TORRINGTON — Woodland’s explosive spread offense scores plenty of touchdowns as it is. So when the Hawks’ defense decides it’s going to get familiar with the end zone, look out.
Woodland’s offense scored seven touchdowns and its defense added three more as the Hawks routed Torrington 68-20 in a key Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division matchup last Saturday night.
Woodland (4-1, 4-0 NVL Copper) needed just less than five total minutes of possession to establish a 14-7 lead on Tanner Kingsley’s pretty touchdown passes to Rahmi Rountree and Anthony Scirpo. But the unit who usually does most of Woodland’s scoring got plenty of backup from then on out.
Late in the first quarter, linebacker Mike Coelho tipped a pass by Connor Finn that ended up in the hands of Scirpo, who returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to give Woodland a 20-7 lead.
The Hawks added another touchdown early in the second quarter on a 69-yard shovel pass from Kingsley to Brian Zaccagnini before their defense struck again.
With Torrington (2-4, 2-2) starting a drive at its own 35, defensive end Kevin Brennan blasted into the backfield and hit Finn’s blind side just as he was about to throw. Brennan swiped at Finn’s arm and jarred the ball loose, allowing linebacker Nick Brown to pick it up and return it for a 30-yard score to make it a 34-7 lead midway through the second.
“Kevin rushed the quarterback and made a great play,” Brown said. “We knew all week we had to get some pressure and we did.”
Late in the game, Jim Barrett recorded a fumble-recovery touchdown of his own to give the Hawks their third defensive score of the night.
“We were opportunistic,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “It was a matter of being in the right place at the right times on some things. Our pick-six and the fumble recoveries for touchdowns meant we had players around the ball.”
It all came without one of the team’s best defenders, Levi Fancher, who was out with an illness.
“We were missing one of our key defensive players but it was a matter of the next guy stepping up,” said Fancher’s older brother Joe, who also rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. “We did a great job of swarming to the ball, that’s one of our goals.”
Scirpo, who added a supremely athletic, 15-yard touchdown reception from Kingsley just before halftime, feels Woodland’s defense is stronger than some might think.
“We just have to keep making plays,” Scirpo said. “Three turnovers returned for touchdowns says that we have a good defense that can make plays. I think we’re a little underrated.”
Kingsley doesn’t mind the help one bit.
“When the defense is making plays it sets us up with good field position,” Kingsley said. “When they score it takes some pressure off the offense.”
Woodland’s offense didn’t face much pressure all night although a few good Torrington punts allowed the Hawks to mount some of their longest drives of the season.
The varsity unit’s scoring series — of 66, 72, 92, 81, 80 and 48 yards — gave Kingsley plenty of field to chew up with his left arm. He recorded a season-high 24 completions on 33 attempts while racking up 323 yards and four touchdowns. He connected with seven different targets.
“It was nice to finally move the ball a little bit,” Kingsley said. “We’ve been scoring pretty quickly usually but tonight we had some good, long drives. I just have confidence in every wide receiver. I know that if I put the ball there they’re going to catch it and make big plays.”
Shea said Kingsley, a junior in his second season as Woodland’s starter, is being allowed to take more reign over the offense.
“As the weeks go on we’re giving him more ability to make checks,” Shea said. “From what he sees and what we see might be different. If he has it, he’s been coached to make a check.”
The victory put Woodland atop the Copper as the division’s only unbeaten team. The Hawks visit Naugatuck on Friday before hosting Holy Cross on Nov. 2.
“We’ve been talking to the seniors all year that with each game, that’s one less they have to play,” Shea said. “We want them to write their own ending and I think tonight was a good step in them doing that.”