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Dodge did it all on the football field

By By Dan Fappiano • 01/27/2022 12:04 PM EST • Last Updated 01/27/2022 10:18 PM

With his dad a college coach and two brothers playing the sport, Matt Dodge grew up with a football in his hands. After watching his brothers succeed with the North Haven football team, Matt followed in their footsteps and finished his journey earning All-SCC and All-State honors as a senior captain last fall.

When Matt was younger, his father Mike served as defensive coordinator for the Southern Connecticut State University football team. Matt and his brothers, Nick and Tom, would attend games and after the final whistle they would pick up a ball and run around the pitch until their mother Lisa told them it was time to go home .

Watching his brothers play and learning from his father, Matt gained a lot of valuable knowledge about football. Sport has always been a big deal in the Dodge family, to say the least.

Matt started organized football in the North Haven Youth League at the age of 6, after which he started playing tackle in the 4th grade. The more he played football, the more Matt realized that the sport helped him grow in many ways other than physically.

“Football teaches you a lot in terms of determination. You learn to overcome a lot of things,” says Matt. “I will definitely put the skills I learned in football into the real world.”

Matt played for the North Haven JV team as a rookie and was constantly competing with older athletes. In his sophomore season, Matt landed the starting cornerback position for the North Haven varsity team. Although he took a few scraps during his first campaign, Matt says that experience helped him adjust to life on the college gridiron.

“Competing with the older first year students made it a little easier for me to adapt. all i saw [was] these huge guys with beards,” Matt says. “I was just trying to do my best every time.”

After his junior season was canceled, Matt returned for his senior year and was determined to be a dominant cornerback. Matt thinks cornerback is the toughest position in football and he loves going up against the opposing team’s best receiver.

Before Matt’s senior season, head coach Anthony Sagnella told him that North Haven also needed him to play on offense. Matt ended up playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver, as well as cornerback, in his senior year. Matt found it difficult to learn the attacking side of the ball, but he was willing to do whatever it took to help his team succeed.

“It was really hard to learn a lot of things. As a freshman and sophomore, I played in the corner on defensive days and in the scout corner on offensive days,” says Matt. was a challenge that I had to overcome. Athletically, I was able to play the positions quite easily.

Matt had to do a lot more than just learn a playbook in order to adapt to attacking play. He had to completely change his diet and play through the cramping issues he developed while on the pitch. However, Matt’s teammates had become like family to him, and he had to compete motivated for them no matter what position he was in.

“I’ve been playing with most of these kids since 4th grade. They are not teammates. They’re part of the family at this point,” Matt says. “We use that word a lot in North Haven football. You don’t want to disappoint your family. So go ahead and do your best.

Coach Sagnella also worked with Matt’s brothers in the North Haven football program. Sagnella says the youngest Dodge sibling did everything he was asked and proved a unique talent for his team.

“Matt is a very special athlete. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do for our team last fall. He could run the ball, throw, catch, return kicks and punts, and play great corner defense,” says Sagnella. “He was the third Dodge to play for us. All were All-State captains and players. Their father was a college coach for 30 years. It’s a luxury to have a coaching son in the program. They really understand.

After deciding to play on both sides of the ball, Matt had a standout season for North Haven as a senior. Matt was named to the All-SCC Tier 1 team as a cornerback with fellow seniors Steve DiCristina and Jake Langner, in addition to earning All-State accolades alongside Langner.

Matt also served as senior captain with MJ DeVilliers for the 2021 campaign. Matt feels proud of what he has achieved, especially that he was able to fulfill the destiny his brothers left for him.

“There’s definitely been a shift from being a little freshman whose brother was a captain to being a captain,” Matt said. “It was pretty special after my two brothers were all-state captains and guys. I needed to fulfill my destiny, I guess you could say.

Through football, Matt connected with his family back home and started another family on the pitch. Whether it’s his blood brothers or his football brothers, Matt feels happy that it all happened in North Haven.

“Playing for North Haven is a little different from playing for anybody else. It’s really special to play for this program,” Matt says. “I really wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”

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