WATERBURY — The season began with an opening kickoff touchdown by Bryan Burke for 70 yards and by the end of the first quarter the Naugatuck football team led Crosby 33-0. The ‘Hounds went on to defeat the Bulldogs, 39-8, in the first game under new head coach Craig Bruno.
On the first series for Naugatuck the excitement that Bruno has brought to this football team was quite evident. Naugy ran a double reverse before getting the ball back to quarterback Jason Bradley, whose pass found Bryan Coney (three catches, 70 yards, TD) at the Crosby 1-yard line for a 50-yard gain.
Bradley (8-of-13, 245 yards, 3 TD) punched in the score behind the line of Kevin Mariano, PJ Murphy, David Kloc, Jack Reardon and Mark Cavagnuolo to open up a 12-0 lead just 2:17 into the game.
“We wanted to come out and move the ball while generating a little excitement,” Bruno said. “The kickoff return and the trick play really got the kids fired up. We started to make plays on both sides of the ball and our defense did a good job of shutting Crosby down.”
Reardon came up with a fumble recovery but Crosby got it right back on an interception by Jayson Morrison. But the Bulldogs had trouble moving the ball with Aaron Yourison, Reardon and Mariano applying the pressure at the line of scrimmage and linebackers Jordan Hopkins, Socrates Ilunga and Murphy swarming to the ball.
Crosby managed to move the ball in the air after the game got out of hand with Mike Marshall going 12-of-17 for 95 yards, but the damage was limited by jaw-dropping hits from Nate Franklin, Maleek Brooks and Kevin Robinson.
With 7:51 left in the first quarter, Naugatuck delivered the message when Bradley hooked up with Ryan Griesenauer (four catches, 165 yards, 2 TD) for a 65-yard touchdown pass and an 18-0 lead, as the ‘Hounds missed out on their third two-point conversion attempt.
Crosby had just 7 yards of offense after its fourth series and Naugatuck was about to land the knockout. Back-to-back passes to Griesenauer picked up 62 yards, before Bradley rifled another pass to Griesenauer in the middle of the end zone. That ball bounced off his chest following pass interference. But Naugy didn’t need any help from the referees, as Coney alertly hauled in the loose ball before it hit the ground for another touchdown.
Robinson got his feet down just inside the end line to haul in the first two-point conversion of the game making it 26-0 with 5:27 still to go in the opening quarter.
“We are in for a whole lot of fun this year,” a smiling Bradley said after the game. “Four touchdowns in just 9 minutes is just incredible. And it’s all because of the guys up front. The O-line is just doing an awesome job.”
The ‘Hounds began to unleash the running game with Tom Douty carrying six times for 75 yards and Hopkins five times for 20 yards. Hopkins barreled in from a yard out and James Brewer came on to boot the first extra point of the season to open up a 33-0 advantage.
Crosby lost the ball on downs three times in the second quarter while Naugatuck was finally held out of the end zone, punting for the first time at the 9-minute mark of the second quarter.
The Greyhounds finished scoring at the outset of the second half when Griesenauer caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Bradley to open up a 39-0 lead.
“Jason Bradley is an excellent leader on and off the field,” Bruno said. “We need to do a better job running the ball, but the game tends to take on a life of its own and we went to the pass more than the run.”
The Bulldogs avoided the shutout when Chris Matthews scored on a 3-yard touchdown run followed by Myles Goulbourne’s two-point conversion catch.
Naugatuck will host Wolcott on Friday at 7 p.m. on the new Veterans Field turf as the exciting Greyhounds come home for the first time.
“We know we are facing a very good Wolcott team that made the playoffs the last two seasons,” Bruno said, “So, we have our work cut out for us.”