BEACON FALLS — On his first carry of the evening last Friday night, Woodland’s Sean McAllen fumbled the ball into the waiting arms of the Greyhounds. The senior running back would make the most of his next 36 carries.
McAllen rushed for 462 yards — a school record and the fifth most in single-game state history — and six touchdowns as he carried the Hawks to a 50-24 victory over Naugatuck.
Many of McAllen’s yards came on the same power play that Naugy couldn’t handle for most of the night.
“I started off the game with a fumble, which is unacceptable,” McAllen said. “After that, our whole team was locked in. That was about it. If it’s working, we’re going to keep doing it.”
It was an emotional win for Woodland (6-2). Not only was it senior night, but the Hawks and Greyhounds (4-4) were playing for the right to take home the George Pinho Trophy, named after the late Naugatuck High grad and Woodland football coach who died in January 2013. Woodland now owns a 2-1 advantage in the Pinho series.
The Greyhounds needed just three plays to capitalize on McAllen’s opening fumble as junior running back Devon Biancarelli gave Naugy an early 6-0 lead.
Woodland responded with a three-play drive of its own capped by a 24-yard touchdown run by McAllen to take a 7-6 lead.
The teams continued to trade blows in a high-scoring first half.
The Greyhounds cut Woodland’s lead to 27-22 with just 37.4 seconds in the half when Mike Plasky found Jalen Datil for an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Woodland then put the ball into the hands of freshman quarterback Zach Bedryczuk, who responded by leading the Hawks on a two-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jon Scirpo with 2.9 seconds on the clock. The touchdown gave Woodland a 35-22 lead at the break.
The score was crucial because the Greyhounds were set to receive the ball after the half. An opportunity to score two times without Woodland scoring would have been huge. The clutch play by the Hawks gave them some breathing room, which as it turns out, they didn’t need.
The Hawks pulled away in the second half as the only points they allowed came on a safety in the third quarter, and Naugy had no answers for McAllen.
“We ran basically the same plays over and over again,” Woodland head coach Chris Anderson said. “I was taught a long time ago that if something is working keep doing it until they stop you.”
Naugatuck head coach Craig Bruno said, “It was a tough game. They are a good team. They were very successful but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before.”
McAllen played out of his mind on offense and defense. He accounted for 495 of Woodland’s 517 total yards and 42 of the team’s 50 points. He also led the Hawks in tackles with 11, an area that senior Coby Vaccarelli generally leads the team.
“He is certainly a special player as are a lot of these other kids,” Anderson said. “It’s because of the way he practices. He focuses, he knows the game plan inside and out. He’s able to think like a coach on the field, and because of that, he is able to make the plays that he does defensively, as well.
“Same could be said about Vaccarelli. Those kids don’t take practices off. They run sprints the hardest on the team so, they make themselves physically prepared; they study the game plan so, they are mentally prepared and their leadership is in action.”
Senior night could not have gone better for the Hawks. Five of the six top tacklers were seniors. McAllen, Scirpo, Vaccarelli, Guy Massimo and Steven Garofalo all had six or more tackles.
All of the touchdowns were scored by seniors; six for McAllen and one by Scirpo. Every player that caught a pass was a senior, Vaccarelli, Scirpo and McAllen. Plus the squad put the cap on an undefeated home record (4-0).
While the seniors were putting on a show for their last time on their home field, Bedryczuk is progressing nicely as the Hawks QB and starting to feel right at home behind center.
Bedryczuk doesn’t throw often, but he does make plays through the air when they are needed most. His first pass of the game came on a 10-yard fourth down conversion to Vaccarelli. His second and third were on that end-of-the-half scoring drive. Bedryczuk has a 94.8 QB rating so far this season and almost has a 2-1 touchdown interception ratio.
The win was the Hawks’ fifth straight and kept their playoff hopes alive.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt really good about who we’ve become considering where we were. I think that the kids have done an unbelievable job of believing despite maybe no evidence to believe in from earlier in the season,” Anderson said. “The kids have taken a very unselfish mentality, changing positions, being in one spot at the start of the game and then being asked to completely change their position in the second half; just the type of team that any coach would love to coach.”
Anderson also praised his assistant coaches, who he said did a remarkable job of breaking down Naugatuck.
“We felt going in that we had a good plan. Our coaches work extremely hard. I thought they called a good game and our kids played with a tremendous amount of emotion, they wanted the game bad and we felt like the kids weren’t going to take no for an answer,” Anderson said.
Antoine Sistrunk led the Greyhounds with 129 yards rushing on 21 carries. The Greyhounds will host Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech Friday at 6 p.m.
The Hawks will play Kennedy Friday at 7 p.m. at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.
The Republican-American contributed to this article.