NAUGATUCK — One of the largest crowds in quite some time ascended on Veterans Field Thanksgiving morning to take in the 112th meeting between Naugatuck and Ansonia.
The Greyhounds were looking for their first back-to-back wins over the Chargers since 1986. The Chargers were seeking revenge for last year’s loss.
The final score may indicate that Ansonia had an easy time in its 49-14 win over the Greyhounds, but three late scores gave the Chargers a wide cushion. In the process, Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome set two state records and ran away with the game’s MVP award.
Newsome broke Alex Thomas’ single-season record of 47 rushing touchdowns set in 2007 as he tacked on five scores on the day to finish with 50. Newsome also set the state mark with 314 points scored, breaking the previous record held by Bristol Central’s Tim Washington in 2000.
“Obviously Newsome was going to get his yards and we made some mistakes but they weren’t hurting us,” Naugatuck coach Rob Plasky said.
Despite the final score, Naugatuck (6-4) was very much in this game from the start. Nate Franklin took the opening kickoff and had one man to beat as his 45-yard return got the Greyhounds fans in an uproar before the first snap.
The momentum was short-lived as the Chargers’ line, at an average of 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, began to take its toll. The ‘Hounds were just 1-of-6 on third down conversions and were forced to punt four times in the first half.
It took Ansonia (11-0) just two plays to get on the board. After a 2-yard again, Newsome broke into the secondary and was gone on a 62-yard jaunt into the end zone for a 6-0 advantage.
On the ensuing series, Matt Harris hooked up with Kevin Tousignant on a 14-yard pass and then fired a 20-yard pass to Ryne Griesenauer, but the drive stalled at the Ansonia 43-yard line.
The Naugatuck defense, led by Mike Giugno and Nikko Cari, stopped the Chargers on the next drive, but Naugy botched a handoff on its next series and Ansonia recovered the fumble at the Greyhounds’ 19-yard line.
It didn’t take long for Newsome to find the end zone again and run in the two-point conversion to open up a 14-0 lead with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
The Naugatuck defense rose to the occasion when Cari forced a fumble on a blitz and Giugno recovered the fumble at the Ansonia 26-yard line. But the Greyhounds’ offense stalled again, turning it over on downs at the Chargers’ 11.
With 5:54 to play in the half, Jake Yourison (18 carries, 120 yards) scampered down the sidelines, bouncing off several tacklers on the way, but had the ball punched out and sent bounding towards the Ansonia end zone.
Franklin gave chase and fell on it at the 4-yard line to retain possession. Yourison then barreled in for the touchdown behind Connor Campbell to make it a 14-6 game.
After making it a one possession game, Naugatuck had the Chargers facing a third-and-8 when the coverage broke down. Elliot Chudwick threw a 13-yard pass to Ryan O’Connor and two plays later Ansonia took a 21-6 lead at the half on a Newsome 41-yard sprint into the end zone.
“One broken play cost us big time,” Plasky said. “Our coverage broke down and we didn’t get pressure on the quarterback. We didn’t pin our ears back and go get them. We blew the assignment and now we were down two scores going into the half.”
The Chargers scored on the first drive of the second half on Newsome 4-yard dive to up the margin to 28-6.
Yourison followed by plowing his way ahead for 80 yards on four carries, ending in a 38-yard touchdown run with 6:48 left in the third quarter to make it a 28-12 game.
It was all Ansonia from that point as the Chargers scored on three-straight possessions to put the game out of reach.