WATERBURY — Naugatuck had Holy Cross right where they wanted. Then it was gone.
One mistake after another piled up against for the ‘Hounds until it finally all fell around them in a 29-point fourth quarter as the Crusaders walked away with a stunning, 43-0 victory in an important Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division game last Friday at Municipal Stadium.
The loss likely knocked Naugy (4-2, 2-2 NVL Copper) out of contention in the division as Cross, Torrington, and Woodland sit above the Greyhounds with just a few weeks left.
On the initial drive of the game, Holy Cross (5-1, 3-0) fumbled at the Naugatuck 21-yard line and Nico Cari came up with the ball.
The Greyhounds drove the length of the field on an eight-play drive engineered by quarterback Zac Mercer.
Naugatuck moved the chains three times with Jake Yourison (21 rush, 85 yards) pounding the ball straight ahead and Mercer connecting with Besim Bomova on a 27-yard pass.
The Hounds were knocking on the door with a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line when disaster struck. On the next play, Holy Cross recovered a fumble and Naugatuck never recovered its poise.
“You could see it in their body language,” Naugatuck head coach Rob Plasky said. “When we fumbled the ball on the first drive it was pretty much over. The fourth quarter may indicate that they quit [then] but in reality they quit right after that fumble. We lost our poise and the game on that one play. If we score right there we end up winning this game. But we gave Holy Cross a break and once they believed they could play with us it was over because we folded.”
The Crusaders drove down the field on a 14-play drive, aided by three of the Greyhounds’ 12 penalties, with Dave DiGiorgi busting it in from 21 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Naugatuck responded with a seven-play drive with Mercer hitting Matt Harris on a 33-yard pass. Once again the ‘Hounds were at the Crusaders’ door step when another crushing play paved the way for the final outcome.
Mercer threw the ball in the flat on a first-and-goal when Joe Parent stepped in front of the intended receiver and took it 98 yards to the house for a 14-0 Holy Cross advantage at the half.
For every big play Naugatuck did have, more crucial mistakes followed. Nate Franklin blocked a punt and returned in for an apparent touchdown only to have it called back on a holding penalty.
Yourison couldn’t get on track in the third quarter as he was held to just 10 yards on five carries.
Franklin later came up with an interception along the sideline, ripping the ball out of the hands of the Holy Cross receiver.
Trailing, 14-0, entering the fourth quarter Naugatuck was still very much in this game. A punt pinned Holy Cross at its own 2-yard line. Then it started to come unraveled. Zach Brown connected with Isaiah Wright on an 86-yard pass play to open up a 21-0 lead.
Moments later, Wright stepped in front of another errant pass and went 45 yards into the end zone for a 28-0 advantage. It was over at that point, but Holy Cross kept pouring it on by taking advantage of every mistake the Greyhounds made.
DiGiorgi and Nick Gambacini finished it up with touchdown runs to account for the 43-0 final margin.