As the 2011 Naugatuck Valley League football season unfolded over the first five weeks, the Naugatuck Greyhounds and the Woodland Hawks were on a collision course for a key Copper Division matchup to potentially decide who would go on to play for the NVL title.
After five games, Woodland and Naugatuck stood toe-to-toe. Woodland was 4-1 on the season and outscoring opponents, 143-81, while Naugatuck was also 4-1 and outscoring opponents, 142-94. By all indications, the Naugatuck-Woodland showdown was coming down to a division-deciding game.
That was until last week when both teams suffered losses that may have derailed plans of a de facto Copper playoff game. Naugatuck fell to Holy Cross by a 43-0 margin and Woodland dropped a 44-29 decision to Torrington.
The Hawks still have an outside chance at the division championship, likely needing wins over Naugatuck, Holy Cross, Wolcott, and help from some team beating Torrington for the Copper title to head to Beacon Falls.
Meanwhile, the Greyhounds are all but out of the division chase with two losses in the Copper.
Even though the divisional implications aren’t what they could have been, this is still a rivalry game.
“Regardless if we are playing for the division or not, this will be two teams coming out fired up based on the history that this rivalry has built up over the past 10 or so seasons,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “I don’t think the losses last week are going to take anything away from the intensity that you will see Friday night.”
Shea acknowledged Naugatuck’s defense and star power with Jake Yourison.
“As a whole the Naugatuck defense is as tough as nails and you can’t look at one game and decide otherwise,” Shea said. “Jake Yourison on the other side of the ball is a real good football player and we need to contend with that.”
Woodland has a few solid defensive players as well with Zach Plourde, Dave Alves, Levi Fancher, and Eric Collodel giving it their all on every down.
On the other side of the ball quarterback Tanner Kingsley will be a key component in the offense, throwing for 910 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. Matt Zaccagnini has settled in as the go-to guy in the running game, picking up 752 yards and nine touchdowns.
Anthony Scirpo (25 rec., 367 yards, six TD) joins Kyle McClintick (15 rec., 206 yards, four TD) as a solid one-two tandem at wide receiver.
Meanwhile, Naugatuck will counter with quarterback Zac Mercer (630 pass yards, six TD) and Yourison (720 rush yards, eight TD). Mick Pernell, Besim Bomova, and Matt Harris will be key targets in the passing game.
Even though the Copper is out of reach, Naugatuck has plenty on the line.
“We still have a shot at a state playoff game if we win out,” Naugatuck coach Rob Plasky said. “You have to be on the edge of your seat hoping that these kids can bounce back from the loss to Holy Cross. Our season depends on that. In years past we have had the vocal leadership to pick us back up. I’m not seeing a whole lot of that this year. We need to start playing poised football.”
The Greyhounds are 14th in Class L while the Hawks are 16th in Class S. The winner will stay alive in the playoff hunt while the loser will fall out of contention.
Woodland hosts Naugatuck on Friday at 7 p.m. as the Hawks look to improve on a 7-1 all-time record against the Greyhounds.