Defense carries Naugy past Wolcott  

Naugatuck’s Malachi Gatison (29) stiff arms Wolcott’s Nathan Olmstead (23) at Wolcott High School on Friday night. – BILL SHETTLE/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WOLCOTT — Naugatuck High junior quarterback Jay Mezzo walked away from his first varsity start Friday understanding the Greyhounds have plenty of work to do offensively, but he also felt comfort after opening the season with a 14-0 road win over Wolcott.

“The defense gives us a sense of relief,” Mezzo said. “They are animals. The intensity is very high, and Coach (Dave) Sollazzo and Coach (Kevin) Cretella, our defensive coordinator, are very, very smart. We also have good leadership on the defense, and it gives us relief knowing that if we mess up on offense, we are going to get it back with our defense.”

The Naugy defense allowed Wolcott only 123 yards of offense as the Greyhounds’ defensive line of Herve Tshibamba, Tyrell Allen and Mike Amankwah consistently disrupted the Eagles’ offense, then let their teammates swarm to the ball.

“That is football. It takes a little longer for your offense to get going than it does for your defense,” Sollazzo said. “The defensive line was very strong at the point of attack, and the linebackers, led by Jayden Anderson, filled their gaps really well.”

“I expected our defense to be this dominant because our defense comes from a long line of hitters,” Anderson said. “When we need to step up, we definitely step up. If the offense is struggling, we are there to help them all the time. We all have each other’s backs.”

The offense did enough as Mezzo finished the game 7-of-17 passing for 117 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. His 33-yard pass to Paul Marsh with 47 seconds to play in the first half gave the Greyhounds a 7-0 lead.

Late in the third quarter, the defense stopped Wolcott on a fourth-and-2 play at midfield, and the offense capitalized. Runs of 14 yards by Doreon Chapman and 15 yards by Anderson set up Chapman for a 6-yard touchdown 11 seconds into the fourth.

“The touchdown was big because we really needed it,” Chapman said. “It really destroyed them and boosted us, and from there we just kept our foot on the gas. They were getting tired, and we weren’t.”

Two possessions later, Wolcott had the ball at the Naugy 17, but Zack Koslosky recovered a fumble. On the next play, Mezzo connected with Koslosky on a 33-yard pass and the Greyhounds were back in control.

Gattison finished with a team-high 69 yards rushing on nine carries while Chapman had 43 on four carries.