Greyhounds erase early deficit vs. Indians 

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Naugatuck offensive coordinator Ollie Gray, left, celebrates with quarterback Michael Plasky after Plasky threw a touchdown pass Oct. 20 against Watertown at Naugatuck High School. Naugatuck won the game, 27-13. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — When the Naugatuck High football team faced a 13-point deficit in the first half of last Friday’s important Naugatuck Valley League clash against Watertown, rookie Greyhounds coach Dave Sollazzo wasn’t concerned.

Why?

“When you work really hard and pay your dues,” Sollazzo said, “good things happen.”

They did. Naugy scored four unanswered touchdowns, including two scores late in the fourth quarter to add insurance, as the ‘Hounds remained undefeated with a 27-13 win over the Indians at Veterans Field.

Naugatuck (6-0) trailed 13-0 in the second quarter against Watertown (4-2) in a game that had implications in the NVL Iron Division championship hunt and in the state playoff standings.

Naugy’s defense buckled down, forcing five straight turnovers on downs inside the Greyhounds’ territory and climbing back into the game thanks to senior quarterback Mike Plasky.

Plasky found Ricardo Montanez for a 40-yard touchdown to get on the board in the second quarter, and Plasky’s 42-yard touchdown run in the third gave Naugy its first lead at 14-13.

“We came out flat unfortunately, but our kids rallied and believed in each other,” Sollazzo said. “They stayed the course. You have to have good leadership. We have good leadership with our senior class, guys like Mike Plasky, Jiram Lopez, Sammy Ayash, Efe Onakpoma, Hubert Lutzykowski. Those guys are really good leaders, so it starts with that.”

Naugy didn’t come up with one of its best offensive efforts of the season — only 269 total yards and no rushers hit the 50-yard mark — but the Greyhounds capitalized on two big plays by Plasky and hard running in the fourth quarter.

With Naugatuck clinging to a 14-13 lead with under 3 minutes left in regulation, Watertown extended a Naugy drive by committing a pass interference penalty on a fourth-down incompletion in the red zone. Moments later, Malachi Gatison scored on an 11-yard run to extend the lead to 21-13.

On the Indians’ ensuing drive, Lopez forced a fumble that Jaylen Anderson recovered to essentially seal the game. Onakpoma added an 11-yard touchdown run shortly after to account for the final margin.

Naugatuck and Ansonia are the final two unbeaten teams in the NVL. The Chargers were expected to be here, but the Greyhounds were a somewhat unknown quantity with a brand-new head coach and culture.

Naugatuck’s Jayden Anderson (25) hits Watertown’s Jeton Sadiku (34) forcing a fumble Oct. 20 against at Naugatuck High School. Naugatuck won the game, 27-13. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Sollazzo and his hardworking team identity are paying dividends.

“We worked hard all offseason, and we continue to work hard,” he said. “The kids embrace the process. They believe in what we’re doing.”

But Sollazzo cautioned that Naugy isn’t yet where he wants the team to be.

“We’re not there yet, to be honest,” Sollazzo said. “We’ve made huge, huge strides from when I first got there. Our fundamentals have really improved and our toughness has really improved, but we can certainly get better in those areas. The second half of the season, you have to get tougher and better.”

That will continue Friday when the Greyhounds visit Crosby (4-2). Naugy will be favored in its next three games leading up to Thanksgiving, which is shaping up to be a tilt against the Chargers for the league championship.

But until then, Naugatuck, which is currently ranked fifth in the Class LL standings, will try to take care of business and avoid an upset against a Bulldogs squad that is averaging 50 points during a three-game winning streak.

“We’ve got Crosby this week, and they’re a very good football team,” Sollazzo said. “They score a lot of points and are very fast. This Friday night is our most important game because it’s our next game.”