WATERBURY — For the most part, it was a classic, Naugatuck Valley League-style defensive battle Friday night when Woodland and Holy Cross met at Municipal Stadium. The problem for the Hawks was the Crusaders’ junior running back, Brandon DiClementi, didn’t get the memo about the supposed defensive struggle. DiClementi busted six runs of at least 20 yards, including scoring bursts of 57 and 21 yards in the second half, en route to a 293-yard game to lead Cross to 16-7 win.
Woodland ran more plays and gained more yards than Holy Cross in the first half, but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, thanks to a pair of turnovers—an interception by senior quarterback Steve Petracca that probably wasn’t his fault, and a fumble after a 15-yard run by junior tailback Jack DeBiase. Despite forcing the Crusaders to three three-and-outs in their five first-half drives, Cross took a 3-0 lead on a 24-yard field goal with 1.7 seconds left in the second quarter.
After the rivals exchanged turnovers on downs to start the second half, DiClementi struck gold for the first time, sprinting 57 yards on the first play of the series for a touchdown. The extra point clanged against the right upright, however, leaving the door open for the Hawks, down 9-0 with 3:12 to go in the third.
Woodland was bailed out of trouble near the end of the quarter when, after a failed fake punt gave Cross the ball in Hawk territory, senior defensive back Brandon Fowler picked off a Ryan Plourde pass at his own 12-yard line. Petracca and the Hawks then engineered an 88-yard drive, taking 6:11 off the clock, capped by a 1-yard dash by DeBiase to cut the deficit to 9-7.
But DiClementi was waiting on the other sideline and gained 48 of the 54 yards the ‘Saders needed for another touchdown, 21 coming on his second visit to the end zone, down the left sideline. Cross converted the PAT this time, though, making it a two-possession game at 16-7 with 4:07 remaining.
The Woodland offense stalled after Fowler returned the ensuing kickoff to the Holy Cross 40. The Hawks ran the same play four times in a row, with Petracca hooking up with senior wide receiver Colin Grommisch only once for seven yards. DiClementi and the Crusaders ran out the clock to preserve their fifth win in as many tries and remain atop the NVL Copper and Class SS standings.
Any hope for Woodland to remain in the Copper hunt rest on next Friday’s home matchup against divisional rival Torrington. The Hawks are now 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the Copper.