WATERBURY — The Woodland Hawks’ defense has been on point this season. The starting squad has held opponents to seven points or fewer in all but one of Woodland’s victories.
Last Friday was no different, as the Hawks grounded the Kennedy Eagles, 48-13.
Turnovers were the name of this game as Woodland (7-2) forced six: three interceptions and three fumbles.
“Our defense played great and has been playing great over the last five, six weeks. We have tackled much better the second half of the season. Our game plans have been simple. We are just letting the kids line up and play football,” head coach Chris Anderson said.
Woodland and Kennedy (3-6) started out by trading scores for a 7-7 tie. After Coby Vaccarelli put the Hawks up 14-7 on a 16-yard touchdown run, Anderson dipped into his bag of tricks.
On the ensuing kickoff Anderson called for a risky onside kick. The Hawks recovered, went deep on the very next play and completed their only pass of the night — a 50 yard score from freshman quarterback Zach Bedryczuk to senior wide receiver Jon Scirpo.
Down two scores, the Eagles had to make something happen. But on the very next drive Vaccarelli forced a fumble and senior Guy Massimo returned it 25 yards for the touchdown and a 28-7 lead.
“They (Kennedy) deflated a little bit after that. We thought it was important to get out on them fast because if you let those teams hang around they start to believe they can win and just kids playing football, they have good players over there you know,” Anderson said.
The Hawks didn’t let Kennedy hang around and went into halftime with a commanding 42-7 lead. Most of the starters rested the second half, allowing some of the younger players to gain valuable game experience.
“We came out and were able to move the ball. I thought our second and third teamers were doing a real nice job (in the second half),” Anderson said.
Woodland didn’t put on the usual Sean McAllen show that fans have come to expect week in and week out. The team showed their versatility and depth as six different players scored.
“A lot of kids touched the ball [versus Kennedy] and that was the goal coming into the game. We didn’t want to have Sean carrying the ball 50 times in this game,” Anderson said.
McAllen ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Nuss got the lion’s share of the carries and made the most of them gaining 131 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. Vaccarelli and fellow senior David Bobbie also contributed rushing touchdowns for the Hawks. Bobbie also collected one of the three fumbles in the game.
“We felt it was important to get Dave Bobbie a score because he has been an unsung hero for us,” said Anderson about the senior who made the switch to offensive line during the season to help the team.
Nuss also went 6-for-6 on extra points.
“We want to be an extra point team,” Anderson said.
Anderson acknowledged the all players struggle with consistency at the extra point kick, but is more than confident that Nuss can get the job done.
Woodland has a tough game against Thanksgiving rival Seymour coming up next week, but the Hawks stayed concentrated on beating the Eagles. Anderson credits his assistants for keeping the players focused.
“We certainly were worried coming into this game because it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking this game doesn’t mean anything. Coming off an emotional senior night win, collecting a trophy, and the kids thinking they are the champions of something. It’s easy to look ahead at Seymour, it is only human nature. But when you look at Kennedy; they did a great job against Holy Cross. They run hard, and they want to win, too,” Anderson said.
The Hawks have this week off from completion, but not from preparation as they look forward to the Thanksgiving eve match-up with the Wildcats Nov. 25 in Seymour at 6 p.m.