Defense a strong suit for Naugy


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NAUGATUCK — The Greyhounds have recorded more than one shutout on the gridiron in a season only once in the past 12 years — the 2016 squad had three shutouts in a row while going 7-3.

Through two games this season, the Naugatuck defense hasn’t allowed a point and has surrendered just 137 yards of offense.

“The defense is playing real well right now,” Naugatuck head coach Dave Sollazzo said. “But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and we just need to take them one at a time and focus on our next opponent.”

After starting the season with a 14-0 over Wolcott on Sept. 7, Naugatuck’s defense got things going in the home-opener against Crosby on Sept. 14 when Justin Papp returned an interception 5 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring.

Paul Marsh made it two pick sixes for Naugatuck by returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and the Greyhounds cruised to a 52-0 win over the Bulldogs.

“The bottom line is we went to the ball,” Sollazzo said. “When you got 11 guys going to the ball good things are going to happen. We work on that a lot in practice and we are seeing the results.”

Naugatuck (2-0) defensive coordinator Kevin Cretella has devised a unit that took over the first two games. Up front is a defensive line led by Tyrell Allen, Mike Amankwah and Herve Tshibamba. Behind them is a quick-hitting line backing crew made up of Jayden Anderson, Jon Vincent, Mike Natkiel, Malachi Gatison.

Under the guidance of coordinator Ollie Gray, the offense showed some firepower versus Crosby (0-2).

Quarterback John Mezzo, a junior starting his first season for Naugy, hooked up with Nick Airall on a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Gatison led the running game with two touchdowns on the ground. Airall, Mezzo and Dante Miranda also scored touchdowns out of the backfield, as the Naugy running game churned up 140 yards on the ground.

“Mezzo is a good quarterback and a smart kid,” Sollazzo said. “It’s just a matter of time once he gains some experience, but he is going to be a good one. Having the defense come out the way they have is huge especially with an offense that is learning a new system.”

Naugatuck will face a stern test Friday when they host the Falcons of St. Paul. Last week, St. Paul hung 30 points on the board in a win over Watertown

“We have a huge challenge ahead of us this week,” Sollazzo said. “St. Paul runs that option really well and they are precise. We ran the option at Citadel so I know how it works, and you better be on your P’s and Q’s if you are going to stop it.”

The Greyhounds will visit Watertown next week.