Hawks, ‘Hounds heading for gridiron showdown

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Naugatuck’s Jason Bradley will lead the Greyhounds Friday night against Woodland. Both teams are 3-0. -FILE PHOTO
Naugatuck’s Jason Bradley will lead the Greyhounds Friday night against Woodland. Both teams are 3-0. -FILE PHOTO

For the first time in the history of the Woodland-Naugatuck football series, the Hawks and Greyhounds are set to meet with records of 3-0 or better.

It will happen Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Beacon Falls before what is hopefully one of the best crowds we have ever seen at the young high school. (The pressure is on you, fans. Make this game special and come watch it with us.)

Although the series will only turn 11 years old this week — and Woodland has won nine of the 10 previous meetings — it has given us some of the best games either school has played over the last decade.

We don’t need to remind you about the Halloween Game, right? Well, we will. Because we like to. That game on Oct. 31, 2003, was for all intents and purposes the start of Woodland’s football program. In a wild last two minutes, in which both teams scored two touchdowns, two Valley football legends were born in Jared Katchmar and Pat Krakowski. Katchmar’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Krakowski as time expired gave the Hawks a 40-37 win.

The Halloween Game is still the signature game of Woodland’s football history and was the centerpiece in the Citizen’s News All-Decade section and this Wednesday’s edition of the Republican-American Red Zone Hall of Fame, in which we detailed the game and the career of Krakowski.

While that game lives as the greatest, it carried no championship weight. Two other games between the Hawks and ‘Hounds were battles for the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division championship.

Woodland dismantled Naugatuck, 42-0, in 2007 to win its first division title. Three years later, the Hawks pulled a 25-6 upset in the borough to take the title’s destiny into their own hands (only to lose it the following week and  hand it back to Naugy, which won that year’s NVL championship).

Although this game will only be played in Week 4 of the 2013 season, it carries as much significance as any game in the series’ history. Why? Lots of reasons, of course.

Woodland’s staff and players know the Hawks have won nine of 10 meetings between the schools. They don’t particularly like Naugatuck. That’s good for football.

Naugatuck’s staff, although new to the program, and players know the Greyhounds have lost nine of 10 meetings between the schools. They want to break the streak. That’s good for football.

Woodland and Naugatuck appear to be substantially better through three weeks than all the other Copper Division squads, which means the winner of this game may very well end up winning the division title and getting a likely crack at Ansonia for the league championship.

Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley will lead the Hawks Friday night against Naugatuck. Both teams are 3-0.-KYLE BRENNAN
Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley will lead the Hawks Friday night against Naugatuck. Both teams are 3-0.-KYLE BRENNAN

As for the teams on the field, they are remarkably even. I’ve been thinking about which team I will pick to win since before the Week 3 games were even complete. In figuring out my preseason win totals, I had Naugatuck in this game. In watching the squads through three weeks, I found myself squarely on top of the fence, with two of those uncomfortable pickets driving into each thigh. (Imagery, right?!)

Both teams have All-NVL-caliber quarterbacks in Tanner Kingsley and Jason Bradley. Both teams have tough new running backs in Sean McAllen and Tom Douty. Both teams have deep corps of wide receivers. Both teams have unproven defenses. Both teams want to crank up the tempo and open up their offenses. Both teams like to put on fun ballgames.

Friday’s game is one of the best in the entire state that evening. It’s at a special 6:30 p.m. start time so you don’t have to be out all night. If you can’t make it, I will have the call with Steve Gesseck and Bob Sagendorf on 1320 WATR-AM.

Finally, I guess I can’t stall with my pick any longer. My first instinct was to pick the Greyhounds in a close one, and that instinct is still yelling a little too loudly to switch my pick to the Hawks, who have not faced a team with a win of yet.

One pick I do feel good about: This game will go down to the last possession. Go see for yourself.