NEW BRITAIN — Almost as soon as the Class S state football championship game had begun, it was all over.
Ansonia snagged two takeaways on Woodland’s first two offensive plays and converted both into touchdowns as the Chargers claimed the Class S title with a 51-12 victory over the Hawks on a frigid night last Friday at Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field.
Ansonia (15-0) became the first team in Connecticut history to play and win 15 games. The Chargers also won their record 19th state championship — including their third straight — and extended their winning streak to 43 games.
Woodland (12-3) dug itself a hole right off the bat as Tanner Kingsley’s first pass wobbled into the arms of Tyler Bailey for an interception. Arkeel Newsome cashed in on the turnover with a 6-yard touchdown run to make it a 7-0 lead less than 3 minutes into the game.
“Obviously that was big for them,” Woodland senior linebacker Levi Fancher said. “They got the momentum in their hands.”
On the Hawks’ first play of their next drive, Bailey crashed in on Jack Pinho to force a fumble after Pinho caught a short pass. Witold Gul scurried down from his safety spot and completed the scoop-and-score with a 27-yard runback for a 14-0 lead.
“We were ready for a dogfight, and that was just another shot of adrenaline,” Ansonia senior lineman Antone Mack said. “We knew if we could get some more turnovers or just manage the game like we usually do, it would be a blowout.”
Woodland clawed its way back into the game with a pair of defensive stops and a solid drive to open the second quarter. Tanner Kingsley hit Joe Poeta with a 37-yard strike to get the Hawks into the red zone, and Kingsley popped a 14-yard run on the next play to make it a 14-6 game with 10:26 left in the second.
“Our kids played hard,” Woodland head coach Tim Shea said. “There was no quit and there was a lot of fight in them.”
That was as close as Woodland got, though, as Newsome added touchdown runs of 2 and 8 yards later in the quarter to make it a 28-6 lead. Between those scores came Bailey’s second interception of Kingsley, this one in the end zone, to end the Hawks’ momentum.
“You can’t spot them like we did and play from behind,” Shea said. “Then they dictate how you play them. Tanner forced a few balls into the red zone, they picked one and they force your hand. They score in bunches, but they can also drive down the field and be physical.”
Newsome concluded his record-setting career with 259 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries. He also threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tom Majchrzak in the fourth quarter. Newsome sits atop record charts for all-time rushing yards (10,672) and touchdowns (187).
Ansonia took a 28-6 lead into the half before pulling away after halftime. Kingsley finished a record-setting career of his own with 140 yards on 11-of-21 passing with two interceptions. He also ran for 50 yards and two scores, and he finished his career as the state’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (113) and among the top three in numerous other categories.
The loss ended a fabulous two-year run of this senior class, which included Woodland’s first trip to the state semifinals since 2007 and the first visit to the state finals since 2005. The Hawks also won two straight Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division titles despite not being expected to do so this year.
“Every week we were doubted,” Fancher said. “Nobody thought we’d be here — nobody. We proved everybody wrong. That’s something.”