NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck football coach Craig Bruno tried to make it clear all week that last Friday’s game between his new team and his old one wasn’t about him. His Greyhounds begged to differ.
They came up with their best game of the season thus far in the Bruno Bowl, wrecking Bunnell to the tune of a 39-0 shutout at Veterans Field.
“The whole team was playing for him,” said Naugatuck quarterback Jason Bradley, a captain who helped present a game ball to Bruno in the postgame huddle. “This means the world to him, the fact that we could beat his old team like this. Nobody else deserved the game ball but Coach Bruno.”
“We really wanted this for Coach,” Naugy wide receiver Bryan Coney added. “He’s done so much for us and he drives us every game. We wanted to come out here and show him that he made the right decision.”
It wasn’t just a win. It wasn’t just a shutout. It was domination — a style that confirmed Bruno’s choice to leave his alma mater last January after 12 years and two state championships.
“It was emotional,” Bruno said. “(Bunnell) gave me my first chance. I’ll always be indebted to them, but I’ll probably never play them again as long as I’m in coaching. If we didn’t look good tonight, I think they would have reflected that on Naugatuck. I’m pretty sure we sent a message.”
Bruno’s new squad laid a beatdown on his old one. Naugy (5-1) racked up 516 yards — most of which came by the middle of the third quarter, when Bruno took his foot off the gas — and held Bunnell to just 105. The Bulldogs had just 4 yards in the entire first half, and that figure would have been in the negative range if not for a 13-yard pass just before the teams headed to the locker room.
The Greyhounds took a 33-0 lead at halftime and called it quits on the offensive side after scoring once in the second half. Bradley completed 20 of 32 passes, hitting six different receivers. Ryne Griesenauer (10 catches, 153 yards), Bryan Coney (three for 82), Kevin Robinson (three for 68) and Rick Plasky (two for 58) all caught touchdown passes.
But the story was more defensive than anything. The ‘Hounds picked off Bunnell starter Nolan Aurelia five times and intercepted backup Michael Castelot in the red zone late in the game to seal the shutout, their first since 2010. Griesenauer, Coney, Chris Quarles, Matthew Burke, Maleek Brooks and Nate Franklin all grabbed interceptions.
“We had the quarterback’s number all night,” Griesenauer said. “We read his eyes and we have athletes at every position on the field. We know our offense is going to score, but we have to make sure other teams don’t score more. We’re all over the field trying to make every play.”
Bruno credited defensive coordinator John Pereira for the team’s play. The Greyhounds have allowed just three points in their last two games after suffering their only loss in Week 4 at Woodland. They will have a chance at more takeaways this Saturday at St. Paul.
“The guys have been sharper,” Bruno said. “They’re in the right spots. Maleek is getting much better at cover corner. Coney looked good. Nate is playing better, and we have a good pass rush. We need everyone to play this well.”
Even with Naugatuck’s second-team offense in the game, the goose egg on Bunnell’s side of the scoreboard shined brighter and brighter as the minutes ticked down.
“I think you saw how important that zero was,” Bruno said. “It feels good to beat your old team; I don’t care what anybody says. The zero was important for us because it gives us confidence.”
The Xs and Os gave the Greyhounds confidence, sure, but the definitiveness of their win for their coach may have given them even more.
“We know he chose us for a reason, and we wanted to show him that he made the right choice,” Griesenauer said. “We did it.”