NAUGATUCK — One by one the Naugatuck football players went up to the Greyhound statue at the entrance of Veterans Field and placed their hand on the hound prior to the start of the annual Thanksgiving Day game with Ansonia.
The largest crowd at Naugatuck High in quite some time packed the hillside to the left of the grandstand, reveling in the atmosphere.
It was the toughest challenge the Greyhounds faced this season, and the same can be said for Ansonia, as both teams came into the game undefeated. The Chargers left Naugatuck with their perfect record intact and a 46-28 win.
“It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but we played with pride, and I’m proud of these kids,” first-year Naugatuck head coach Dave Sollazzo said. “We kept coming back and that says a lot about the character and the heart of this team. That’s a credit to the kids, the coaches and the leadership from our seniors.”
Markell Dobbs led Ansonia (11-0) with 404 rushing yards, six touchdowns and four two-point conversions.
Dobbs got things started with a 14-yard touchdown run just two and half minutes into the game. After he ran in the two-point conversion, Ansonia led 8-0.
On the Chargers’ next series, the Naugy (9-2) defense stiffened, pinned Ansonia deep and forced a punt.
Jayden Anderson recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, and after Zack Koslosky split the uprights on the extra point, Naugy trailed 8-7 with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
The fans on the hillside were whooping it up, and the buzz was back in the annual Thanksgiving Day game between the long-time rivals.
“I thought we had a tremendous crowd,” Sollazzo said. “The largest one in quite a few years, I was told. That is what we set out to do at the start of the season, to focus on bringing back the tradition to Naugatuck football. The kids responded, the coaches responded and the community responded.”
The Chargers, however, stayed one step ahead of the Greyhounds the rest of the way. Dobbs scored two more times, the latter coming after Naugatuck muffed a punt, to give Ansonia a 24-7 lead with 4:40 left in the first half.
Naugy was down but certainly not out.
Doreon Chapman, who led Naugy with 103 yards rushing, scored seconds later on a 69-yard run to cut the lead to 24-14 with 4:21 left in the half.
Dobbs’ fourth touchdown on the day gave Ansonia a 32-14 lead with two minutes to go in the half. The score might have taken the life out of most teams, but the ‘Hounds proved this year that they are not most teams.
With just 11 seconds left in the first half, Mike Plasky, who was 12-for-25 passing for 148 yards, completed a fourth-down pass to Isaiah Williams for a 26-yard touchdown. The senior quarterback then snuck it in for the two-point conversion to give the Naugatuck faithful something to boast about at halftime as Naugy cut the lead to 32-22 and was very much in the game.
Dobbs extended the lead to 40-22 on Ansonia’s first possession of the third quarter with a 71-yard touchdown run, but Naugatuck hung around.
After the Greyhounds recovered an Ansonia fumble, Chapman scored his second touchdown of the day from 23 yards out to cut the lead to 40-28 with 9:43 left.
Still trailing by 12 with a little more than 5 minutes to play, the ‘Hounds had a fourth-and-11 from the Ansonia 35-yard line, but back-to-back false start penalties made it fourth-and-21 and forced a punt.
On the next play, Dobbs took it 80 yards for a touchdown to seal the 46-28 win.
The loss dropped Naugatuck from No. 1 in the Class LL rankings to No. 5. The Greyhounds fell to No. 4 South Windsor, 35-13, in the quarterfinals to end a successful season with back-to-back losses.