By KEN MORSE
ANSONIA — Winning the biggest game of the season depends on staying in your lane and playing your game. It also helps to limit your mistakes. The Naugatuck football team stuck with that game plan while scoring two second-half touchdowns to overcome Ansonia, 14-7, and win the Naugatuck Valley League championship.
“To be honest, we are going to enjoy this victory,” said first-year Naugy coach Chris Anderson. “You’ve seen the record over 100 years. It’s not too often teams beat Ansonia, so, yes, we are going to enjoy this one tonight. We will meet as a coaching staff tomorrow and start putting a plan together for the (state Class L) quarterfinals.
“The community of Naugatuck is so supportive, and we just hope they can enjoy this victory that the kids worked so hard for.”
It had been 10 years and 104 games since the Chargers lost a game to an NVL opponent. The last one occurred on Thanksgiving 2010, when Naugy stormed past Ansonia 38-20, at Jarvis Stadium to win its last NVL title.
Until last Thursday, when the Greyhounds (9-1) descended on Jarvis Stadium and came away with their ninth win of the season, not to mention securing a home game in the Class L playoffs.
It was a back-and-forth defensive battle in the first half with Ansonia’s No. 1-ranked defense in the NVL going up against Naugy’s second-ranked defense. Jacob Sanchez’s fourth-down sack ended an 10-play Ansonia drive, and then Derrick Moore made an interception to stall the Chargers.
Following Moore’s interception, Naugy went on a 10-play drive, aided by a pair of 9-yard runs from Cayden Martin (nine carries, 50 yards rushing) and Michael Deitelbaum (17, 66), that came up short on a fourth-and-7 play from the Ansonia 23-yard line.
“We are not going to change our identity,” said Anderson. “We are going to run the ball and take some shots when we have the opportunity. But at the end of the day, that’s who we are. We are going to be physical and run the ball right at you.”
With a little over four minutes left in the first half, the Chargers (9-1) put together an 11-play drive with Dave Cassetti (nine carries, 44 yards) and Darell McKnight (19, 42) ripping off back-to-back 10-yard runs.
The key play in the drive was when quarterback Chris Kaminski (5-of-19, 84 yards) lofted a pass down that McKnight hauled in near the goal line for a 25 yard gain. Kaminski punched it in from there with 30 seconds left in the half and Paul Palmer booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Ansonia got the ball to start the second half. A key series that could have added to the lead ended with a punt after a holding penalty negated a 19-yard run by McKnight.
“It was imperative that we made the stop coming out for the second half,” said Anderson. “They had the lead and the ball, and we needed to make sure it got no further than that. We made some adjustments at halftime, and it worked out for us.”
That’s when the momentum turned. It took Naugy just three plays to tie the game. Deitelbaum blasted his way ahead for 17 yards. The Chargers were focusing on stopping the Naugy rushing leader when a pitchout to Jett Hall (12 carries, 48 yards) changed the complexion of the game.
Hall, who had been stopped the entire first half, took off around the corner and down the sidelines for a 52-yard touchdown run. Dominic DeSousa split the uprights on the extra point. With 8:09 left in the third quarter, it was a tied game at 7-7.
“Once we tied the game, you could feel the kids start to believe that this could be a reality that we could win this game,” said Anderson. “We started to play with some unbelievable intensity.”
The mistakes began to pile up for the Chargers. Eight times, they fumbled the ball. Seven times, they were fortunate enough to get it back, but that slowed the offensive flow and Ansonia punted on consecutive possessions.
On a third-and-13 from the Naugy 39, Hall took a pitch from senior quarterback Jibree Bartelle and launched a halfback option pass that senior receiver Aiden Robertson hauled in for a 49-yard completion. Deitelbaum wasted no time after that, rambling the final 12 yards for the go-ahead score. DeSousa booted the extra point to make the score 14-7 with 8:01 remaining.
“Jett has a great arm,” said Anderson. “We have been working on that the past couple of weeks, and we were just waiting for the right opportunity. Ansonia did a good job staying home on it, but when you have a 6-foot-5 wide receiver that can go up there and make plays, that will happen.”
Alex Romanowski was a lot to handle in the trenches and stopped many Naugy runs, but crucial mistakes down the stretch kept hampering the Chargers. Deitelbaum recovered an Ansonia fumble, David Bien made an interception that sealed the game and a roughing-the-kicker penalty was uncharacteristic of a Chargers team down the stretch.
Naugatuck was scheduled to host a Class L quarterfinal game Tuesday against Masuk. The winner will go on to host a semifinal game Sunday, Dec. 5.