NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High is looking to go back to the glory days of defensive football.
The 1990 Greyhound team recorded seven shutouts, and in 1993 Naugatuck won its last state championship led by a defense that shutout Ansonia, breaking a Chargers streak of 215 games without a shutout.
Offense wins games and defense wins championships. When head coach Craig Bruno took over last season he brought with him a 103-37-1 record and two state championships coaching the Bunnell Bulldogs.
Bruno quickly got the offense on track. The Greyhounds averaged over 42 points per game, and quarterback Jason Bradley became the schools all-time leading passer throwing for 2,650 yards and 38 touchdowns.
The 9-2 Greyhounds gave up an average of 16 points per game allowing 20 points or less seven times entering the Thanksgiving contest with Ansonia. But, there were signs that the defense was susceptible and that showed up in the 66-28 loss to the Chargers.
Coach Bruno knows how to put points on the board, but he’s equally adept in creating a defensive scheme. In 2007 his 13-0 state champion Bunnell squad averaged 35 points per game and allowed 13 points per game.
“Our defense will be a key to our success,” Bruno said. “I thought we had a real good season last year but the defense is ready to take it up a notch.”
The offense will remain formidable.
“Offensively we are strong with five returning linemen. Jason proved what kind of leader he can be at quarterback and we have a solid running game to go with our passing game,” Bruno said.
Naugatuck has a veteran offensive line led by seniors Jack Reardon, P.J. Murphy, Will Paul and David Kloc along with junior lineman Logan Bond.
Bradley, a three year starter and All-NVL quarterback, will once again have All-NVL and All-State receiver Bryan Coney — 33 receptions, 786 yards and 13 touchdowns last year — at his disposal. Seniors Chris Quarles and Maleek Brooks will also provide stable targets to open up the ‘Hounds passing game.
Juniors Dan Jones and Antoine Sistrunk will run the ball out of the backfield, with sophomore Devon Biancarelli looking to get playing time as well.
“It all starts up front with five experienced returning linemen,” Bradley said. “We will go as far as the line takes us. We are not a one-dimensional team. We do have a strong physical runner in Jones and Sistrunk can make the cuts and reads the field real well. C.J. Wall and Jalen Datil will also add to our passing attack.”
The Greyhounds are focused on taking some of the pressure off the offense, as they look to the defense to make Naugatuck one of the league favorites this season. Reardon at nose tackle and Murphy at linebacker lead a formidable unit that boasts a deep secondary led by Coney and Brooks.
“For the most part we held opponents in check,” Reardon said. “We did let a few games get away from us so that is in the back of our minds and we are working hard to close some of those gaps. As a unit we are very motivated to make this one of the keys to our success.”
Senior Socrates Illunga and junior James Mesidor will provide pressure at the line of scrimmage to keep opponents from breaking the long play. Seniors James Brewer, Nick Hanks and Kevin Robinson along with Aaron Yourison, Josh Rodriguez, Nabeel Jawaid and Jonathon Syman represent an experienced group that will be looking to go a few steps farther than last season with a state playoff game as the team goal.
“We will need to avoid costly turnovers and letdowns,” Bruno said. “Like any team injuries can play a factor. All we ask of the players is to give a 100 percent effort. The pressure to win is on me and the coaching staff not the kids. If they go out and play with emotion and a passion the wins will take care of itself.”
Naugatuck kicks off the season at home Friday against Torrington. The Greyhounds will have a bye next week before hosting Holy Cross on Sept. 26.