NAUGATUCK — With 8:20 left in the first quarter last Friday, it was gut-check time for the Naugatuck defense. Kennedy had just scored on a 20-yard pass from James Jonelis to Jerome Love to take a 6-0 lead after recovering an onside kick to start the game.
The Greyhounds stood tall to the challenge and held the Eagles scoreless for the remainder of the game, allowing only 177 yards and giving the Naugy offense a chance to score six times in a 41-6 win on senior night.
“Winning solves everything,” Naugatuck coach Rob Plasky said. “We’re still going to perform and practice like we are playing for a championship. I told the kids, you don’t disrespect the game of football. You come out here and give it everything you’ve got, and that’s what they did tonight.”
“We played hard and we were focused,” senior Nico Rivera added. “We knew what we had to do and we went out and got it done.”
Naugatuck took the next possession after Kennedy’s score and went down the field on the back of Jake Yourison (17 carries, 188 yards). The senior running back barreled into the end zone from 4 yards out and Kevin Tousignant booted the extra point for a 7-6 lead with 6:36 left in the first.
Tousignant then came up big on defense with an interception at midfield and the Greyhounds were on the move again. Yourison moved the chains three times on long gains and then bowled over the Kennedy defense on a 19-yard blast to open up a 14-6 advantage.
“We had a great week of practice even though it was a short week,” Yourison said. “We came in focused and executed every play.”
Naugatuck utilized everything it had on offense. Quarterback Zac Mercer was back after sitting out the previous week with an injury and went 2-for-2 for 33 yards.
Matt Harris, Yourison, and Ricky Plasky also took snaps as the passing game generated 73 yards to go along with the 287 yards on the ground.
Harris brought the ball inside the Kennedy red zone and then pitched to Mick Pernell, who scampered 14 yards into the end zone to make it a 20-6 advantage with 6:16 left in the first half.
Tim Woodfield, Nikko Cari, Mike Guigno and Rivera (two sacks) made tackles in the Kennedy backfield to hold off the Eagles.
Right before the end of the half, Yourison bolted down the sidelines on a 37-yard touchdown blast to make it a 27-6 lead at the break. As Yourison was about to break the plane of the end zone, a Kennedy defender came up and punched the ball out. It hit the ground and popped back up into Yourison’s arms for the score.
“Hold onto the football.” Plasky yelled as Yourison approached the sidelines following the play.
Late in the third quarter, Naugatuck showed more of its diversity on offense when Mick Pernell took a lateral from Harris on a fourth-and-18. Pernell stopped in his tracks and lofted a 34-yard touchdown strike to Ryan Griesenauer, who out-leaped a defender and fell backwards into the end zone to make it a 34-6 lead.
Nate Franklin showed that the ‘Hounds have more than a couple of running backs in their stable as he ran for 46 yards on five carries, scoring on a 4-yard blast for the final 41-6 margin.
Naugatuck will conclude the season on Thanksgiving against Ansonia. The Greyhounds will seek their second straight win in the series.