NAUGATUCK — As the masses swarmed the stands and surrounding areas, the Greyhounds took the field Thanksgiving morning to face Ansonia for the 116th time in the storied rivalry.
Naugatuck head coach Craig Bruno wasted no time in pulling out all the stops, turning to Naugatuck’s rendition of the wildcat — the wildhound — on the opening drive of the game.
With senior running back Antoine Sistrunk taking direct snaps, Naugatuck hit the ground running — literally. The Greyhounds, starting at their own 26, utilized their hard-nosed run game and new formation to attack the Chargers’ defense.
As the Greyhounds drove down the field in 14 plays and nine minutes, it seemed as if Naugatuck was going to snatch the first score of the day. But the drive stalled on a fourth-and-3 at the Ansonia 23.
“We were trying something different,” Bruno said. “When you have a little time off, you usually put another wrinkle in of some sort, and first quarter I think maybe it worked a little bit. We had a drive going, but we came up short.”
Two plays later, Tajik Bagley scored on a 67-yard run for the Chargers’ first of six unanswered touchdowns, as Ansonia ran through Naugatuck for a 41-8 win.
Tyler Deitelbaum, who picked up 67 yards on 13 carries, scored an 8-yard touchdown for Naugatuck (5-5) late in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout. Sistrunk led the way on the ground for the Greyhounds with 108 yards on 29 carries. Mike Plasky was 3-of-4 passing for 59 yards.
Bagley led Ansonia (11-0) with 10 carries for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Bailey, the game’s MVP, racked up 136 yards and a touchdown on five carries for the Chargers.
“We knew it was [going to be] a difficult game coming in,” Bruno said. “When you get in a situation like this you got to make a lot of plays. I thought [Ansonia] played well. They’re an excellent team. Our guys played hard but we came up short.”
As the final moments of Naugatuck’s Turkey Day game dwindled to a close so did the Greyhound’s 2015 season.
The fall had its fair share of obstacles to throw at the Garnett and Grey. As Naugatuck entered the season, it was clear that there would be some growing pains with the loss of quarterback Jason Bradley, along with a plethora of other players, to graduation.
Plasky, a sophomore, stepped up as the starting quarterback. The young quarterback had the aid of various veteran ‘Hounds on offense, particularly Sistrunk, who took on a huge leadership role this year.
Now it’s back to the drawing board for Bruno and the coaching staff as he prepares for a 2016 football season without playmakers like Sistrunk and Etty Illunga on offense, and defensive powerhouses like Logan Bond, Paul Cavagnuolo and Blayde Bragg.
The Greyhounds will still have an arsenal of players to build around. Plasky will be returning at the helm as a junior and will have rising seniors Jalen Datil, Tyler Waters, and Daniel Oladipo as targets through the air. The Greyhound run game will also have two key returners in Deitelbaum and Devan Biancarelli-Milano who will provide their smash-mouth rushing abilities as well as their defensive prowess.
Only time will tell what the Greyhounds will bring to the table next fall, but Bruno is optimistic that the Garnett and Grey will return to the gridiron in better form and ready to play.