The third time was the charm for the Naugatuck U12 Hounds.
The Hounds defeated the Detroit Hurricanes, 28-27, in overtime to win the Division 3 Pop Warner national championship Saturday at General Foley Stadium in Worchester, Mass.
The Hounds finished the regular season undefeated the last three years. They lost the state championship in 2015 and fell in the national championship game last season in Indiana. They compiled a 33-2 record over the last three years.
“We lost the national championship last year fumbling the ball five times,” head coach Mike Yacavone said. “We had 18 players returning from that team, and what do we do? We fumbled on our first possession and trailed 6-0 against Detroit as they were much bigger and faster than us.”
Mikey Deitelbaum and Damien Navarro scored two touchdowns each to lead the come-from-behind win for Naugatuck.
Naugy trailed 20-14 with 5:20 left in regulation. Blake Stone set up the Hounds on the 30-yard line on a kickoff return. Deitelbaum took a pitch from quarterback Mason Mastropietro and threw a 23-yard halfback option pass to Ese Onakpoma to the 13-yard line.
Navarro scored with 2:27 left to tie the game at 20-20. Benjamin Papp stopped a fourth down pass by Detroit to send the game to overtime.
Each team gets chances to score from the 10-yard line in overtime.
Detroit scored first and ran in the one-point conversion to take a 27-20 lead. The Hounds got their shot at it, and on the third play Navarro took it in for the touchdown.
Domonic DeSousa booted the two-point conversion, but an offside penalty nullified the kick. The young kicker had to do it again and, with ice in his veins, made the kick to give Naugatuck the 28-27 win.
“I give credit to an amazing group of coaches who had these kids ready to play in that kind of pressure situation,” Yacavone said. “The kids never quit and believed they could get it done.”
Naugatuck defeated Hamden, 32-12, in the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner semifinals and defeated Newington, 28-0, in the finals to move on to play for the state championship. The Hounds beat Wolcott, 36-12, to win the Connecticut title.
The Hounds got to host the New England Regional in a game played at Naugatuck High School and romped past Springfield 28-0. Quarterback Vinny Ferrucci and Christian Ramos each scored a touchdown to lead the way.
The national champions were escorted back into the borough on Saturday by the Naugatuck police and fire departments. The Hounds capped off their amazing journey with a community celebration at the Neary Ballroom.