Hawks romp Hearts on Senior Night

BEACON FALLS — Brandon Fowler has been an integral part of the Woodland football program for the last few years. He’s scored touchdowns—11 in three years, including two in the Hawks’ 41-18 win over Sacred Heart. He’s starred on defense—12 picks in two years, counting his pair in the fourth quarter Friday. And he’s been a rock-steady kicker—he made 56 PATs as a sophomore and was working on a streak of 55 in a row …

… Until the fourth quarter Friday night. Fowler shanked the final extra point attempt of his home career, after he pounded in Woodland’s final touchdown from 10 yards out early in the ultimate stanza to end the third-longest streak in state history. But it was all laughs afterward.

“We joked about it after because it really hasn’t happened in a long time,” Fowler said. “It was just a miss on my part. I knew I was going to miss when I hit it because I hit the ball in a weird spot.”

It was about the only thing all night that went wrong for the Hawks, who stymied an explosive Sacred Heart offense and received contributions from nearly every player on the field en route to a blowout victory on senior night.

Blunders by the pair of offensive juggernauts highlighted the opening of the first quarter, as Woodland lost a fumble on a handoff before junior Chris D’Occhio stuffed a fake punt attempt on the next possession. D’Occhio then took a 28-yard run into Hearts territory before Fowler capped the drive with an 18-yard score to make it 7-0.

Two other Hawks found the end zone in the second frame. Senior Tyler Slapikas, who led the squad with 171 rushing yards on 12 attempts, scurried in early in the second from 18 yards out, followed at the end of the period by a 39-yard gallop by the Naugatuck Valley League’s rushing king, junior Jack DeBiase.

“It was important to have all of us running well,” Fowler said. “The defense never knows who’s going to get the ball, and we can all do different things. When you have four running backs, they can’t focus on one thing, and that helps the offense.”

The only real offense Sacred Heart mounted in the game was in the form of big plays—and the Hearts struck twice in the second to keep the game tight. Rohan Ifill hooked up with Denzel Washington on an 82-yard touchdown bomb before finding Dave Coggins for a 37-yard trip to the end zone to hold Woodland to a 21-12 lead at the half.

“We figured that since they’re really good on offense, if we controlled the game on offense, that would be our best defense,” Woodland head coach Tim Shea said. “Except for the few big plays we gave up because of missed tackles, we knew we would be ahead if we executed our game plan on offense.”

The Hawks cemented their lead in the third, thanks to scoring runs of 25 yards by D’Occhio and 38 yards by Slapikas. Ifill’s 65-yard touchdown dash midway through the period was the final bit of scoring Sacred Heart mustered, allowing Woodland the opportunity to coast in the final frame.

And coast it did, as senior night became the Brandon Fowler Show. Not only did Fowler punch in the final home touchdown of his career, but also he picked off Ifill twice as the Hearts attempted to drive for scores. The efforts of Fowler and his fellow seniors didn’t go unnoticed by Shea.

“We’ve been talking all week about how this class had a chance to prove that last year was a fluke, and this year was the real deal,” he said. “All the experience they gained last year has paid off this year. Hopefully we can send the kids out with a bang on Thanksgiving.”