NAUGATUCK — The Greyhounds opened the football season with a resounding 36-0 win over Wolcott Sept. 13, and head coach Dave Sollazzo believes he didn’t see his team at its best.
“We were definitely pleased as a coaching staff,” Sollazzo said. “Overall, it was a solid team win, but obviously there were some mistakes out there that can be corrected.”
Several new starters stepped up for the Greyhounds, who lost 18 seniors from a season ago. Junior Connor Maxwell caught a touchdown, while fellow junior Nick Linton intercepted two passes.
“I think the best part of the win was that we had young guys that we were counting on step up,” Sollazzo said. “Losing 18 seniors, there were a lot of holes to fill, and we’ve seen some of those younger guys get better.”
Filling those holes also meant some veteran players playing on both sides of the ball, including Herve Tshibamba on the offensive and defensive line, and Malachi Gatison at running back and linebacker.
“Herve was a great player on defense for us last year, and now we need him to go both ways,” Sollazzo said. “We’re asking several other guys to do the same. This season, we don’t have as much depth on the line of scrimmage. So we are calling upon these guys to be good teammates and make sure we are solid on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball because that is where it starts.”
Naugatuck dominated at the line of scrimmage on defense, allowing just 55 rushing yards on 24 Wolcott carries. The defense as a whole played very much like it did last year when the Greyhounds posted six shutouts. Naugatuck allowed just 159 yards of total offense to Wolcott in yet another shutout victory.
“The most important thing for us is to be a physical defense,” Sollazzo said. “We were pretty physical against Wolcott and everybody was just doing their job. Everyone was filling their gaps and everyone attacked the football. But we could certainly improve.”
In a game where Gatison injured his ankle and the Greyhounds struggled to consistently run the ball, quarterback Jay Mezzo went 9-for-12 for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He added a rushing touchdown, as well.
“The other night (against Wolcott) was probably the best I’ve ever seen Jay throw the ball,” Sollazzo said. “It was good to watch that because he has worked hard all summer. I noticed during summer passing league that he definitely looked better. It is good to see him continually improve.”
Mezzo found a connection throughout the night with Paul Marsh, who has battled injuries throughout his career. Marsh finished with four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“I was happy for Paul because he has been injured a lot,” Sollazzo said. “I thought he would maybe be slowed down by the injuries during the summer but he managed to make a comeback and have a nice game.”
Moving forward, Sollazzo said the team needs to work on fundamentals and technique.
“To me, that is the game of football. X’s and O’s are X’s and O’s, but when it is all said and done, it comes down to fundamentals and technique,” he said.
Naugatuck heads to Crosby Friday. The Greyhounds will face St. Paul Sept. 27 in Bristol, before hosting Watertown Oct. 4.