WATERBURY — The Woodland Hawks used a couple of long plays to distance themselves from the Kennedy Eagles last Saturday morning at Municipal Stadium. Woodland broke out to a 34-0 lead before coasting to a 34-26 win over the Eagles.
Kennedy put up some window-dressing touchdowns, scoring 20 fourth-quarter points (including two touchdowns inside the last three minutes) after Hawks head coach Tim Shea called off the dogs and put in the second team to finish it out.
“We came out of here with what we wanted,” Shea said. “We wanted a win, to be sure everyone was healthy going into the Naugatuck game and to give the second team some playing experience, and we met our goals.”
The game was hardly the seat-grabber one would expect by the final score. The Hawks (3-0) had the game well in hand early, putting it in the end zone the first two possessions they had the ball.
Tanner Kingsley threw scoring strikes of 29 yards to Mike Kenney and 22 yards to Taylor Tucciarone that opened up a 14-0 lead with 7:58 to go in the first quarter.
Sean McAllen (11 carries for 88 yards) got the ground game going behind the holes provided at the line of scrimmage from Max McSperrin, Alex Varhol, Will Flormann, Jake Laliberte and Alik Bures.
Kennedy responded after a muffed punt to put together a nine-play drive led by Jacob Gonzalez (15 carries for 116 yards). The Eagles reached the Woodland 5-yard line before Flormann made a fourth-and-goal stop at the 3 and the Hawks took over at the start of the second quarter.
Kingsley fired a pass over the middle and Kenney reached up and outstepped the Eagles defense 97 yards for the touchdown. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Woodland history, and at that point Kingsley was 3-for-3 passing for 148 yards and three touchdowns just a minute into the second quarter.
Kingsley finished up his day 8-of-10 for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Joe Poeta had four catches for 60 yards and Kenney hauled in two passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles managed four punts, one turnover on downs and one fumble as the Woodland defense, led by the front of Austin Clarke, Varhol, Flormann and Jake Boncal, allowed just three first downs by halftime. When Kennedy did manage positive yardage the linebacker crew of Chris McDonald, Chris Slavin and Levi Fancher made sure it didn’t go anywhere.
McAllen later broke loose on a 26-yard scamper with Flormann booting the extra point as the Hawks took a 27-0 lead into the halftime break.
“We wanted to focus on establishing the running game and Sean did a good job for us,” Shea said. “Tanner threw with consistency and tossed three touchdowns, and our game plan was coming together. In the second half we gave the second team some varsity experience that will make us stronger as a team moving forward.”
If the 97-yard pass play didn’t stagger the Eagles, the 88-yard kickoff return from Mike Lang to start the second half buckled their knees as Woodland increased its advantage at 34-0.
The Eagles finally got on the board with 6:57 left in the third quarter when quarterback Larry Lock hooked up with Gonzalez on a 34-yard fourth-down play to make it 34-6.
Nick Giammaetti rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries and Chris Slavin added 24 yards on five carries. Quincy Koch later took over at quarterback for the Hawks.
Gonzalez added another touchdown in the fourth quarter for Kennedy while Christian Curry tacked on two for himself.
Woodland will host neighboring rival Naugatuck (3-0) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in what should be another Naugatuck Valley League barnburner for the lead in the Copper Division.