NAUGATUCK — Any time two teams meet on the field of athletic competition sporting undefeated records, the contest can only be viewed as a classic battle in the making. Tuesday’s Naugatuck-Woodland boys’ track meet was a bid for bragging rights, but it did little to dispel the notion that this was a preview of coming attractions.
The weather certainly didn’t help any of the athletes come out and break records, as the raw, windy day was more fit for a late-fall football game. But the battle lines were drawn some time ago, when Woodland defeated Naugatuck at the Naugatuck Valley League indoor championships, setting the stage for this rematch.
“There certainly was a motivation factor with Woodland edging us out at indoors,” Naugatuck head coach Ralph Roper said. “Woodland is a very strong team, and we had to put it all out there today. But we are a very good team as well, and we will see who the best team is at the NVL championships.”
Naugatuck came back to overtake Woodland by an 84-66 margin Tuesday in a tri-meet that also included Crosby. The Greyhounds upended the Bulldogs, 123-26, to remain unbeaten, at 8-0, and the Hawks got by Crosby, 108-41, bringing their season record to 7-1.
The Hawks-Hounds showdown may have foreshadowed the season-ending NVL championship meet, which will be held at Woodland. Naugatuck had to serve notice, and it delivered the message by taking first place in 10 events; Woodland captured first in seven.
“Naugatuck came out today and got us fair and square,” Woodland boys’ head coach Tim Shea said. “We were down one of our guys, who was out with surgery, but that’s no excuse. They came out ready and got done what they needed to get done.”
The Hounds came out and ran to victory with the four-by-800 meter relay team of Nick Moriello, Ralph Liquori, Tom Mashia and Maud Hrezi racing to victory, in a time of 9 minutes, 2.17 seconds.
Woodland got even, winning the four-by-100 relay, as the foursome of Chris Williams, Dan Park, Chris Savvidou and Brandon Fowler churned across the finish line in 44.19.
Then it was Fowler, the reigning Class M outdoor 300-meter hurdles champion, who put the Hawks out in front, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 17.2 and taking the 300 hurdles in 41.63.
Jamaal Gee kept the Hounds close, taking first place in the 100-meter dash, in 11.55.
Crosby showed some speed, as Dartayen Byrd raced to victory in the 200-meter dash, in 23.78.
The Hawks were out in front of Naugatuck by a slim, 30-29 margin, while both teams held a large edge over the Bulldogs.
“This was like the Thriller in Manila,” Roper said, referencing the legendary, 1975 boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. “Except for the weather. And I would expect that the NVL championship will be the Thriller Part Two: The NVL Version between these two teams.”
The Hawks maintained the lead when Savvidou bested the field in the 400 meters, in a time of 52.43, only to have Naugatuck come right back when Mashia raced to a first-place finish in the 800, in 2:08.34.
Like two heavyweights slugging it out, the teams took their shots, only to have the other swing right back. That’s how the 3,200 was decided, after the Hawks’ Kyle Cranney broke out ahead of the field.
With two laps to go, the Greyhounds’ Hrezi managed to get by Cranney, as they raced for the finish line. Hrezi came across first by less than a half second but was disqualified for making contact with the Hawks runner and forcing him wide. Cranney ended up with first place, in a time of 10:23.80.
The Hawks won the four-by-400 relay, with Savvidou, John Plaskon, Jake Pinho and Fowler racing to victory, in a time of 3:40.95. That’s when things started to slip away from Woodland.
Amanze Williams gave the Hounds the edge they were looking for, as he captured three first place finishes to put Naugatuck in the lead. First was the long jump, at 20 feet, 5 inches; next came the high jump, at 5-6; and Williams finished off the trifecta by taking the triple jump, at 42-4.
The Hounds were in front to stay, 45-36, and Donato Piroscafo increased the advantage, winning the javelin, at 162-2. Tyler Slapikas won the shot put for the Hawks, with a distance of 40-11, but the Hounds came back to close out the win.
Dan Bronko won the discus, at 110 feet, for the Hounds, and Peter Rodriguez won the pole vault, with a 10-foot effort.
“This will certainly light a fire under both teams,” Shea concluded. “We should have a little momentum, having the NVLs at our place.”