NAUGATUCK — For a team that has suffered at the hands of several momentum swings this season, the Greyhounds showed what they can do when the odds shift in their favor.
After a tick-for-tack first half Oct. 29 versus Watertown that saw the Greyhounds take a 16-14 lead into halftime, Naugatuck came out firing on all cylinders in the second half on the way to a 40-23 win on senior night.
Naugatuck (4-3) implemented a successful fake punt on their first drive of the second half to pick up a crucial first down. Unbeknownst to the masses, this would subsequently change the tone for the remainder game.
Naugatuck’s trick play may have created the needed momentum shift, but playmaker Etty Ilunga got the touchdown streak rolling. After the Greyhounds made it to Watertown’s 40, quarterback Mike Plasky hit Ilunga with a screen pass. The senior receiver outran several defenders in a 40-yard dash down the sideline and high stepped his way into the end zone to extend the Greyhounds’ lead to 22-14 early in the third.
The floodgates were opened, as Ilunga’s touchdown was the first of four unanswered scores in the second half for Naugatuck as they steamrolled Watertown (2-5) with a high-powered offense and relentless defense.
“It was a great win,” Ilunga said. “Everyone was working hard even the younger guys. I was surprised. They put on an extra effort for us seniors. They came up big.”
It came as little surprise that Naugatuck’s senior night game would feature a star-studded performance, courtesy of their senior running back.
With 24 carries for 238 rushing yards, Antoine Sistrunk put on a clinic scoring four of the Greyhounds six touchdowns. Throughout the evening, the senior half back ran forcefully against the Indians making them pay with sizable gains on the ground. His first score of the game served as a foreshadowing for the impending victory.
With the ball at Watertown’s 37, Sistrunk received a pitch on an option play and made his way to the sideline. It was there that he was tripped up, but rather than fall to the ground, Sistrunk made a quick juke move back towards mid field and outran several defenders as he sprinted to the end zone for six points to give Naugy an 8-7 lead in the first quarter.
“It’s my senior night. It’s [one of] my last regular season home games, and I wanted to get a win — a blowout actually,” Sistrunk said. “I kind of had more momentum than usual, but I wanted to have momentum so the team could have momentum so we could win the game.”
Along with the offensive routing, the ‘Hounds played another solid game defensively, halting Watertown’s offense for the majority of the second half. Naugatuck kept the Indians to 197 total rushing yards, and passing was next to impossible as players like Tyler Deitlebaum and Ilunga maintained strong coverage on the opposition.
“After the first drive [Watertown] came out and scored. I thought we responded well,” coach Craig Bruno said. “I think everyone wanted to do well for the seniors. That’s how it is for every team. These games are emotional, and you work with these guys every day for a four-year period and you feel strong about them. You always want to see them go out on a good night.”
The Greyhounds will hit the road this week for a rivalry matchup against the Woodland Hawks (5-2). This will be the third year that the two teams will compete for the Pinho Trophy, and both sides will be looking to take home the coveted prize.