By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
The Woodland-Seymour football rivalry may be one of the youngest in the area, but in less than two decades, the Hawks and Wildcats have established their annual Thanksgiving eve clash as one of the fiercest — and usually one of the most meaningful.
In the 17 games played during the holiday week since its inception in 2003, only four of them (2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014) haven’t somehow involved a spot in the state playoffs. Either the Hawks or the Wildcats qualified for the state playoffs in each of the other years — except the inaugural game in 2003, when Seymour beat Woodland to deprive the NVL newcomers of a postseason berth.
It’s been a series of runs, and Woodland now leads the holiday series, 9-8, after wins in each of the last two seasons. The overall series is tied at 9-9, though, thanks to Seymour’s win in the 2007 Class SS semifinals en route to a state championship.
The gold standard in the annals of the rivalry is undisputed — the 2004 clash before 5,000 fans at Woodland played the day after Thanksgiving for the NVL championship. But there have been plenty other great matchups over the past two decades.
Woodland 27, Seymour 22 (Nov. 26, 2004): The improbable story of an NVL football newcomer met its dramatic climax on a frigid Friday afternoon in Beacon Falls as Woodland’s Jeff Jones caught a game-winning, 12-yard touchdown pass from Jared Katchmar with 47 seconds left to win the league title in the Hawks’ second season.
An estimated 5,000 fans saw Katchmar and Jones hook up four consecutive times for 56 yards on the game-winning drive, which was set up when Woodland’s defense forced a three-and-out and stopped the clock with its three timeouts.
Jones, who caught six passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns, snared Katchmar’s pass and tiptoed along the right sideline for the winning score. The Hawks held Seymour on the ensuing drive to seal the win and the top seed in the Class SS state playoffs, in which they eventually won the state title.
Katchmar was 17-of-25 passing for 340 yards and no interceptions, while Pat Krakowski ran for 95 yards and two scores as the Hawks finished a perfect regular season.
Woodland jumped out to a 21-8 lead in the third, but Seymour took the lead in the fourth on a 1-yard run by Mike Happy and a two-point conversion pass from Ryan Osiecki to Mark Lennon.
Seymour 28, Woodland 20 (Nov. 23, 2005): Less than a week after winning their second straight NVL football title in a dramatic overtime win over Holy Cross at DeBarber Field, the Hawks were back in Seymour with a 22-game winning streak on the line.
A tough and talented Seymour squad took advantage of the beat-up Hawks and held on for the victory, despite nearly squandering the 28-7 lead they held with 2:59 left in the game.
Woodland running back Jeff Jones missed the game with an ankle injury suffered against Holy Cross. Seymour forced Woodland quarterback Alex Dorosh to have to beat them by himself, and his 17-of-27 outing for 237 yards, two touchdowns and an interception wasn’t enough.
Shane Kingsley returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-14, and Dorosh hit Anthony Cassetti for a 4-yard score with 31 ticks left. Seymour recovered the ensuing onside kick to ice the win, but Woodland rebounded to beat North Branford and Brookfield and win a second straight Class SS state title.
Seymour 36, Woodland 35 (Nov. 21, 2007): In a game still remember around these parts as the Fog Bowl, the Wildcats extended their Thanksgiving eve winning streak to three in a wild game that was hard for many fans to see by game’s end.
With a shroud of fog that seemingly became denser with every drive, the Hawks’ wing-T offense and Seymour’s eventual state championship-winning squad went toe to toe for all four quarters. Jon Murren finished with 247 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but after his final touchdown, a 33-yarder to bring Woodland to within one point, coach Chris Anderson opted for the two-point conversion and the win. It failed, and Seymour walked away with the win.
Days later, the Wildcats won a rematch in the Class SS semifinals at Municipal Stadium.
Woodland 62, Seymour 26 (Nov. 21, 2012): The numbers Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley etched in the record books in 2012 and 2013 will be in there for decades to come, but this night stood out above all his other masterpieces.
Kingsley was 31-of-41 passing for 615 yards and eight touchdowns as the Hawks sped away from the Wildcats in the second half. The 615 yards set a state record (and were good for 14th-most in national history at the time), while his 31 completions set an NVL record and his eight TDs tied his own NVL record (and were good for second on the state list).
Anthony Scirpo caught 11 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns, while Rahmi Rountree snared 11 passes for 264 yards and the other four scores.
Woodland outscored Seymour 42-12 in the second half. The Hawks eventually reached the Class S semifinals.
Woodland 22, Seymour 19 (Nov. 29, 2013): Facing a 19-6 halftime deficit and the prospects of losing out on a home quarterfinal game in the Class S playoffs, Woodland rallied by pitching a second-half shutout and Kingsley accounted for both touchdowns after the break to earn the win.
The Hawks forced three turnovers, all at the hands of Levi Fancher, Chris McDonald and Chris Slavin. Kingsley’s 1-yard touchdown sneak in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner in the Friday morning contest. Woodland eventually lost to Ansonia in the Class S state final.