Ansonia charges past Hawks for NVL title

Woodland's Rahmi Rountree (5) and Brian Zaccagnini (33) celebrate after Zaccagnini's touchdown in the first half of the NVL championship game with Ansonia Nov. 15 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Ansonia won the title with a 56-26 victory. –RA ARCHIVE


WATERBURY — Woodland football coach Tim Shea was straight-forward about the straight-forwardness of Ansonia’s offense in last Thursday’s Naugatuck Valley League championship.

“They come right at you,” Shea said. “They make no secrets of what they’re going to do. They ran old-fashioned power: Kick out the fullback, pull the guard, [Arkeel] Newsome gets to the edge and makes a cut.”

That’s pretty much what happened most of the way in the Chargers’ 56-26 victory over the Hawks.

Newsome, after a relatively quiet — by his standards — first nine weeks of the season, was fantastic against Woodland (6-3). He had 247 total yards and four touchdowns as Ansonia (10-0) extended its state-best winning streak to 24, entering its Thanksgiving game against Naugatuck.

“It’s good to be back,” Newsome said.

Ansonia warmed up in the first quarter before unleashing Newsome, the game’s MVP, in the second. With a 21-7 lead, he dashed around the left end and broke two tackles en route to the end zone for a 28-7 lead early in the second.

The most impressive play of the night — and perhaps Newsome’s already historic career — came on the Chargers’ next drive. On the first play after Woodland cut the lead back to two possessions, Newsome took off to the left from the Ansonia 47-yard line.

He broke two tackles within the first five yards, then made a series of cuts through defenders to the middle of the field. Newsome weaved his way to the right and made another pair of defenders miss near the 10-yard line before coasting into the end zone.

“Tonight he was 100 percent and he was really running at a different level than we’ve ever seen him,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “There aren’t a lot of kids in America who can make the runs he made tonight. It was special.”

Newsome also caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Jai’Quan McKnight in the first quarter and a 15-yard scoring run on the Chargers’ first drive after halftime to make it 49-14.

“He had a night,” Shea said. “He was fast. He looks good on turf. He’s a very good player and that doesn’t take away from any of the other guys. Ansonia poses a lot of matchup problems. You can try to take away the run or take away the pass. You have to pick your poison.”

When the Hawks slowed Newsome, McKnight popped a big pass that ended in an Ansonia score more often than not. Of McKnight’s six completions, half went for touchdowns.

He hit Andrew Matos on a 37-yard touchdown down the left side for the game’s first score, then found Newsome on a 25-yard play-action pass over the middle to make it a 14-0 game. McKnight bombed a 49-yard touchdown pass in stride to Raeshaun Finney in the third quarter on the Chargers’ last play with their first-string offense.

Woodland’s offense did much more than it did in the first meeting back in Week 2, although Tanner Kingsley made one mistake when a screen pass was picked off by Hezekiah Duncan and returned for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 21-0. It was the Chargers’ sixth pick-six of the season.

“They do a real good job on their screen game,” Brockett said. “They’ve been hurting teams consistently with their screen and shovel game, so we spent a lot of time on it.”

The Hawks scored their two varsity touchdowns on the next two drives, thanks in large part to big plays. A 41-yard run by Rahmi Rountree and a 21-yard catch by Anthony Scirpo set up Kingsley’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Zaccagnini to make it a 21-7 game.

On Woodland’s next drive, Kingsley hooked up with Scirpo on a 77-yard fly to cut the deficit to 28-14.

“As funny as it sounds, we went into it with a similar game plan (as the teams’ first meeting),” Shea said. “We protected a little better and we caught the ball on those long plays. Hopefully we can build on that.”

Jason Rodrigues rushed for a pair of short touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Ansonia’s second-string defense.

Woodland hosts Seymour on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a game the Hawks must win to make the Class S postseason. A win over the Wildcats, plus a few minor bits of help, will put Woodland in the field for the fifth time in nine years.

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