BEACON FALLS — It’s a stat that only a handful of Thanksgiving football rivalries in the state can match, and there’s a chance it’ll be true again next week when Woodland and Seymour square off for the 16th time on the holiday week.
In 15 previous Thanksgiving week games between the Hawks and the Wildcats, the winner has earned a postseason berth 10 times.
If host Woodland takes down Seymour on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., then that’ll make it 11 playoff trips in 16 years for the rivalry winner.
Woodland started the season 7-0 and played well in a 36-20 loss to Ansonia on Nov. 3. The Hawks bounced back with a 21-7 victory over Oxford on Nov. 10.
The Hawks (8-1) clinched a Class S playoff berth on Saturday when Abbott Tech/Immaculate defeated O’Brien Tech. A victory over the Wildcats on Wednesday will set the Hawks up to possibly host a quarterfinal game.
The Hawks will face a Seymour team that enters with a 6-3 record after a season filled with tribulations. The Wildcats have an interim coaching staff that was put in place after a series of suspensions, resignations and firings stemming from an incident that was under police investigation for months.
Seymour played poorly in a Week 5 loss to Wolcott, but the Wildcats rebounded and nearly knocked off Naugatuck on Nov. 1. Late in that game, though, Seymour quarterback Ian Sadick broke his collarbone and is expected to miss the Thanksgiving eve game. Without Sadick, Seymour suffered a 35-0 loss to Ansonia on Nov. 8.
Still, the Wildcats present challenges with offensive weapons such as running back Tyler Ganim and utility player Jonathan Dumas. They also boast talented two-way big men in Cade Klarides-Ditria and Markel McKnight.
“Ganim and Dumas are tremendous players,” Woodland coach Chris Moffo said. “They’re big up front, and they play very well on defense — they’re fast to the football. Ditria is one of the best linebackers in the league and McKnight is very good at D-end.”
Woodland will counter with an increasingly balanced offense that has played particularly well after a midseason bye week. Senior running back Edit Krivca is the bellcow in the backfield and has several 200-yard games to his credit, but junior quarterback Tyler Bulinski has also emerged behind a quality offensive line.
“I think the bye week helped and came at the right time,” Moffo said. “We had some guys banged up off (wins over) Wolcott and St. Paul, so we were able to get some guys in good shape and recover. We were able to attack the teams we faced after the bye, which helped us a lot.”
Moffo said the key to the game will be taking care of the football and capitalizing upon Seymour’s mistakes. Even though the Wildcats will miss out on the postseason for the first time since 2014, Moffo said the Hawks aren’t sleeping on their rivals.
“They’re a playoff team as well,” Moffo said. “They had a very tough schedule and are a good football team.”
Woodland will seek to beat Seymour for the first time since 2014. The Wildcats have dominated the last three meetings to take a 9-7 lead in the overall series — 8-7 in holiday matchups. The Hawks playoffs berth is their seventh in the last 15 seasons and first under Moffo, the third-year head coach. Woodland last made the playoffs in 2013.
“It’s a great tradition,” Moffo said. “Playing Valley football around Thanksgiving is a great feeling and a great atmosphere. It’s a great crowd, no matter the records. This year there will be playoff implications, so it’s a great time to play. It’s a lot of fun for the kids and the coaches.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version in the Nov. 15 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.