BEACON FALLS — A spread offense isn’t supposed to hold the ball nearly 10 minutes more than a run-based team. But that’s exactly what happened last Saturday night when Woodland hosted Holy Cross.
The Hawks dominated time of possession, outgained Holy Cross 343-132 and allowed just six first downs in clinching the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division title with a 28-0 victory over the Crusaders.
Most of Woodland’s damage in all the above departments came in the second half, when they allowed Holy Cross to have the ball for fewer than seven minutes. The Hawks essentially put away the game with their drive to open the second half.
With a tenuous 14-0 lead out of the locker room, Woodland mounted a 13-play, 62-yard drive that ate up 5:20 and ended with an 8-yard fade from Tanner Kingsley to Brian Reis, making it a 21-0 Woodland lead.
“Our goal coming out was definitely to score,” Kingsley said. “That took time off the clock and we did a great job. We controlled the football and we knew if we put on a long drive and we scored it would be a big momentum change.”
The drive included a fourth-and-1 conversion from Kingsley to Reis, an 18-yard run by Joe Masulli and the touchdown pass to Reis, who dove inside the front left pylon for the score.
It took the Crusaders more than 21 minutes before they finally picked up a first down on their final series of the first half. That drive stalled at the Woodland 8-yard line when Anthony Scirpo forced a fourth-down incompletion with his hit on Cross receiver Kevin Kalosky at the goal line.
Otherwise, Holy Cross didn’t have a threatening drive all night. Woodland’s defensive front allowed just 73 rushing yards — including 22 on seven carries by Adrian Brown — and pressured quarterback Kristian Harmeling all night.
“We knew we had to stop the run,” said lineman Eric Collodel, who made several tackles for losses. “That’s what we did in practice all week. We had to come out swinging because our boys, Joe Fancher and Coby Vaccarelli, are out for the season. We had to win it for them.”
Woodland’s defense forced five three-and-outs to start the game and allowed Holy Cross to run just five plays from inside the Hawks’ 25.
“Everyone’s been doubting them,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said of his defense. “Don’t think the kids don’t hear it. Getting Levi (Fancher) back this week helped a lot. We moved Brian Zaccagnini back to linebacker now that Taylor Tucciarone is getting healthy.”
“The defense played great,” Kingsley said. “A lot of people doubt our defense and think it’s all about our offense. It’s a team effort here. They really stepped up tonight.”
On a fourth-and-12 from the Holy Cross 16 late in the first quarter, Kingsley floated a pass to the front left pylon for Anthony Scirpo, who ripped the ball away from a defender and came down with the game’s first touchdown.
In the second, Reis pulled the same maneuver for a 14-yard touchdown to make it a 14-0 game.
“They threw a couple coverages at us that we haven’t seen before,” Reis said. “But we adjusted and ran our routes hard. We had confidence that Tanner would get us the ball.”
Reis racked up 49 yards on seven catches, nearly every one seemingly coming in a big spot.
“Those two touchdowns and his field awareness are huge,” Shea said. “Brian’s great. He’s undersized but he’s a captain and he’s playing so far above that you can’t measure the size of his heart.”
The victory gave Woodland its first Copper Division title since the inaugural crown in 2007. The Hawks will face Ansonia for the league title Nov. 15 after this Friday’s game at Wolcott, a win in which would all but assure a spot in the Class S playoffs.
“We let a couple get away the last couple of years,” Shea said. “I told the kids I didn’t want to let another one get away. The seniors took that upon themselves.”