BEACON FALLS – The Woodland Hawks know a little bit about adversity. They made sure they didn’t face any Wednesday in Beacon Falls as they came out and knocked around the Seymour Wildcats, 47-7, in the eighth renewal of the Thanksgiving Eve rivalry.
The Hawks have experienced the highs and lows of a season like no other team has in quite some time. It was just three weeks ago that the Hawks believed they had wrapped up the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division and would be playing for an NVL title.
Three days later, they were told they still needed to win its next game. They didn’t win that game and could have heaved the rest of the season right over the cliff. But Woodland had one more mission and that was to reach the state playoffs.
Mission accomplished, as the Hawks are back in the postseason for the first time since 2007 and the fourth time in the last seven years.
“It was a tough few weeks being told we won the division and then we didn’t,” admitted Woodland coach Tim Shea. “But these kids showed their true character by not giving in and made it back to the states. A lot of teams boast about how many seniors they have. Well, we only have five and I’ll take those five any day.”
It only took Woodland 20 seconds to send a message that they were not to be denied. On the second play from scrimmage, Zach Plourde knocked away a handoff and Ian Bures recovered the fumble.
Jack DeBiase took the first offensive play around the corner and down the sidelines, going 34 yards to the house for a 6-0 advantage at the 11:40 mark of the first quarter.
It was off to the races from that point as Woodland chewed up 447 yards of real estate to the Wildcats’ 156, which came mostly in the second half.
DeBiase ran for 127 yards while Craig Genz barreled his way for 89 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Zaccagnini plowed ahead for another 79 yards.
Tom Gendreau, Ryan Wilkinson, and Jeff Holder along with Jeremy Clark and Dave Alves effectively moved the pile up front as DeBiase only had to throw twice for 13 yards.
Seymour didn’t help itself, punting four times in the first half and fumbling away again on the third series, again with Plourde on the force and Bures the recovery.
A DeBiase 2-yard strike to Bures concluded an eight-play drive with Genz pounding in the two point conversion to open up a 14-0 advantage.
“We have been making those kinds of mistakes all season and it’s baffling,” said Seymour coach Tom Lennon. “Jack DeBiase is a throwback, a real hard-nosed Valley type of football player and Woodland is fortunate to have him.”
Genz carried two more times into the end zone on a 12-yard blast and sneaking it in from five yards out to put the Hawks on top 27-0 at the half.
The Woodland defense virtually shut down anything the Wildcats tried to do as the Hawks held a distinctive advantage in yardage (180-7) with 6:56 to go in the first half.
Seymour quarterback Luke Grabowski was 7-of-18 passing for 78 yards and Seymour managed to run for most of their 98 yards in the second half.
The ‘Cats picked up three first downs and 36 yards on a drive to start the second half but it was for naught as they ended up losing possession on downs.
Anthony Scirpo ended any notion of Seymour making a game of it as he took one back to the house on a 65-yard run to open up a 34-0 lead after Zach Belenchia booted one of his three extra points.
Backup quarterback Tanner Kingsley snuck one in from a yard out to start the fourth quarter to push the advantage to 41-0.
Jim Vartelas found the end zone for the Wildcats with 4:54 to go on a 4-yard blast. Woodland running back Alex Bloomingdale put the finishing touches on the victory, taking it 43 yards to pay dirt inside of one minute left to play.
“Now we are in,” said Shea. “Whatever happens now, we are in the states and have one more game to prepare for.”
Woodland earned the No. 5 seed in Class S and is set to play No. 4 St. Joseph of Trumbull Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe High. The winner will face either No. 1 Valley Regional or No. 8 Sacred Heart in the semifinals Dec. 4.