When you are young and inexperienced, the only way to become a leader is to go through the growing pains. Naugatuck senior quarterback Erich Broadrick was thrown into the fire, so to speak, as a sophomore when the Hounds suffered through a 3-8 campaign in 2008.
In his first varsity start against Wilby, the young quarterback didn’t do all that badly, going 3-for-5 passing for 63 yards and scoring a touchdown in a 14-0 win over the Wildcats.
But it was the fumbled snaps and the lofting throws that almost got picked off that showed him he had his work cut out for him. He went on to have two 100-yard passing games as the Greyhounds were 3-2 heading down the stretch in their season.
Then the bottom dropped out as six-straight losses, including three-straight shutouts, became a rude awakening for the young signal-caller. Broadrick finished with 702 yards passing and a Thanksgiving game in Ansonia that gave him a sense that he may be turning the corner.
Naugatuck came into that game as a clear, 40-point underdog but trailed just 12-0 at the half. Broadrick went out and played his best game of the season despite the 20-0 final margin.
“There was a lot of panic going on in that first year,” admits Broadrick, with a laugh. “I really didn’t have a whole lot of confidence and I put way too much pressure on myself.”
Broadrick says he was able to calm down over the next nine months heading into his junior year.
“I worked hard in the offseason to get stronger and that helped my confidence level,” Broadrick says. “I cut down on my mistakes and we started off well at 2-0. Then the wheels came off the bus. We went through a period of injuries and before you know it the season was over. But I learned to be a leader out there and the guys began to listen to me in the huddle with a little more confidence of their own.”
The biggest growing experience for Broadrick and the rest of the team came against Holy Cross two weeks before Thanksgiving. Naugatuck limped into Municipal Stadium in Waterbury at 3-5, beset by injuries.
The Crusaders were riding high at 8-0 preparing to play for the Naugatuck Valley League title and a state playoff bid. The Greyhounds stood the NVL on its ear, winning a 6-0 dogfight and, in the end, gained a little respect for themselves and a whole lot of confidence coming into this season.
“That was one of the most emotional games I’ve ever played in,” says Broadrick. “No one even gave us a chance and we went out and just played the game of the season. That showed us what we had inside of us and we took that enthusiasm and worked so hard in the offseason.”
Naugatuck came back this season with 19 seniors chomping at the bit and a seasoned quarterback who had been through the wars and was ready to lead the troops into battle.
The Greyhounds opened up with a convincing, 54-6 win over Seymour when Broadrick was an incredible 15-of-18 for 274 yards and a touchdown pass, throwing to seven different receivers.
“It’s been a drastic change this season,” says Broadrick. “We go into a game expecting to win instead of waiting for the worst to happen. We knew what we had coming back and we were pretty excited about getting going.”
The Greyhounds got going all right as they ripped off seven straight wins, reaching the No. 9 spot in the state polls. Broadrick was leading by example, throwing for over 200 yards two more times and completing 76 of 121 passes for a 62.8 percentage.
Then came the disheartening, 25-6 loss to Woodland as Naugatuck was held to under 200 yards of offense. The media, going on an erroneous report from the NVL athletic directors, declared Woodland the Copper Division champs.
Woodland was scheduled to play Ansonia for the NVL championship. But three days later, the news broke that the proposed changes in the tiebreaker rules for the division would not go into effect until next year.
Naugatuck had a new life and won the Copper Division, beating Holy Cross, 24-13, after Woodland left the door open when the Hawks fell to Sacred Heart the night before.
“You couldn’t imagine the emotional journey we went through,” says Broadrick. “After the Woodland game we sat in the locker room feeling the season was over. I have never felt that bad in my whole life. Then we got the news and the excitement was just overwhelming. We got a second chance and when we beat Holy Cross to win the division it was like a huge weight was lifted off us.”
Broadrick will take some lofty stats into the Thanksgiving Day game against Ansonia, completing 92-of-157 passing for 1,442 yards and 16 touchdowns. The sky is the limit for this band of football players as they will look to their leader in the pocket who has brought them through thick and thin.
“It certainly has been a trying three years but it was all worth it to be at this point right now,” Broadrick says. “Now we get to end our high school careers the only way we had hoped for—to be playing for the NVL championship.”