Stratton honored with NEFL Hall of Fame induction

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BENNINGTON — The founder of Bennington's semi-pro football team was recently elected into the league's hall of fame.

Tighe Stratton, who started the Southern Vermont Storm in 2006, was honored as an executive during the New England Football League's 14th annual end-of-season event.

Stratton, a 1996 grad of Mount Anthony, owned the team from 2006-14 before stepping away for personal reasons.

"I was surprised and didn't expect it," Stratton said. "I wondered how it all came about and then I found out that I was nominated by Pat [Seaver, the current owner] and Chris [Cipperley, the general manager]. I guess they said it was a unanimous vote."

Cipperley said he and Seaver talked about the nomination during the season.

"If not for [Tighe's] work early on, we wouldn't have had the team," Cipperley said. "I was excited to hear when he got it, it was well deserved."

Stratton started the team in late 2005 to have an outlet for guys, including himself, to continue playing football after high school or college.

"I wanted to play and thought I could play again," Stratton said. "I played men's league softball, but I was done with that. I played a lot of backyard football on the weekends. So with some blind faith, we got a team together."

Stratton was quick to mention others that helped him start the programs, including Mike Thorpe, who was an executive as well.

"Without Mike in that first year, the Storm wouldn't have happened," Stratton said. "Mike was a huge part of getting the Storm off the ground."

In the first year, the Storm were in the Northeast Independent Football League before moving the next season to the NEFL as the league expanded into three divisions. The Storm played in the A Division (the smallest), but have moved between A and AA over the years.

"As far as his legacy, the Storm is one of the longest-tenured teams in the NEFL, he's laid the solid foundation," Cipperley said. "Getting the [annual] game at Spinelli Field was a big thing. We owe him an awful lot."

He played and owned the team through 2010, was only the president of the team in 2011 and played again in 2012 while also coaching. In 2013, he coached and remained owner through the 2014 season.

"I wish I could have played more, but trying to run the team and play was really tough," Stratton said.

Stratton becomes the second member of the Storm to be inducted into the New England Football League — in 2011, Ed Bushee was inducted posthumously.

"I'm extremely happy to be recognized for all of the hard work," Stratton said.

Since 2005, the Storm are 65-42 overall, and had winning seasons eight times.

Over the years, Stratton has been recognized by the NEFL.

Stratton was named executive of the year in the Maritime Division in 2008 when the Storm were chosen as the NEFL organization of the year.

He led the team through tragedy. In 2009, Ed Bushee died during a practice. Two years later, Jesse Roy died in a motorcycle crash. Through that adversity, he kept the team and the program alive.`

"He had a steady hand, I'll never forget how well he handled those things," said Cipperley, who joined the team in its first season. "It was really professional. He has a ton of resolve, that comes down to his fighter mentality. His ability to rally the troops, so to speak, is valued."

"We always did a lot of recruiting on foot in the beginning," Stratton said. "When I would make deliveries [for my job], I would stop in gyms or bars, anywhere with guys in their 20s who wanted to play football. I knew a lot of guys, but having social media now helps a lot."

Seaver took over as the owner of the team for the 2015 season and the Storm went 4-5 before folding for the 2016 season.

A reborn Storm came back this summer and won its first championship after a 10-1 season.

"I was in Jamaica on vacation with my wife and I watched the [championship] game on my phone at a bar," Stratton said. "I was so excited to see them win the championship, I knew how hard it was to keep going and they did a great job bringing it back. The team this year was like a first-year team in the excitement it brought to Bennington."

Stratton has stayed close to the team, despite not being involved in any official capacity.

"The future is bright for the Storm, I'm excited to see what happens," Stratton said.


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