WATERBURY — Woodland’s spread offense — and its young defense — enjoyed about as good a season debut as any in Hawks history.
Junior quarterback Tanner Kingsley tied a school record with five touchdown passes and the Hawks held Sacred Heart to 51 yards in a dominant, 46-0 victory last Thursday at Municipal Stadium.
The Hearts had 14 yards in the first half, in which Woodland forced failed third-down conversions on all seven opportunities. The Hawks’ defensive front, anchored by linebackers Joe and Levi Fancher and lineman Eric Collodel, relentlessly pressured the Sacred Heart backfield all night.
“I thought it made a statement,” said Joe Fancher, who also rushed for a game-high 117 yards and a touchdown. “We have a lot of new guys on defense but we’ve been working hard and that’s how we’re doing it.”
“We work out butts off when it’s really hot,” Collodel added. “We took it to them on the line. coach (Chris) Moffo prepares us for any front that comes at us.”
Woodland head coach Tim Shea said his staff challenged the inexperienced defense, which returned only four starters, throughout the preseason. Freshman Coby Vaccarelli responded early with a first-quarter interception.
“They know what people are saying about how we are defensively and the coaches have been saying it, too,” Shea said. “They played better tonight defensively than we thought they would. Everyone will look at the offense but the defense helped us get the ball back on the other side of the field.”
There was plenty of reason to look at the Hawks’ offense, which reintroduced its spread look after a five-season hiatus. Kingsley, in his second year as the starter, completed five passes to five different receivers to start the game.
“We wanted to come out and force the tempo a little bit and impose our will,” Shea said. “We were pretty good. Tanner moved the ball around to a lot of different guys.”
Levi Fancher hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass on the fourth play of the game following Anthony Scirpo’s 62-yard return of the opening kickoff.
Kingsley hooked up with Rahmi Rountree on scores of 28 and 10 yards and also hit Scirpo with an 8-yard touchdown pass to give the Hawks a 27-0 lead after the first quarter.
“We set the tone,” Kingsley said. “We have so many weapons on this team. The wide receivers work hard to get open and the line played great for me.”
The left-handed quarterback started the game 9-for-9 before his 10th pass fell incomplete in the end zone.
“I was a little disappointed,” Kingsley said of his first incompletion. “When I come out, I want to be perfect at everything I do.”
His only other incompletion was a second-quarter interception he threw while under pressure. Kingsley finished 16-of-18 for 166 yards.
Scirpo gave Woodland a 33-0 lead with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown 2 ½ minutes into the second period.
Kingsley’s final touchdown pass came early in the third quarter when he connected with Scirpo on a 5-yard slant to make it a 39-0 lead. Kingsley’s five touchdowns tied a school record shared by Jared Katchmar and Alex Dorosh, who both ran the spread from 2003-06.
Joe Fancher finished the scoring a few minutes later with a 2-yard run.
With about three minutes to go in the first half, Rountree and Sacred Heart’s Shyquan Thompson got into an altercation after a play. The situation quickly escalated and ended after officials determined Rountree threw a punch at a Sacred Heart player.
The officials ejected Rountree, which means he will miss next week’s game at Ansonia. The Chargers walloped Torrington 66-26 last Friday and will host Woodland this Friday at 7 p.m. Ansonia has a 15-game winning streak, and Woodland hasn’t beaten the Chargers since 2005.
“Next week will be fun,” said Shea about the Ansonia game.