Bunnell coach Ty Jenkins, left, and Stratford coach Jack Petion, were once teammates. (Photos by John Nash)

H.S. FOOTBALL: Ex-teammates, Jenkins and Petion now on opposite sideline

STRATFORD—In a different world, under a different timeline, the two head coaches opposing each other in Thursday’s Stratford-vs.-Bunnell rivalry football game would be on the same staff.

Instead, Stratford High coach Jack Petion will welcome the Ty Jenkins-coached Bunnell Bulldogs to Penders Field for the annual Thanksgiving Day showdown between the two programs.

Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m.

It wasn’t that long ago that Petion and Jenkins wore the same uniform as teammates at Southern Connecticut State University.

Petion was a veteran linebacker when Jenkins joined the Owls as a fresh-faced offensive lineman.

“We clashed in practices and had some battles,” Jenkins said. “We would just go at it. He was one of the best linebackers I’ve ever played against, a student of the game. I was glad he was on my side when we went and played other kids.”

Added Petion, “I got to know him and went against him a lot on the scout team. He ended up becoming a good player.”

Both players seemed destined to get into coaching, which is why it’s no surprise their paths would cross once again.

Petion arrived in the SWC and Stratford three years ago while Jenkins’ career started as an assistant coach at Stamford in the FCIAC.

The pair might not have had each other speed dial, but did talk as coaches are apt to do.

“We stayed in contact over the years,” Petion said. “We talked football.”

One of those phone calls came after the Bunnell job opened up and Jenkins was looking for information.

“I trusted his opinion,” Jenkins said.

If the Bunnell job fell through, Petion said, there was a spot for Jenkins on his staff at Penders Field.

Instead, Jenkins was offered the job and accepted so now he gets to coach against his former teammate and old friend.

“He really helped me out a lot when I first got into coaching,” Jenkins said. “I know he’s going to be throwing the kitchen sink at us on Thursday. I know Jack that way.”

A lot of high school coaches have come out of Southern Connecticut, so to have one right in the town where Petion is coaching means a lot.

“We’re always looking out for each other,” Petion said. “So it’s exciting. I was the youngest coach in the league once, but not anymore.”

After the game the two no doubt will shake hands and over the offseason, there is no doubt they’ll talk about how to make football better in the other town.

They’ll also share some war stories and memories from their days at Southern and likely laugh.

On Thursday, though, Petion will bleed red and Jenkins will bleed blue.

That’s just the way it should be.

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