Pinho Trophy on the line

Naugatuck players hold up the George Pinho Memorial Trophy in celebration last year after the Greyhounds beat Woodland. The two squads will face off Friday night for the right to take home the trophy. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck players hold up the George Pinho Memorial Trophy in celebration last year after the Greyhounds beat Woodland. The two squads will face off Friday night for the right to take home the trophy. –FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck versus Woodland has become a premiere rivalry on the gridiron in the Naugatuck Valley, and the last couple of years have created a whole new buzz around the classic matchup.

The Hawks and ‘Hounds will meet again in Beacon Falls Friday at 6:30 p.m. The game will mark the third time the neighboring schools will battle for the right to take home the George Pinho Memorial Trophy.

The trophy is named in honor of former Naugatuck native and Woodland coach George Pinho, who passed away unexpectedly in 2013.

The name George Pinho has held a plethora of different meanings in many hearts, including coach, mentor, and loving father. Now, that name serves as an accolade the two schools play for on the gridiron in remembrance of Pinho’s legacy.

As if there wasn’t enough hype around the inevitable meeting, Friday’s game will also serve as a tiebreaker between the two squads. Woodland won the Pinho Trophy in 2013 with a 25-22 victory over Naugatuck. The Greyhounds got the best of the Hawks last year, 58-35, to bring the trophy to the borough.

“It’s a big game for us … We’re looking forward [to it] because we know they are a talented team,” Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno said. “The game is important itself, so we are going to try and focus on the game and just keep the kids excited about playing. It means a lot always to play in any type of rivalry game.”

Coming off of a 40-23 victory over Watertown, Naugatuck will be entering Woodland’s territory with their arsenal of ‘Hounds. Senior Antoine Sistrunk and junior Tyler Deitlebaum will surely pose a threat on the ground for the Hawks while receivers Etty Ilunga and Jalen Datil along with quarterback Mike Plasky will provide Bruno with a dynamic duo of weapons to attack through the air.

Woodland will be no slouch, either. With coach Chris Anderson back at the helm after an eight-year hiatus from the Hawks, Friday’s game is bound to be electrifying. Anderson served as head coach for the Beacon Falls program from its inception in 2001 until 2007. In that time frame he led Woodland to back-to-back NVL and Class SS state championships in 2004 and 2005 and a SS semifinal berth in 2007 before his journey with the Hawks ended.

Now back and about to coach his first game for the Pinho Trophy, Anderson is looking to bring the trophy, which holds sentimental value to his older players, home to Beacon Falls.

“I want it for my senior class. George Pinho was the freshman coach for them when they were freshman,” Anderson said. “Every team I coach I tell them that it’s a journey, and we’re just trying to enjoy the journey. … We understand that it’s going to be a big game coming up, but we treat every game like it’s a big game.”

The Hawks are entering Friday’s matchup with a fresh win under their belts, as well, after dominating Wilby, 39-6.

Woodland’s run-heavy offense, led by senior Sean McAllen, will provide a challenge for the ‘Hounds’ defense. An array of different running options, including Ben Nuss and Isaac Negron, provide Anderson and his Hawks with ample opportunity to take the Pinho Trophy from Naugatuck.

The trophy is on the line and Hawks and Hounds 2015 is almost here. Only time will tell on what side of the border the Pinho Trophy will reside.