Woodland faces monumental test vs. Ansonia

BEACON FALLS — It’s become a semi-regular part of Woodland’s football schedule — the early-November meeting with Ansonia — and each year the task seems as monumental as ever.

The Hawks will visit the Chargers on Friday at 6 p.m. at Jarvis Stadium in a meeting between unbeaten Naugatuck Valley League rivals for the second straight year.

Woodland and Ansonia both enter the game with 7-0 records.

Woodland stayed perfect with a 42-14 win over Crosby Nov. 1.

Tyler Bulinski threw first-half touchdowns to Nate Bodnar, Jason Palmieri, James Champagne and Joe DeDomenico, completing all seven of his passes for 205 yards to lead the Hawks.

Bodnar had a pick-six for a score for the Hawks, and Nick Rousseau added a rushing TD.

Last year’s meeting in Beacon Falls came with the same setup — 7-0 vs. 7-0 with the NVL Copper Division title and Class S playoff implications at stake. In that game, the Hawks stunned the Chargers by jumping out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead before eventually suffering a 36-20 defeat.

Some Woodland starters, including Bulinski, Palmieri, and linemen Alek Tolboe and Ryan Knobel started in that game.

“They understand that we had opportunities that we spoiled,” Woodland coach Chris Moffo said about last year’s loss. “They understand what’s expected to compete against those guys. (Ansonia is) a tough opponent. The guys who competed against them last year know that very well.”

Ansonia will enter the game with a 92-game winning streak against NVL opponents and eight straight league championships. The Hawks haven’t beaten the Chargers since 2005, although Woodland has come painstakingly close a number of times since then.

Ansonia’s top weapons include running back Shaykeem Harmon, quarterback Sheldon Schuler, and two-way stars Tyler and Garrett Cafaro. Moffo knows the challenges that Ansonia coach Tom Brockett and his team present are endless.

“Just how well they’re coached and how well they execute what they do,” Moffo said. “Defensively they’re extremely fast and physical, and offensively they have good playmakers in a lot of positions. They pose challenges for us to cover all of them.”

The Hawks’ defense has allowed just 10 touchdowns in seven games. In a 42-0 win over Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech on Oct. 25, Palmieri, DeDomenico and Colin Curtin all came up with interceptions. DeDomenico also caught a touchdown pass, as did Bodnar, both of whom have emerged as Bulinski’s top targets in the spread offense.

“The boys are doing great,” Moffo said. “They’re focused, practicing hard, and executing well. We prepare every week like we prepare for every game. What we do doesn’t change; the opponent does. The focus is there and the preparation is there, and the kids understand that.”

Both teams will likely end up qualifying for the Class S state playoffs no matter what happens, but there’s plenty still on the line, including playoff seeding and a potential share of the NVL title. The Hawks will close the season by hosting Oxford on Nov. 15 and visiting Seymour on Thanksgiving eve.

“We have to execute in all three phases of the game,” Moffo said. “We have to limit their big plays.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the article published in the Nov. 7 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.