WATERBURY — Three weeks after Naugatuck lost its head coach, the Greyhounds finally got the chance to don their new uniforms and hit Municipal Stadium’s turf for their season opener.
And whether it was three weeks’ worth of frustration coming out or just a pure mismatch of skill and strength, Naugy made sure its much-awaited first game carried a statement.
Senior running back Mick Pernell scored four times and sophomore quarterback Jason Bradley threw two touchdown passes to lead Naugatuck to a 48-20 win over Wilby before an estimated 800 fans in Waterbury.
“It feels great,” Pernell said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve gotten a lot closer. Now we know what we’re capable of.”
Naugatuck scored on seven of its first eight possessions, and the only drive that didn’t conclude in the end zone was interrupted by the halftime horn.
Pernell, who has the most varsity experience of any player on the squad, set the tone for Naugy with touchdown runs on the first two drives. A 13-yard hookup between Bradley and tight end Brandon Kuczenski gave the ‘Hounds a first-and-goal at the 6 before Pernell punched in the score on third-and-goal from the 5.
After a Wilby punt, Pernell took the drive’s first handoff down the left sideline for an 82-yard touchdown to give Naugy a 13-0 lead.
“It’s great to have that weapon,” Naugatuck interim coach Shawn Kuczenski said of Pernell. “You can put him in the backfield and have him catch the ball. He can play anywhere.”
Naugy’s defense continued its pressure on Wilby’s next series. After the Wildcats drove into Greyhounds territory, Nate Franklin sacked Brandon Sierra on fourth down to get the ball back.
That allowed Bradley to get his feet wetter. The sophomore hit Kuczenski on a 15-yard completion for a first down, then followed with another backside completion to Kuczenski for an 8-yard touchdown and a 19-0 lead.
Bradley added another 8-yard touchdown pass to Ryne Griesenauer early in the second half. Bradley finished his first varsity start 8-of-12 for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his incompletions came on a pair of heaves downfield just before halftime.
“I was a little nervous as a sophomore,” Bradley said. “Once I got a couple plays in me I got comfortable and I fit right in. Last year I wanted to get out here so bad but I got hurt so I couldn’t. This took way too long to get here. I’m so glad we finally got to play.”
“We wanted to get the running game established and then hit them with the passing game,” Shawn Kuczenski said. “We wanted to show we could pass the ball and that we have more than a couple guys who can make plays.”
Jerome Love added a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give Naugy a 27-0 lead. Wilby scored its only touchdown against the Greyhounds’ varsity defense just before halftime, making it a 27-6 game at the break.
Pernell added touchdown runs of 12 and 35 yards to hand the ‘Hounds a 48-6 lead before Naugy’s varsity units earned a rest.
Before they came off, though, Naugatuck’s defense wanted to finish its statement. The defensive line of Matt Carda, Devon Watkins, Will Paul, Dennis Murphy and Kuczenski tortured the Wilby offensive front all night.
“We have a rotation going,” Shawn Kuczenski said. “At times you’ll see our big guys and at times you’ll see our speed guys. We just want to get as much chaos as we can out there and keep the offense guessing.”
The linemen, and the rest of the team, credited their play partly to their motivation.
“We had a lot of fire in our hearts,” Watkins said. “There were people talking smack about us on the [NVL Football Blog] and saying we were going to be 3-7.”
“Before the game everyone was talking about how they were stronger, how our line couldn’t play and how we didn’t have the receivers,” Pernell added. “We wanted this score to be 49-0. We were ready.”
Naugatuck visits Derby at the Ryan Complex on Friday at 7 p.m.