BY KYLE BRENNAN
NAUGATUCK — The Masuk High football coaching staff is glad that they won’t have to see Naugatuck’s Jett Hall anytime soon.
“Imagine trying to tackle that kid in the NVL for the next two years,” one assistant coach wondered aloud during the Panthers’ postgame celebration of a come-from-behind, 21-17 win Nov. 30 in the Class L quarterfinals. “That kid is a horse.”
Despite a superb effort by Hall (244 total yards of offense, one touchdown) and the No. 2-seeded Greyhounds, No. 7 Masuk rallied with two unanswered touchdowns and a late fourth-down stop to advance to the Class L semifinals against Maloney, a game which was set for Dec. 5.
Masuk (9-2) took a 21-17 lead with 4:12 remaining on a 9-yard run by Nick Saccu, who led the Panthers with 20 carries for 153 yards and both of Masuk’s second-half touchdowns. Saccu’s run came after a controversial horse-collar tackle call that gave the Panthers a first-and-goal situation.
On the ensuing drive, Hall popped a 41-yard run after nearly being wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, bringing Naugatuck (9-2) to the 18-yard line. The ‘Hounds chipped away to the 11, where they faced fourth and 3 with 1:08 left. Naugy approached the line of scrimmage after each team called timeout, but the referee penalized the Greyhounds for an illegal substitution.
Naugatuck coach Chris Anderson said this forced him to change the play call, and Jibree Bartelle’s fourth-and-8 pass attempt on an out-route sailed over Aiden Robertson’s head to end Naugy’s season.
Saccu was too much in the second half as he uncorked multiple long runs. Two plays after Mike Deitelbaum’s 18-yard touchdown run had given Naugy a 17-7 lead with 2:39 left in the third, Saccu struck back with a 38-yard score of his own that saw him bounce off Greyhounds defenders like a pinball.
“Nick Saccu’s pretty darn good,” Anderson said.
Saccu’s counterpart, Hall, did everything he could to help Naugatuck win its first postseason game since the 1993 Class LL final. The sophomore hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from Bartelle to tie the game at 7, and he carried seven times for 83 yards in the first half. After the break, Hall carried 14 more times for 92 yards and caught a 41-yard pass from Bartelle on a third-and-17 play that set up Deitelbaum’s score.
“Jett is a fantastic player and a better kid,” Anderson said. “He’s got great grades, he’s so sincere, and he wants to win for his team.”
Deitelbaum finished with 14 carries for 51 yards, and Cayden Martin added 53 yards on eight carries. Naugy had a fourth-and-goal situation at the 2 late in the first half, but Dom DeSousa hit a 19-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to send Naugy to the locker room with a 10-7 edge.
“At that point, you want to take the lead,” Anderson said. “Points are at a premium in a game like this.”
Despite the painful sting of surrendering a fourth-quarter lead in a playoff game, the Greyhounds’ first-year head coach said his team has plenty to be proud of this year after winning the Naugatuck Valley League title for the first time since 2010.
Many of the team’s big playmakers, including running backs Hall, Deitelbaum, and Martin, will return to the squad next season.
“It’s remarkable what these kids accomplished,” Anderson said. “Just the fact that they came together as a family and really bought into the roles we asked them to play — it was a true family.”
BY KYLE BRENNAN