It’s No Surprise …

… that the Hounds are once again playing for the Naugatuck Valley League title with the success of their freshman program over the last three years

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The Naugatuck Greyhounds will be playing for their first Naugatuck Valley League championship on Thanksgiving Day since 2001 and the success can be directly attributed to building a strong foundation.

Over the past three seasons the Naugatuck freshman team has racked up a consistency level that is linked to this year’s championship run. In 2008, Jake Yourison, Mike Schebell, Nikko Cari, Dan Morton and Mike Giugno led the freshman Hounds to an 8-3 record under head coach Jeff Scanlon and assistant coach Bruce Kosa.

This year’s varsity team has reaped the benefits of another strong freshman team that went 7-2 in 2009. Sophomore place kicker Mick Pernell, with 26 extra points and a field goal, has given the senior Hounds a consistent extra point system on special teams that the Greyhounds have been missing over the past few seasons.

Sophomore running back Nick Kosa, who led last year’s freshman team in rushing and touchdowns, has been a welcome addition to an already steady stable of running backs.

“The object of a freshman football program is to teach the fundamentals of the game at the high school level,” Scanlon said. “The kids learn the plays used at the varsity level and buy into what the program is trying to teach. That makes it an easy transition when they move up to the varsity level.”

The 2010 freshman team has assured the Naugatuck varsity a bright future in the upcoming seasons. The young Hounds have put together another successful campaign at 7-1 prior to the pre-Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Ansonia Chargers’ freshmen.

In the last three years, Naugatuck has not only taught the next generation of Greyhounds the fundamentals of high school football, but it has taught them how to win, as the freshman team has racked up a 22-6 record over the past three seasons.

“Every day we talk football and life,” said Scanlon. “Together they have learned the valuable lessons that athletics teaches: Teamwork, commitment, dedication, hard work and respect. These are the characteristics that will help you develop into a well-rounded individual. They have grown to understand what it takes to succeed on and off the field in life and athletics. As coaches, that’s what we are here for.”

The only loss this year came at the hands of the Woodland freshman team by a 25-18 margin. Naugatuck had tied the game with under a minute to play but lost a heartbreaker on a kickoff return for a touchdown with 38 seconds left to play.

The young Greyhounds have developed a strong running game behind Sharief Grice and Nate Franklin. Both backs have put up multiple 100-yard games and have found the end zone consistently for the Hounds.

Leading the way up front is an effective offensive line that is winning the battle in the trenches. Kevin Mariano, Mark Cavagnuolo and Jordan Lombardi at center have teamed up with Christian Manouse and Mitchell Fallon to move the pile up front.

“Those two running backs are real gamers,” said Scanlon. “They are the heart and soul of this team. But their success is attributed to the strength and athleticism of the line up front. When you move the ball on the ground it opens up the passing game and you become a dangerous multi-dimensional team.”

Quarterback Dave Hills has great leadership qualities and commands respect in the huddle. Hills has had several big-game efforts that have carried the young Hounds to success.

Ryne Griesenauer is the go-to target making countless big plays all season. Wide receiver Kyle Plasky and tight end Ricky Plasky have both shown the mental toughness it takes to make a varsity impact.

“Ryne caught a game winning touchdown earlier in the season,” said Scanlon. “Dave Hills is an extremely gifted athlete and will do well at the varsity level. From what I’ve seen, this group is going to help Naugatuck stay on top. We have the skill players and a strong offensive and defensive line along with an effective special teams unit.”

Leading the way on defense are linebacker Tom Douty, defensive tackle James San Angelo and cornerback Zach Craft. Leading the special teams unit are Eyad Ahmad, Pete Daveluy, Mike Garbatini, Brandon Hornby and Stephen Hiney along with placekicker Zach Craft.

Also on the special teams unit are Julian Jimenez, Aaron Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Joe Moore and Shane Harrison along with Jesse Papp, Carlos Espinal and Matt Sagendorf.