WATERBURY — Literally from the opening kickoff, Naugatuck had Holy Cross’ number last Thursday night at Municipal Stadium.
The Greyhounds recovered fumbles on their first two kickoffs of the game and forced five turnovers in total as Naugy rolled to a 56-20 win over the Crusaders at Municipal Stadium to lift the ‘Hounds back into Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division contention.
“We were fortunate to get the fumbles, but we were ready,” Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno said. “As soon as we got the ball we were able to move it. We got the turnovers early but we were able to capitalize.”
Holy Cross fumbled the game’s opening kickoff, which gave Naugatuck (8-1, 4-1 NVL Copper) possession at the Crusaders 43. Five plays later, Tom Douty burst in for a 6-yard score and a 6-0 lead.
That sequence repeated itself on the ensuing Naugy kickoff, which the Crusaders again fumbled at their own 30. This time, Jason Bradley cashed in with a 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 to stretch the Naugy edge to 14-0 with 8 minutes left in the first — all before Holy Cross had run an offensive play.
“That was terrible,” Holy Cross coach Mike Giampetruzzi said. “It just wasn’t a good effort. We were down 14-0 before we could blink, and you can’t do that against that team.”
Naugatuck also won the battle of field position throughout the night. The Greyhounds started five of their seven first-half drives in Holy Cross territory and turned each of the five into touchdowns. Naugy also started three second-half series in Crusaders turf and two ended in pay dirt.
“We gave them four short fields in the first half, and you can’t chase a team like that,” Giampetruzzi said. “I’ve always said that you have to win the turnover battle, and they did. They capitalized on every one.”
Naugy took a 20-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on Bradley’s second touchdown run of the night, from 5 yards out. Cross got on the board when Drew Bialoglowy sprung a 23-yard touchdown run.
Then the mistakes mounted again for the Crusaders. Nate Franklin returned a kickoff 52 yards to the Cross 47, but a 15-yard penalty followed by a 5-yard foul moved Naugy up to the 27. Three plays later, Bradley threw the first of his four touchdown passes to Ryne Griesenauer for a 28-7 lead with 9:22 to play in the half.
Naugatuck forced a punt on the ensuing series, but PJ Murphy forced another turnover when he crashed in on Kyle Broderick following a bobbled snap. After another penalty, Bradley hooked up again with Griesenauer for a 36-7 advantage.
“We’re starting to click,” Bruno said of his offense. “Everybody is playing on the same page.”
Bradley (7-of-15 for 187 yards) added a pair of touchdown passes to Bryan Coney after the break. The scores were interrupted by Holy Cross’ fourth fumble, which was recovered by Bryan Burke. Bradley also ran for 72 yards and three scores, including Naugy’s last touchdown to make it 56-14 late in the third.
The Crusaders turned over the ball once more when Maleek Brooks stripped Trai Weaver, whom Naugy held to one touchdown (an 8-yard pass from Joe Kalosky) a week after he scored four against Woodland.
“We were hitting hard,” Bruno said. “We hit them early. Aaron Yourison made a big hit, the Burkes made some big hits and Murphy was all over the place tonight. I can’t even name everybody because everyone was so fast to the ball.”
Naugy’s starting defense held Holy Cross to 240 yards and was often in the backfield.
“The big boys caused blockage and the ‘backers just blitzed,” Murphy said. “We knew Weaver and (Gerron) Pendarvis would be big threats, so we focused on them and just played good ‘D.’”
Naugatuck can still win the NVL Copper Division title with a victory Friday over Kennedy and a Woodland loss to Derby. Should the Greyhounds win the division, their Thanksgiving game against Ansonia would be for the NVL championship.