The beginning of the Dave Sollazzo era of the Naugatuck High football program was highly anticipated not only in the borough, but around the entire Naugatuck Valley League.
That era, briefly, couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.
Derby’s Jakwan Hale returned the opening kickoff of the season 85 yards for a touchdown, putting Naugatuck in a quick 6-0 hole.
The Greyhounds, though, rebounded and eventually owned the fourth quarter to post a 35-20 victory over the Red Raiders last Friday night at Shelton High.
“Obviously we didn’t start the game the way we wanted to, but we came right back and scored,” said Sollazzo, whose team took the lead on the ensuing drive when Mike Plasky hit Zack Koslosky for a 12-yard touchdown. “We had adversity, and we overcame adversity. That’s a good sign, especially in the first game. I told the players, ‘That’s the reason why we worked so hard during the offseason.’ It paid off.”
Nick Airall scored on a 23-yard run later in the half to give Naugatuck a 14-12 lead at the break. Derby reclaimed the lead early in the third, but the Greyhounds scored the last three touchdowns of the game — a 6-yard run by Plasky, a 28-yard pass from Plasky to Koslosky, and a 50-yard pick-six by Airall — to earn the victory.
Sollazzo sees plenty of room for improvement after Week 1, but he boiled it all down to a simple baseline.
“Not giving up big plays is probably the biggest thing,” Sollazzo said. “That’s going to be key for us. Defensively we gave up big plays, and we can’t do that. Offensively, we need more big plays.”
Plasky, the third-year starting quarterback, provided the guiding hand to settle down the Greyhounds and get them into the win column.
“Mike’s just a competitor,” Sollazzo said. “He’s a great kid, obviously smart, and he just comes to play every day. He takes coaching and does what he has to do. He did some really nice things Friday night. We had a fourth-and-long, completed a pass for a touchdown. He’s just a leader on the field and a coach on the field.”
Naugatuck will host Seymour on Friday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats have made the Class S semifinals in each of the last two seasons and boast one of the state’s top running backs in Bobby Melms, who scored four touchdowns in a 49-8 win over Torrington last week.
“They’re an excellent football team,” Sollazzo said. “Their players play hard and they have a great running back. They’re a very talented team.”
WOODLAND COMES BACK TO WIN
It took a half for Woodland to wake up, but a strong closing 24 minutes in the opener against Crosby helped the Hawks equal their win total from last year.
Woodland trailed after the first (16-7), second (24-14) and third (30-20) quarters, but an excellent effort in the fourth gave the Hawks a 34-30 victory last Friday at Jimmy Lee Stadium.
Junior running back Edit Krivca carried 27 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Zach Kabusk rushed 16 times for 158 yards and a score. Junior Mike Farina stepped into the starting quarterback role on short notice and managed the wing-T offense for them.
“Those kids are hard workers,” Woodland coach Chris Moffo said. “They’ve pushed themselves every day, Krivca especially. The offensive line executed well.”
The Hawks played well defensively after the break, allowing just one third-quarter touchdown to set the stage for the comeback.
“The kids stepped it up on defense, which we needed to do,” Moffo said. “Crosby punched us in the mouth in the first half, and we came out in the second ready to go.”
The Hawks will host Watertown, a 37-16 winner over Oxford last week, on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Moffo said his team will have to play a more complete game to gain another victory.
“We need to get better at tackling in the secondary,” Moffo said. “We did not do that very well on the perimeter against Crosby. That’s something we stressed this week. Watertown is a big, physical team.”