With the best team Naugy has seen in almost a decade, do the Greyhounds have the tools to finally beat Ansonia?
It was nine years ago that Naugatuck last won against Ansonia on Thanksgiving and the 14-13 victory in 2001 concluded a perfect 10-0 campaign for first-year head coach Rob Plasky. It was the last time Naugatuck won the Naugatuck Valley League title as the Chargers have ripped off eight-straight Thanksgiving Day victories, increasing the series lead at 64-36-10, as we head into the 111th holiday football meeting on the gridiron.
This is the most evenly matched that these two teams have been in the past decade. Ansonia comes in at 9-0 as the Brass Division champ and has a lock on a state playoff bid, win or lose. The Chargers have piled up 380 points at a rate of 42 points per game and have allowed 182 points, a little over 20 points per game. A note to sound the alarm: The defense has allowed three touchdowns in each of its last five games, but Ansonia has scored over 50 two weeks in a row. Naugatuck is the Copper Division champ at 8-1.
The Hounds have their backs to the wall—win and move on to the states, lose and go home. This team is on an emotional high after getting a second chance on their season after the loss to Woodland. The Hounds have pounded the rock into the end zone for 338 points, at an average of 37 points per game, and have allowed just 137 points, or an average of 15 points per game. They scored over 40 points in their first six games while allowing just five touchdowns in their first seven games. If the Greyhounds revert back to the team that started the season they, will be tough to beat.
The Ansonia running game can be summed up in one word: Dobbs. As the only senior starter on the Chargers, Montrell Dobbs has carried his team’s hopes for an NVL title. In one game, Dobbs carried the rock an incredible 48 times. Production has been no problem as the senior tailback has churned up 2,292 yards of real estate and scored 30 touchdowns.
Naugatuck counters with a stable of running backs that have all pounded their way through the line. Senior Andrew Cirino leads the pack with 454 rush yards and 145 receiving yards, scoring eight touchdowns. Junior Jake Yourison has rushed for 437 yards with 112 more through the air for six touchdowns. The Greyhounds have lived up to their name, running seniors Dashawn Wingate, Shawn Freeney, and Jordan Grice.
This is the youngest team the Chargers have had in quite a while, led by junior quarterback Elliott Chudwick. He has proven himself to have a varsity arm, throwing for 689 yards and 20 touchdowns on 37-of-69 passing. On the receiving end is sophomore Andrew Matos, with 17 catches for 266 yards and six touchdowns. Another dangerous weapon is freshman Arkeel Newsome, whose blazing speed has accounted for 641 yards rushing, 196 yards receiving, and a combined 13 touchdowns.
Naugatuck goes with a three-year starter in senior Erich Broadrick, who has put up an impressive completion rate. Broadrick is 92-of-157—close to 60 percent—for 1,442 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior Tyler Conklin leads the core of receivers with 22 catches for 394 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Reuban Berger is a big-play kind of player, and so are seniors Marquan Williams, Iman Farimani, and Anthony Rosato.
Defense and Line Play
Ansonia is young along the line of scrimmage and possesses a defense that bends but doesn’t break. The Chargers wouldn’t be undefeated if they couldn’t stop opponents when they had to. But they have allowed three touchdowns in each of the last five games. If Ansonia allows the Greyhounds’ offense to get into gear, it will put pressure on the Chargers to score every time they have the ball.
Naugatuck is strong, powerful, and experienced up front with seniors Aaron Echevarria, Nate Hollie, Rob Colucci, and Nick Douglass to go along with juniors Dan Morton and Mike Giugno. The Hounds picked off Holy Cross quarterback Zach Brown four times and Sacred Heart quarterback Rohan Ifill five times. They have the ability to come up with key turnovers as Echevarria did when he recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the Woodland game.
The Chargers have found a real spark plug in Arkeel Newsome who can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He and Montrell Dobbs will need to be contained on punt and kickoff returns. Tyler Lester has an accurate leg booting extra points and short field goals for Ansonia.
The Greyhounds have a special big-time playmaker in Reuban Berger, who has shown his ability to get Naugatuck back in the game with his long returns and has also popped a few back into the end zone. Mick Pernell gives the Hounds their first consistent kicker in a while. But the Chargers speed wins out.
Tom Brockett, in his fifth year at the helm, has guided the Chargers to three NVL championships and two Class S state titles. He came into the season with a 46-5 record and has shown his ability to make the calls in big games.
Rob Plasky is in his 10th year leading the Greyhounds. He has one NVL title under his belt (in 2001) and for two years has had to fight to get his job back. He certainly has shown his ability to persevere, turning the program into a winner this season. But will the second chances be enough for the Greyhounds to prevail?
The turkey may get cold waiting for this one to end. As evenly matched as these two teams are, don’t be surprised if you have to buckle up for overtime to decide this one.