By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
The table for Thanksgiving is usually set with an abundance of culinary flair as memories of family traditions going back for years fill our heads before turkey fills our stomachs.
This year, there will at least be one holiday tradition missing — the big game. In these parts, that game is Naugatuck vs. Ansonia, the second oldest football rivalry in the state.
The series, which Ansonia leads 73-37-10, dates back to 1900 when Ansonia beat Naugatuck by the odd score of 5-0. The first ten games of this gridiron showdown resulted in the loser being shut out eight times, while the other two games ended in a scoreless tie.
This is not the first year in the storied rivalry that the Greyhounds and Chargers didn’t play a Thanksgiving game. For various reasons, the teams didn’t play in 1911, 1915, 1918 and 1924.
A lot has happened over the 120-year history of the rivalry. My daunting task is to assemble a list of the five most memorable games in a series that has decided 17 Naugatuck Valley League titles. I used those title-decided games to narrow down my choices and stayed in the modern age. The list begins with the first NVL title won by coach Craig Peters and his Greyhounds.
Naugatuck 24, Ansonia 20 (Nov. 26, 1981): Ansonia came into the game undefeated, as usual, but so did the Greyhounds. Something had to give.
Naugy was loaded with talent, including Kevin Moreland, Darryl White, Steve Croce, Dave Mariano, Ted Sanford, Rick Ruest and Joe Pascale. Naugatuck used a very opportunistic defense that came away with seven turnovers, including three interceptions by Jim Einik, to pin a defeat on the Chargers and claim the NVL title.
The Greyhounds went on to post the best record in school history (11-0), defeat Xavier, 28-6, to win the state championship, and finish ranked No. 1 in New England.
Naugatuck 22, Ansonia 0 (Nov. 25, 1993): It took a 13-6 loss to Seymour the game before to light a fire under the Greyhounds. What an inferno it was.
Naugatuck smothered the Chargers and shut them out for the first time since 1962. Marlon Fernandez returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown. All-State lineman Jay Segetti had five tackles and Jason Celozzi had three sacks to spark the defense. Kevin Kuzma, Scott Mastropietro and Mike Perrella (two rushing touchdowns) got the offense on track.
Naugatuck (10-1) went on to beat Manchester, 34-13, to win its second state championship. Joey Edmonds threw three touchdown passes to Brandon Hayward in the title game.
Ansonia 28, Naugatuck 21 (OT) (Nov. 24, 1994): Ansonia, still feeling the sting of being shut out the year before, was not about to leave Jarvis Field without a victory and an NVL title, even if it meant going to overtime.
Ansonia’s Jason Dziubina tackled Naugatuck quarterback Joe Edmonds on 4th and 6 on the final play of overtime to secure the win for the Chargers in arguably the greatest game in the rivalry’s history.
All-State quarterback Edmonds gave Naugy a 13-7 lead at the half with a touchdown pass to All-State receiver Jahmal Francis. Ansonia took a 21-13 advantage with 1:46 to go in the game. Edmonds took a pitch from Josh Sanford and rumbled 66 yards for a touchdown, and Dan Conklin blasted in for the two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
Many in the estimated crowd of 12,000 fans had already left and had to hurry back to watch the unexpected overtime. Ron Tate scored his third touchdown of the game to put Ansonia on top 28-21 and it came down to the final series of downs for Naugy.
Naugatuck 14, Ansonia 13 (Nov. 22, 2001): There were many games that belonged on this list.
In 1972, Naugy won 19-14 to go undefeated for the first time in 44 years. Quarterback Bernie Palmer had two touchdowns in the game.
There was the game that didn’t decide an NVL title, but kept fans on the edge of their seats in 1985. Al Capozziello ran for three touchdowns and 175 yards in a 33-27 Naugatuck victory.
But for big game excitement nothing can replace the 2001 game. After not being able to beat Ansonia on the gridiron as a player for Naugy, head coach Rob Plasky, in his first season replacing Peters, tasted victory as head coach in a squeaker.
The ’Hounds were looking to right a wrong after losing 15-12 in overtime the year before. Larry Bennett returned the opening kickoff of the second half 76 yards for a touchdown to put Naugy on the board. Matt Paradisi went 66 yards for the final touchdown, and Pablo Couvertier ran in the game-winning two-point conversion.
Naugatuck 38, Ansonia 20 (Nov. 25, 2010): Ansonia won eight straight heading into the 2010 game, and they weren’t even close. The Chargers outscored Naugy by a combined 309-56 in those games.
So, what took place at Jarvis Field that chilly morning in November took everyone by surprise, except the Greyhounds.
Before the game fans were chatting about how close Naugy would be able to get, but in the back of their minds they had some serious doubts. Little did they know quarterback Erich Broadrick would put the team on his back and deliver the most outstanding performance in the history of this holiday classic.
Broadrick threw three touchdown passes and ran in for two more scores to lead the Greyhounds. Tyler Conklin caught four passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Echevarria had five sacks to lead a defense that took the steam out of the high-powered Chargers’ offense.