BEACON FALLS – The average halftime in a high school football game is about 15 minutes. The break in the season-opening matchup between Ansonia and Woodland was about 22 hours.
The Hawks took a 21-19 lead into the half last Thursday but couldn’t seal the deal when play resumed Friday after a lightning delay and fell to the Chargers, 41-36.
Costly defensive mistakes and a controversial call to stall a Woodland scoring drive both contributed heavily to the Hawks’ defeat, but senior quarterback Jack DeBiase felt the extended halftime worked against his team.
DeBiase led the Black and Gold on a nine-play, 66-yard scoring drive in two and a half minutes at the end of the second quarter, ending on a 13-yard swing pass to senior Jake Pinho. Pinho bounced like a pinball off five Ansonia defenders before stumbling into the end zone to give the Hawks a 21-19 lead.
DeBiase then intercepted a pass by Ansonia quarterback Elliot Chudwick on the first play of the ensuing drive, and although Woodland didn’t convert it into a score, it gave the Hawks all the momentum heading into the locker room.
That momentum was shattered when the game was suspended after several strikes of lightning, forcing the second half to Friday afternoon.
“I thought it was a disadvantage to us,” DeBiase said. “I picked off that pass before halftime and we had all the momentum. Today it was even again and we were sore. I hated it.”
“Everybody was caught off guard with that,” Woodland head coach Tim Shea said. “I wanted to wait it out a little longer, but it was the same situation for [Ansonia].”
The game turned into a track meet in the second half. The Chargers, led by senior running back Montrell Dobbs’ 213 yards and three touchdowns, scored on their first two possessions of the half. Woodland kept pace with a 2-yard touchdown run by DeBiase, to keep the score at 33-28 after the third quarter.
The Hawks had its turn to reclaim the lead early in the fourth quarter as they marched deep inside Ansonia territory on a 54-yard run by DeBiase. On 4th-and-3 from the Chargers’ 4, DeBiase took a shotgun snap—like he had been doing all game—but was called down for having a knee touching the ground.
“It’s too bad there was a [bad] call,” DeBiase said. “My knee wasn’t on the ground.”
That hiccup opened the door to Ansonia, which took over on downs at its own 8-yard line with 8:57 to play. Woodland nearly forced a stop, but Chudwick completed a 27-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 to keep the drive alive. Dobbs scored his last touchdown on the day to extend the lead to 41-28 with 2:21 left.
“We just didn’t tackle today,” Shea said. “If you can’t tackle, you’re going to pay. We’ve got to get the defense off the field.”
DeBiase led the Hawks back down the field and hooked up with Pinho on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 34.2 seconds to go to make it 41-36. But Woodland couldn’t secure the onside kick and fell to Ansonia for the fifth-consecutive time.
DeBiase finished with 169 yards on 24 carries and two rushing touchdowns and completed 12 of 18 passes for 146 yards and two more scores in his first start at quarterback.
“It’s what we expected,” Shea said. “He’s our best player. If we’re going to go down, we’re going down with our best. It was two of the best players around here going at it. We gave it our best shot, but we came out a little short.”