NAUGATUCK — Tanner Kingsley wasn’t too bad last Friday night.
The Woodland quarterback set Naugatuck Valley League passing records with 502 yards and eight touchdowns as the Hawks knocked off Naugatuck 56-30 in a key NVL Copper Division game at Veterans Field.
Kingsley’s touchdowns went to Anthony Scirpo (three), Rahmi Rountree (two), Brian Zaccagnini (two) and Brian Reis (one).
And yet the junior signal-caller’s performance was within his coaches’ expectations.
“Tanner does what we ask him to do,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “He’s coming into his own,” Shea said. “He’s getting better every week. As we go along in the season, he’s going to be playing longer. Doing what we do on offense, he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball.”
Zaccagnini, who led all receivers with 150 yards on six catches, had simple praise for his quarterback.
“It’s amazing,” Zaccagnini said. “I’ve never seen a quarterback who can throw eight touchdowns in a game and play with as much intensity as he had. He has the fire to keep us going. Driving down the field, there’s no doubt.”
Kingsley hit Scirpo on a 5-yard fade to start the game for a 6-0 lead. Later in the first he shoveled a pass to Zaccagnini for a 45-yard touchdown before finishing the quarter on a 71-yard fly to Scirpo, giving the Hawks an 18-7 lead after one.
“We just want to control the ball and make good drives,” Kingsley said. “We want to keep picking up first downs and score every time.”
Rountree scored on a 14-yard fade midway through the second quarter to make it a 24-15 Woodland (5-1, 5-0 NVL Copper) lead before Naugy’s Jerome Love broke through six tackles for a 35-yard touchdown run.
The Hawks’ only punt of the night gave Naugatuck (4-3, 3-2) its first chance to take the lead but Rountree picked off Jason Bradley in the two-minute drill to stop the threat. Two plays later, Rountree grabbed a 42-yard fly from Kingsley to make it 30-22 at the half.
“Tanner destroyed us,” Naugatuck coach Shawn Kuczenski said. “He just ripped our secondary apart. We tried zone, man, zone blitzes and he just picked us apart. Our line didn’t get any pressure. We dropped guys into coverage and he picked us apart.”
For all the offense, the game’s outcome relied heavily on a defensive stand to end the second half’s first drive. Naugy earned a second-and-goal at the Woodland 1 but the Hawks held on the final three tries to force a turnover on downs.
“Every single defensive player did his job,” defensive tackle Will Flormann said. “We acted like a unit and when you act like a unit you get uniformity. It was a huge turning point. When you get a big stop like that in the end zone, it just makes you happy. It really puts a smile on your face.”
“That was a big fourth-and goal,” Kuczenski said. “If you can’t get a foot, that’s not good. That killed us because we could have tied it up. We just didn’t come out with fire in the second half.”
Woodland started the ensuing drive from its own 2 and proceeded to chew up 98 yards over the next 6:13, including third-and-7 and fourth-and-13 conversions from Kingsley to Rountree before Joe Masulli’s 1-yard touchdown run made it a 38-22 lead.
Kingsley tacked on three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Reis, Scirpo and Zaccagnini.
“Brian (Zaccagnini) stepped up a lot,” Kingsley said. “With (Levi) Fancher going down as our tight end, Brian has come in and we have so much confidence in him. He’s been making all the plays we’ve needed him to.”
Kingsley, who on the season has 26 touchdowns to just one interception, has led his team to the brink of its first NVL Copper Division title since 2007, which it can earn with a win over Holy Cross this week.
Naugy looks to break its two-game losing streak this week against Watertown.