MERIDEN — Platt and Maloney are honoring a pair of greats prior to the Stoddard Bowl on Thanksgiving.
The two honorees are 20 years apart and equally deserving. Bo Ryan, a 1988 Platt grad, is the Panthers honoree, and 2008 Maloney grad Johrone Bunch is the Spartan honoree.
Ryan, the son of former Platt football coach Tom Ryan, was a two-sport athlete in football and wrestling.
“This feels amazing,” Bo Ryan said. “I’m a Meriden guy and I love football. I love Platt, and Platt football. I’ve taken so much from football. The program has helped me so much. There’s no way I could have accomplished all of the things I have without Platt football.”
“This is an unbelievable honor to be recognized by the city I love,” he added.
Ryan played for four years under his dad and was the first quarterback in Meriden football history to lead his team to an 11-0 season and a state final appearance. He’s one of only two Platt quarterbacks to defeat Maloney in two consecutive years.
No one could question his toughness. He played his last game with a broken knee cap.
Ryan went on to prep school at Cushing Academy and started before his freshman season was cut short by a fractured pelvis.
Ryan finished No. 1 in his class at Cushing and went on to play college football at both Southern Connecticut and Western Connecticut.
Ryan has worked in education since 1994. He is currently the principal of the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Middle Magnet School in Bloomfield.
He has led two different schools to National Model PLC at Work certification and his current school to National HRS certification.
Over the years, he’s served as a teacher, coach, director, adjunct professor and principal.
He started his career in education as a graduate assistant football coach for Syracuse University, coaching in two Bowl games. He spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Platt and was aboard for the program’s second state finals appearance.
Ryan was a Hartford Teacher and Educator of the Year when he was at John C. Clark Elementary Schooly. During his time there, Ryan created various before- and after-school programs for hundreds of students a year. In the summers, he directed a camp called the National Youth Sports Program, which served over 400 children in the city, and received national recognition.
Ryan is also an author. He has written “Brilliance in the Building” to help support educators in urban communities. His passion for writing this book arose from his experiences growing up in an urban neighborhood and teaching in urban neighborhoods. Ryan is also a national presenter and educational consultant.
Ryan said he’s dedicated the recognition to his father.
“Everyone knows Coach Ryan as a coach,” Bo said. “I know him as an amazing leader, father, grandfather and husband. I was forever amazed to see how my dad loved and cared for his wife during her time in hospice care at the home.
“He took care of her by himself. He was a hero right up until the day my mom passed. He made sure she was taken care of and everything he did was based on helping her.”
Bo Ryan and his wife Kesha have two daughters, Deazia and Kaylee, a son Jaylen and a grandson Kaylon. Kesha Ryan is also a principal in Hartford. The family lives in Manchester.
Ryan said he still follows Platt and Maloney and attended the Maloney-Greenwich epic earlier this season. He has fond memories of playing for his dad on Thanksgiving.
“Great memories,” Ryan said. “My dad was the long-time coach and I have memories going way back when the program had no weight room or anything and he created the program. His goal was to get kids in college. My years, I had so many memories. I remember the people.”
Coach Ryan is expected to be at Falcon Field for the ceremony.
“My dad will be making his first Stoddard Bowl appearance since he retired from coaching,” said Bo. “He’s coming and it’s pretty awesome. Most of the guys coaching on the field (for Platt and Maloney) learned from him or knew of him. It’s going to be amazing to see.”
On the Maloney side, Bunch was a three-sport star for the Spartans in football, basketball and track and field. He started all four years in football and basketball and was All-CCC and All-State in both sports.
In 2006, Bunch had 1,126 yards rushing. He still holds the Maloney football record for longest run from scrimmage with a 99-yarder against Conard on Oct. 7, 2006.
Bunch was the 2007 Stoddard Bowl MVP as a senior after he rushed for 248 yards on 32 carries in a Maloney victory. Bunch ended his career with 2,447 yards rushing and 42 touchdowns. He was also named Connecticut’s MVP of the Governor's Cup All-Star game against Rhode Island.
On the hardwood, Bunch was a member of the 2008 Maloney team that won the Class L state championship at Gampel Pavilion. Bunch is still the second-leading scorer in school history with 1,285 points.
After high school, Bunch played football and basketball at Mount Ida College. As a freshman in 2008, Bunch was named the ECFC Offensive Player of the Year when he rushed for 1,506 yards.
In 2009, after ranking fourth nationally in rushing yards in Division III, Bunch was honored with the prestigious Boston Globe Gold Helmet Award.
In 2011, he broke his own school record with 1,582 yards and was once again named the ECFC Offensive Player of the Year.
He was twice named to the New England Sports Writers Division II/III All-Star team and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd.
Bunch finished his Mt Ida career breaking 14 school records. He set conference records in rushing touchdowns and total yards.
Bunch lives in Meriden and works in Meriden Superior Court as a judicial marshal.
He’s still involved in sports, coaching youth football and travel basketball for 6th and 7th graders.
He and his wife Haley have a son on the way. Bunch’s 16 year-old daughter, Kiara, is a junior forward on the Goodwin Tech soccer team.
“I’m grateful to be honored,” Bunch said. “Out of the great players in Meriden, I’m happy to be chosen. It’s very special. It’s something I’m looking forward to.
“I worked my tail off when I was at Maloney,” Bunch continued. “I was a three-sport athlete and I did everything I could. I never complained and I was a coachable player. My coach guided me and paved a way for me to understand things as I am going through life. When I’m working in the courthouse I like helping people out and telling them that there are always people out there to help them when they are going through hard times.”
Bunch said he takes pride in seeing Maloney football flourish. He will be staying at Falcon Field for the first half before heading home to get ready to host Thanksgiving dinner.
“Thinking back on playing on Thanksgiving, it was very exciting,” Bunch said. “It wasn’t only about bragging rights, it was about performing in front of the community and playing with your friends. It was about doing your best in the game and having Thanksgiving dinner.”