in that way.”
In returning for his junior year, Kurtz broke into the varsity lineup. Defensively, he made 29 tackles and earned four sacks.
Kurtz also contributed at running back, scoring two touchdowns.
“It was great to get out there on Friday nights and make plays with my friends,” said Kurtz.
In advance of his senior season last year, he was honored to be named as a co-captain with classmate Michael Simeone. Kurtz liked breaking the news to his family, especially his grandfather and dad.
“My grandfather always wanted me to be a captain because he wanted the family (connection) to get put in the newspaper,” recalled Kurtz. “I wanted to make my father proud, as well.”
He enjoyed sharing his leadership role with Simeone. A quarterback/defensive back, Simeone was given the Tommy DiDomizio Memorial Award at the end of 2022 season.
“He is a great leader and friend,” said Kurtz. “He did a great job of leading the guys.”
Kurtz felt that it was important to have a good team atmosphere and serve as a role model for underclassmen.
“It was great paying it back to the younger guys,” reflected Kurtz. “I hope I made a positive experience for them.”
As a senior, Kurtz led as a linebacker and also ran for a touchdown in a 34-7 win at Conard in West Hartford.
He was happy that the Rams made the Class L playoffs, but also disappointed that an elbow injury kept him from playing in the tournament. After having surgery, he served as a leader from the sideline.
“It was very tough,” recalled Kurtz. “Those are the games you want to play in, but I had to do what is right for me and the team.”
In the quarterfinals at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Bridgeport, Cheshire beat top-ranked St. Joseph, 24-14, to earn the program’s first playoff win since 2009.
“It was great to see all of the guy’s faces after the game,” recalled Kurtz. “I knew how hard we worked all year. I knew that (win) was going to happen.”
In advancing to the semifinals, the Rams came up short in a 23-13 road loss to eventual champion New Canaan.
“If you looked at our (7-5) record, it wasn’t true to how we played,” said Kurtz. “I loved that we made a run.”
Kurtz said that he will miss being with teammates, including members of the senior class.
“I’ve built a bond with each and every one of them. I’ve gotten to know the families,” said Kurtz. “I went through blood, sweat, and tears with those guys.”
For his efforts, he was honored at the team banquet on Dec. 20. The Rams invited CHS graduate and former college/NFL coach Paul Pasqualoni to give an address and then later announced that Kurtz was the recipient of the Inaugural Coach Pasqualoni Award.
“It was great,” said Kurtz. “My family has known Coach Pasqualoni for a while. It was a big honor for me.”
Kurtz is also thankful for the guidance of the Rams staff, including Head Coach Don Drust.
“He is a great coach and a great guy,” reflected Kurtz. “He showed me the do’s and don’ts, so that I could be successful.”
Kurtz was disappointed to not get to play in states, but he expects to be back to full health for the start of his lacrosse season this spring.
“I didn’t think that I would be ready, but I was lucky that I didn’t have nerve issues,” explained Kurtz. “I did have to do some therapy.”
He likes how a lot of his friends play football and lacrosse, so he can spend two seasons with them.
“They have taught me a lot. We have helped each other through it,” said Kurtz.
For college, Kurtz has chosen to play lacrosse at the University of Massachusetts. He verbally committed to the school in 2021.
“My family and I knew that lacrosse was my passion. I didn’t see myself playing college football,” explained Kurtz. “It feels great knowing where I’m going and that I get to play for a program like UMass. The school size and the academic level really appealed to me, too.”
He looks forward to following in his family’s footsteps as college athletes. For his older sisters, Lily Kurtz swam at Tufts University (Massachusetts), while Sophie Kurtz plays lacrosse at Southern Connecticut State University.
Kurtz’s father competed in football at Ithaca College in New York.
“My family has meant the world to me,” reflected Kurtz. “They have supported me through all of these years of sports.”
Because of health concerns due to COVID, CHS boys’ lacrosse couldn’t play in 2020, but over the last two years as a starter on attack, Kurtz has compiled 118 goals and 84 assists.
In 2022, Kurtz helped Cheshire (17-4) make the Southern Connecticut Conference title game where they fell 13-6 to Fairfield Prep. CHS advanced to the Class M semifinals before coming up short 14-6 against Wilton.
“I didn’t play in the SCC finals because of a concussion, so that will be a big game for me this year,” stated Kurtz.
He feels that the state semifinal loss has served as motivation throughout the off-season.
“We want to win a state championship,” said Kurtz. “I think of all of our dreams for that. If we work hard, we can accomplish it.”
The team MVP last year, Kurtz led the Rams in goals (71) and points (118). He joined junior Matt Jeffery as an All-American, All-Class M, and All-SCC First Team honoree.
“It was great for both of us getting it (All-American) last year,” said Kurtz, who also played football with Jeffery. “We have flipped the switch this year. We are motivated to get it again.”
For his final season, Kurtz will captain CHS boys’ lacrosse with classmates Connor Moran, Ben Thompson, and Luke Wiedemann.
“I’m going to be able to lead another great group of guys,” said Kurtz. “I’m excited to see what is in store for the season.”
While he is graduating in June, Kurtz plans to follow his teammates in the future. He looks forward to coming home to watch CHS football play Southington.
“It is going to be hard seeing the guys on Thanksgiving and I won’t get to play with them,” stated Kurtz. “That will feel different.”