Greyhounds overcome slow start to top St. Paul

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BRISTOL — With a St. Paul kickoff-return touchdown to open the game followed by a fumbled punt and two dropped interceptions by Naugatuck, it looked like last Saturday might have been the Greyhounds’ unlucky day.

That feeling didn’t last long.

The ‘Hounds reeled off 45 unanswered points from the end of the first quarter to the start of the fourth as they routed the Falcons, 59-31, to improve to 6-1 on the season.

St. Paul jumped out to a 12-8 lead by midway through the first quarter. Reid Morin returned the opening kickoff for a 65-yard touchdown, and a drive extended by a Naugatuck botched fair catch and a near-interception ended in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Logan Marchi to Austin Morin.

“We started out slow,” Naugatuck lineman Kevin Mariano said. “That kick return was a freak thing, and then we almost had a pick that popped up into the air and the kid caught it to bring it an extra 20 yards. Stuff like that just took us out of it early, but we came back.”

They sure did. Naugatuck scored on its first three drives, after which it held a 22-18 lead. Jason Bradley accounted for the Greyhounds’ first five touchdowns, including first-quarter tosses to Nate Franklin (7 and 58 yards) and Bryan Coney (48 yards).

Franklin’s second score, which came on a deep post over the middle, put the ‘Hounds ahead for good. He finished the day with 114 total yards, a season-high.

“I’m ready,” Franklin said of his breakout day. “We can spread it out and they don’t know who the ball is going to. I just found some openings in their secondary. (Bradley) put the ball where it needed to be.”

Bradley also hooked up with Coney for another 7-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Ryne Griesenauer for a 16-yard score with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining in the first half to give Naugy a 38-18 halftime edge.

“We’re trying to feel our way,” said Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno, who earned his 100th career victory. “Bryan and Ryne are there, and Nate is becoming a better weapon as the year goes on. And of course we have Jason, who does a great job of spreading the ball around.”

Bradley was 14-of-25 for 298 yards, five touchdowns and an interception in the first half. He added 25 more yards and a final touchdown, a 4-yarder to Tom Douty, after the break. Seven different Greyhounds caught passes from Bradley.

“They never know if we’re going to run or pass,” Mariano said. “Douty is one of the best running backs in the league, we have at least six receivers who can catch the ball and we have Jason back there to make it all happen.”

After the first quarter, Naugatuck’s defense buckled down and made it a tough afternoon for Marchi. The Greyhounds recorded eight sacks and picked off Marchi three times, and they held the Falcons scoreless for a span of 29:43 in the middle of the game.

“I thought we played well,” Bruno said of his defense. “We had three picks and got pressure on (Marchi). Every time we got in on him, he didn’t complete a pass. He would run around and get away from the sack, but it helped. As the game went on, we got better at it.”

Mariano was among the Naugatuck defenders with sacks of Marchi, who finished 26-of-49 for 382 yards, three touchdowns and three picks. Almost half of Marchi’s yardage and St. Paul’s last two touchdowns came against the Greyhounds’ second-string defense.

“When we first came out, we didn’t realize how fast and elusive he was,” Mariano said. “We took bad angles and he ran right around us. We took some better angles on him and ended up bringing him down a few times.”

Naugy will host Wilby on Friday night.