Woodland back on top Copper Division

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 Woodland’s Taylor Tucciarone (24) lowers his shoulder at the end of a run as Torrington’s Zack Mancini (1) makes the tackle Nov. 8 in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won the game, 46-14. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Taylor Tucciarone (24) lowers his shoulder at the end of a run as Torrington’s Zack Mancini (1) makes the tackle Nov. 8 in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won the game, 46-14. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — With Naugatuck’s victory over Holy Cross the night before, the Woodland football team had its Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division destiny back in its hands last Friday against Torrington.

The Hawks made sure to take advantage of their second chance, reclaiming their spot atop the division with a 46-14 victory over Torrington.

Woodland’s Week 8 loss to Holy Cross gave the Crusaders a chance to win the division against Naugy, but the Greyhounds blew out Cross. It was the result the Hawks wanted to see, but they downplayed the attention paid to that contest.

“We weren’t focused on that game,” Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley said. “We were focused on what we had to do as a team to move forward. Now the Copper is back in our hands, so we’re happy.”

It was a total rebound effort against Torrington. Woodland (8-1, 5-1 NVL Copper) dominated in total yardage (508-197), first downs (25-6) and turned over the ball only once, not the four times the Hawks coughed it up in their prior game.

“We wanted to prove everybody wrong and show that last week was a fluke,” Woodland wide receiver Mike Kenney said. “We didn’t play our best game (last week) so tonight we came out tough.”

The passing game that was held to a season-low 143 yards against Holy Cross fired from the start. Kingsley completed 14 of 23 passes for 153 yards in the first quarter alone and finished 31-of-47 for 389 yards and four touchdowns.

“After last week, we just wanted to come out here and be crisp,” Kingsley said. “We wanted to get back on track and prove that we’re still a great football team. We had to move forward.”

After stalling in the red zone on its first drive, Woodland scored on its next five series to take a 32-7 lead into halftime. Kingsley ran for a 14-yard touchdown on the second series to make it 6-0, and on the first play of Torrington’s ensuing series Mike Lang picked off Connor Finn inside the Red Raiders 30-yard line.

“Levi Fancher was blitzing the quarterback and he made the quarterback throw it right to me,” said Lang, a senior who rejoined the team in the preseason after sitting out two years. “I was in the right place in the right time to get my first bingo of the year.”

McAllen (10 rushes, 99 yards, two touchdowns) capitalized upon the takeaway when he walked in from 1 yard out to make it a 12-0 game halfway through the first.

Desmond Langs returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Woodland territory and scored on a 21-yard pass from Finn, but that was the extent of Torrington’s offense in the first half. The Red Raiders gained only 47 yards before the break.

Woodland’s Mike Kenney (9) races for the goal line as Torrington’s Damian Lajoie (34) and Nathan Manchester (17) give chase Nov. 8 in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won the game, 46-14. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Mike Kenney (9) races for the goal line as Torrington’s Damian Lajoie (34) and Nathan Manchester (17) give chase Nov. 8 in Beacon Falls. The Hawks won the game, 46-14. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Meanwhile, the Hawks passing game heated up on a frigid night atop the hill in Beacon Falls. Kingsley hit Taylor Tucciarone with a 1-yard touchdown before the end of the first and hooked up with Kenney on a 53-yard fade in the second.

In the third, Kingsley found Jack Pinho for a 3-yard touchdown and Kenney for a 26-yard score. Passes found seven different receivers, including Kenney’s 10 catches for 163 yards and Tucciarone’s seven for 87.

“The short passing game was great,” Tucciarone said. “(Torrington’s defensive backs) were bailing deep so our quick game worked well.”

Woodland also kept alive drives by converting six of seven third downs, and the Hawks held the ball for almost 8 minutes longer than the Red Raiders.

Now, Woodland has a second chance to clinch the NVL Copper Division title with a win Friday over Derby in what will be the schools’ first-ever meeting.

“It’s big fun,” said Shea, whose team also needs Naugy to beat Kennedy or St. Paul to beat Holy Cross. “We’re back in a position to win it, but the Derby game is going to be a great game. A lot of people around here have waited a long time to see a game between these two schools.”