Hawks fall in NVL title game

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Woodland's Tanner Kingsley (7) throws for a first down during the NVL championship game against Ansonia Nov. 20 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Ansonia won the game, 48-7. –RA ARCHIVE
Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley (7) throws for a first down during the NVL championship game against Ansonia Nov. 20 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Ansonia won the game, 48-7. –RA ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — The only team that has come close to Ansonia during its current 39-game winning streak played a near-perfect football game and dominated the turnover battle.

Woodland did neither in last Wednesday’s Naugatuck Valley League championship game at Municipal Stadium.

The Hawks committed four turnovers and allowed All-State running back Arkeel Newsome to run for 249 yards with five touchdowns as the undefeated Chargers hammered Woodland, 48-7, to win their third straight NVL title.

Woodland (9-2) and its potent offense struggled to start the night with a pair of three-and-out series, and in between the failed drives Newsome sprung a 24-yard touchdown run to give Ansonia a 7-0 lead — one the Chargers expanded throughout the night.

“That really hurt us,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said of the early offensive struggles. “You can’t go three-and-out (twice) to start the game.”

Ansonia (11-0) also played the best defensive game against Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley of any team in the last two years. The Chargers limited Kingsley to 10-of-29 passing for just 76 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Ansonia simply outplayed us at every position,” Kingsley said. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities that we had and we had too many turnovers.”

“We knew that we had to have a good game on defense,” Newsome said. “We had to be mentally focused, and we were. We were really excited and pumped up for this game.”

Ansonia’s NVL title is its sixth in eight seasons under Tom Brockett, the coach with the best winning percentage in state history. The last three have come thanks to the legs of Newsome, now a senior. He earned his third straight NVL championship MVP award after scoring five of Ansonia’s seven touchdowns.

“Arkeel Newsome is the best running back in the state,” Kingsley said. “He’s been the best for the past couple of years.”

Newsome scored on a 28-yard run on Ansonia’s second series and added three second-half touchdowns: a 7-yard sprint, a 67-yard gallop and a 29-yard pass from Jai’Quan McKnight. Newsome rebounded after muffing the game’s first punt, even though he fell on the fumble.

Ansonia's Jai'Quan McKnight (1) gets brought down by Woodland's Max McSperrin (56) and Chris Slavin (34) during the NVL championship game against Ansonia Nov. 20 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Ansonia won the game, 48-7. –RA ARCHIVE
Ansonia’s Jai’Quan McKnight (1) gets brought down by Woodland’s Max McSperrin (56) and Chris Slavin (34) during the NVL championship game against Ansonia Nov. 20 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. Ansonia won the game, 48-7. –RA ARCHIVE

“We worked a lot on ball security in practice,” said Newsome, who fumbled twice when the Chargers squeaked by with a 21-20 win over Seymour a few weeks ago. “We had to do a better job of that. After that first punt, I knew that I had to make up for it. We had the momentum from the start and we definitely kept it.”

A pair of Ansonia sophomores, Tajik Bagley and Tyler Bailey, also scored on long plays. Bagley’s touchdown came on a 62-yard misdirection run and Bailey caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from McKnight, who also ran for 62 yards.

Woodland’s lone touchdown came in the third quarter on a 13-yard run by Sean McAllen, who led the Hawks with 57 rushing yards on 12 carries. The Hawks, who also lost the 2007 and 2012 NVL title games to Ansonia, committed several turnovers as they approached the end zone and had a 77-yard touchdown catch by Joe Poeta taken off the board by a penalty.

Woodland also lost wide receiver Jack Pinho to a hand injury early in the game. Pinho said he hopes to return for Wednesday’s game against Seymour.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.