Don’t look now, but fall high school sports season is here.
Naugatuck and Woodland have all started practice and are preparing for their season openers, most of which come from Sept. 10-13.
The fall season may be the most exciting of the three; we’ve got football, sure, but soccer and volleyball have given us some great moments over the last few years, and the cross country and girls swimming teams are always competitive.
We’re going to be at as many games as we can, bringing you stories, photos and features from each team through November. We’d recommend you join us for all of them, but that’s a lot to ask so we’ve chosen some of the most intriguing games on the slate. Feel free to post on your refrigerator.
Sept. 12: Naugatuck-Woodland boys and girls soccer. We don’t usually get our first local rivalry games until much later in the season, but this time we get them right off the bat in the first week. Both teams have been postseason staples over the last few years, and Naugatuck in particular should be very strong on both sides this year. (The girls square off again Oct. 23.)
Sept. 20: Woodland boys soccer vs. Holy Cross. These teams squared off in a thrilling state tournament game last year that ended on penalty kicks.
Sept. 20: Naugatuck football vs. Wolcott. While the Greyhounds’ new turf actually opens Sept. 10 when the boys soccer team hosts Ansonia, this game against the Eagles will be the real ribbon-cutting night. Wolcott has made the state playoffs in each of the last two years, and it will be Naugy’s first real test under new coach Craig Bruno.
Sept. 20: Naugatuck girls swimming at Watertown. The Indians have been the class of the NVL over recent years. Any title hopes go through the Indians.
Sept. 21: Naugatuck girls soccer vs. Pomperaug. Games like these are the perks of the NVL’s nonleague openings. It should be a good test for a Naugy team that could be special.
Sept. 25: Naugatuck-Torrington boys and girls soccer. The Red Raiders are the only real roadblocks to divisional titles for both Greyhounds squads. The Torrington boys kept Naugy from an NVL title appearance last year. (The girls also play Oct. 11.)
Sept. 27: Woodland girls swimming at Watertown. Graduation has hit the Hawks hard over the last few years, but the Indians are always the top test.
Oct. 1: Woodland-Naugatuck-Seymour-Crosby cross country. Whenever the Hawks and Greyhounds get together on the trail, a good meet ensues.
Oct. 4: Woodland-Naugatuck football. The Hawks own this series, winning nine of 10 all-time meetings. The game will feature two of the state’s best quarterbacks in Tanner Kingsley and Jason Bradley, and could end up determining the NVL Copper Division championship (as well as being huge toward both teams’ postseason hopes).
Oct. 4: Woodland volleyball at Holy Cross. The Hawks and the Crusaders last year gave the NVL state finalists for the first time in a long time. Both teams return key players from those squads and this could be an NVL championship preview.
Oct. 5: Naugatuck boys soccer vs. Pomperaug. The Panthers have made deep postseason runs over the last few years, including a 2012 Class LL championship. It’s the best nonleague test in the area.
Oct. 9: Woodland-Naugatuck volleyball. Kevin Wesche takes over for longtime colleague and coach Fred Schiethe in Naugatuck. Jim Amato keeps on cranking out contending teams at Woodland.
Oct. 15: NVL cross country championships. The championship season begins early.
Oct. 18: Woodland girls soccer vs. Watertown. When these two teams have met over the last few years, the NVL Brass Division title has been on the line. It could be the case again this year, and Woodland will surely be looking for revenge from an NVL title game loss last year. (They also meet Oct. 1.)
Oct. 18: Woodland football at Pomperaug. It’s year one of the NVL-SWC Challenge. This should be fun.
Oct. 19: Naugatuck football vs. Bunnell. Yeah, this was set in the NVL-SWC Challenge before Bruno came. But now that he’s in Naugatuck, it’s a lot more intriguing.
Oct. 21: Woodland volleyball at Seymour. The second meeting between these two teams each season always seems to be for the NVL Brass Division title. We expect nothing different this time. (It depends, too, on their Sept. 20 meeting.)
Oct. 26-30: NVL soccer, volleyball tournaments. Hawks and ‘Hounds should be contenders.
Oct. 29-Nov. 2: NVL girls swimming and diving championships. Three days for lots of medals.
Nov. 1: Woodland football at Holy Cross. The Crusaders are probably a solid No. 3 team in the division, but this game will still have all sorts of implications.
Nov. 7: Naugatuck football at Holy Cross. See above.
Nov. 15: Woodland football vs. Derby. There’s no way it should have taken this long for the Hawks and Red Raiders to square off on the grid. Talk about a Valley game.
Nov. 27: Woodland football at Seymour. The Wildcats should be at their best since 2008, and the Hawks may have another state postseason berth on the line.
Nov. 28: Naugatuck football vs. Ansonia. Local pigskin fans hope Bruno’s energy and innovation can put consistent competitiveness back in this rivalry. While the Chargers will probably be preseason No. 1, Naugy has the potential to do something special on this day.