BEACON FALLS — The learning curve on the gridiron can be a daunting task, especially for a young team. Woodland, which is sporting its youngest team since its first varsity campaign in 2002, is finding the hill a little steeper than expected under first year head coach Chris Moffo. But that hasn’t diminished the Hawks’ fire.
“We are young and that is a good thing because they are hungry and they come to practice every day wanting to work hard,” Moffo said. “But the bad thing is we have 14-year-olds going up against 18-year-olds, and that is what’s killing us.”
Woodland had trouble last Friday against Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech in a 67-28 loss. Hearts quarterback Trey Dawson picked the Hawks apart for 491 yards and five touchdown passes on 26 of 38 attempts.
The Hawks (0-3) showed flashes of brilliance, especially in the first half when they had an opportunity to take over the game. After both teams went up and down the field scoring touchdowns early, the Woodland defense held up and forced a Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech (2-1) punt.
Woodland freshman Zach Kabusk (13 carries, 167 yards) gave the fans something to cheer about when he burst 56 yards into the end zone. Woodland senior Isaac Negron (22 carries, 142 yards) ran in a two-point conversion to put the Hawks out in front 21-19.
Defensive backs Mike Farina and Edit Krivca batted away passes and the Hearts were forced to punt again with 5:03 left in the half.
Negron exploded on a 28-yard run to get the Hawks into Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech territory. Then came the young mistakes that can change a ball game. Two holding penalties killed the drive and Woodland was forced into its first punt of the night.
The Hearts took over with just 1:31 left on the clock. But that was more than enough time for the Hearts. Dawson found Tyler Gendron on a 61-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining in the half to take the lead and change the complexion of the game.
“If we go into the half with the lead it’s a whole different ball game,” Moffo said. “We had an opportunity then made two mistakes on holding penalties. Then we get beat on a deep ball and that changed the momentum right there.”
Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech made the adjustments at halftime and came out and smothered the Hawks running game to force a punt to start the second half.
Dawson hit Tyler Rudolph (11 catches, 210 yards) on a 56-yard scoring strike to extend the lead. Ferris Tiron made an interception and Joel Guzman ran one in from 7 yards out to open up a 40-21 lead for the Hearts.
Kabusk set up the Hawks with a 72-yard scamper and Woodland senior quarterback Quincy Koch scored on a 2-yard plunge to cut the deficit to 40-28 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Another long aerial strike from Dawson, this one to Courie Stevenson (4 catches, 115 yards) covering 48 yards, sealed the deal for the Hearts as they went on to tack another 20 points on the board in the fourth quarter.
“We need to grow up and we need to grow up in a hurry,” Moffo said. “We haven’t even got to the meat of our schedule yet. It would have been huge to go into the half with the lead.
“In years past if we score 28 points our defense was enough to make it in our favor. Right now we are not playing defense. We have not shown up on defense and that needs to change.”
Woodland will head to Naugatuck on Friday for the right to keep the George Pinho Memorial Trophy in the school’s trophy case for another year.