NAUGATUCK — The first few minutes was really all anyone needed to see to know how this one would turn out. Naugatuck’s defense forced a three-and-out on Sacred Heart’s opening possession, and Jake Yourison sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown on the Greyhounds’ first offensive play from scrimmage as Naugy (3-3) ended emphatically a three-game losing streak with a 35-14 victory over the Hearts (2-4) Friday night.
“That’s a nice way to start a game, fellas,” head coach Rob Plasky told his players, as they relived the contest during a film session Monday.
Yourison was the surprise star of the evening. The sophomore fullback, forced into the lead rushing role by injuries to running backs Marty DeJesus (thigh contusion), Dashawn Wingate (thigh contusion) and Andrew Cirino (broken collarbone), stepped up in monumental fashion, carrying 29 times for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
His second TD came in the second quarter, after Dan Bergeron blocked a Hearts punt, giving Naugy possession at the visitors’ 11-yard line. The Hounds led, 14-6, at the half.
Two more Yourison touchdowns, on runs of 5 and 30 yards, in the third quarter made it 27-6. Then in the fourth, the burly back broke the 300-yard mark and hit paydirt one more time on a 21-yard run with 6:53 to play. Anthony McKernan turned a botched snap into a two-point conversion scamper inside the right pylon, giving the Garnet and Grey a 35-6 edge.
A garbage-time pass from Hearts’ quarterback Rohan Ifill to Denzel Washington ended the scoring.
Yourison’s previous career highs for carries and rushing yards were 16 and 98, registered in the previous week’s disheartening, 42-8 loss at Notre Dame-West Haven. He had scored two career TDs before Friday.
Had Yourison not put on one of the all-time great rushing performances in school history, the story of the game would have been this: All three players who suffered concussions against the Green Knights played Friday, and all three made big plays.
McKernan somehow turned that rolling snap into two points. Senior captain Dan Mariano sacked Ifill on fourth down with the Hearts driving, at the Naugy 22, in the fourth quarter. And senior defensive back Matt D’Agnone picked off an Ifill pass on the visitors’ next possession, when they were again in Hounds’ territory.
The Garnet and Grey, who had 16 players on their injury list earlier in the week, are still shorthanded, especially on defense. Monday afternoon, Plasky asked the team if anyone wanted to try playing safety. The first hand in the air was that of starting quarterback Erich Broadrick, who saw snaps in the secondary Friday.
The borough gridders may have to send another patchwork roster onto the field this Friday against Kennedy, but at least now they know they can win, even without an ideal lineup.