Plenty of big games on tap in the fall

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

The Naugatuck football team celebrates with the George Pinho Trophy on Sept. 29, 2017, after beating Woodland in Beacon Falls. Naugatuck and Woodland will meet Nov. 12 in the borough for the first time since 2017. –FILE PHOTO

The fall high school sports season will finally begin Sept. 9, and everyone hopes to play complete seasons with championship trophies awaiting in a couple of months.

We will preview all of the teams at Naugatuck and Woodland next week, but before then, we glanced at this fall’s schedule and picked 10 of the most important clashes involving the local schools.

Woodland volleyball at Naugatuck (Sept. 17): The Greyhounds are still the defending Naugatuck Valley League champions from 2019, and local volleyball fans know that these two teams are always in the mix for the league title. The Hawks and the Hounds both bring back some experience to build from, and this is the only time they’ll meet during the regular season.

Naugatuck, Woodland cross country at Holy Cross (Sept. 28): If the past is any indication, then the boys competition between Naugy and Woodland should come down to the wire. On the girls side, the Hawks have held the upper hand over the Hounds for the last few years, but new Naugy coach Kevin Schumann would love to help change that. The locals return talented runners, including All-State Woodland harriers Colin Slavin and Chloe Poulos, as well as Naugy’s Matt Nofri and Brendan Lyles.

Naugatuck girls soccer at Woodland (Oct. 4): These rivals will meet again during the final week of the regular season under the lights in the borough on Oct. 22, but both squads will want to land the first blow atop blustery Rimmon Hill. The pitch will be littered with talent, including All-Staters in Naugy’s Lauren Sonski and Woodland’s Katy More and Paige Letourneau.

Woodland boys soccer at Naugatuck (Oct. 4): One of the true shames of last year’s divisional-only play was that the Hawks and Hounds never renewed their rivalry in boys soccer. We’ll finally get a rematch of the 2019 NVL final under the lights in front of what will surely be a raucous crowd. The Greyhounds will look to reload their talent pool to defend their title, while Preston Alessio will lead Woodland after an All-State rookie year.

Woodland volleyball vs. Seymour (Oct. 7): The NVL’s two most successful volleyball programs will meet for the first of at least two matchups in Beacon Falls. The Wildcats have lost most of their top players since they won a state title in 2019, but they never take long to reload. Many of Woodland’s volleyball players gained experience beating Seymour three times last softball season.

Woodland girls swimming at Naugatuck (Oct. 8): The Hawks, who have won two of the last three NVL championships, should contend for another title with a talented group of younger swimmers led by Emme Starzman, who etched her name on the record board last year as a freshman. The Hounds will have strong senior leadership in all-division performers Haley Deller and Jacqueline Uva.

Naugatuck boys soccer vs. Watertown (Oct. 12): Just a week after hosting Woodland in one rivalry match, the Greyhounds will crank up the emotions again in a home clash with their other perennial championship rival under the lights. It’s a good bet that Naugy will see one or both of these teams again in the postseason.

Woodland football at Naugatuck (Nov. 12): The script here writes itself — on Veterans Day weekend on Veterans Field, the architect of the Woodland football program, Chris Anderson, faces his old school for the first time as he leads Naugatuck against the Hawks and their new coach, Joe Lato. Throw in a few familiar Woodland faces on the Greyhounds’ staff and put the George Pinho Trophy on the line, and these teams’ first meeting since 2017 should be as fun as they come.

Woodland football vs. Seymour (Nov. 24): Thirteen of the 17 holiday matchups between the Hawks and the Wildcats have involved playoff implications, so don’t be surprised if one or both squads are playing with some extra juice on Thanksgiving eve in Beacon Falls for the first time since 2018.

Naugatuck football at Ansonia (Nov. 25): Last year was the first time since 1924 that the Greyhounds and Chargers didn’t line up against each other to celebrate Thanksgiving, and we all hope it’ll be another hundred years before they miss the date again. Naugy hasn’t come within two scores of beating Ansonia since winning the NVL title in 2010, but could this finally be the year?