BY KEN MORSE
The success of the Naugatuck football team this season seemed a bit long overdue. It seems that the Greyhounds win the Thanksgiving battle with Ansonia and claim the NVL championship about every ten years.
In fact the last time Naugatuck defeated Ansonia in back-to-back Thanksgiving Day games was back in the 1980s. The Greyhound defeated the Chargers in 1981 (24-20) and 1982 (7-6), then did it again in 1985 (33-27) and 1986 (34-7). Since that time Ansonia has held a 33-3 record in 36 years.
Back in the day Naugy had it going and ruled this series. From 1960-1972 the Hounds won 9 of 12 Turkey Day battlesm, including five straight from 1968-1972. So what will it take for Naugy to see a repeat of this year’s 14-7 NVL championship victory?
The answer to that question may rest beneath the surface of the Greyhounds and that long awaited success may already be here. Out of the 35 players on the current roster, 10 of them played on the 2017 Pop Warner National Champions. Only one of those players, Syed Ali, is a senior and will be graduating. Thea means nine of those former National Champions will be back next season.
“What we did in 2017 were smaller steps to prepare for the work and focus needed for success at a high level, like this year’s team,” said Michael Deitelbaum.
Does that even matter, winning a Pop Warner National Championship? When you talk about having the confidence to overcome adversity, these players have seen that and then some. In 2015 that Pop Warner team finished undefeated in the regular season and then were defeated in the state championship.
In 2016 they took advantage of the second chance finishing undefeated again in the regular season and this time won the state championship but ended up losing in the National Championship game.
In 2017 after finishing its third straight undefeated regular season and compiling a 33-2 record in three years, they won the state championship and the National Championship, 28-27, over Detroit in overtime when Domonic DeSousa (current sophomore kicker) kicked the two-point conversion for the game-winning margin.
“After four years you barely recognize these kids,” said former Pop Warner head coach Mike Yacavone. “Chris Anderson and his coaching staff have done a phenomenal job this season. Former Pop Warner coaches Mike Caetano, Bob Mezzo, Dan Griesenauer and myself were at the Ansonia game and it just brought back a lot of memories.”
“We didn’t lose the 2015 state championship game, we got annihilated. But Michael Deitelbaum came up to me after the game and said, coach I guess I’m just going to have to work harder. That’s the kind of leader he is.”
Juniors Michael Deitelbaum, Blake Stone, Damien Navarro, Jacob Scianna and Vincent Ferrucci, along with sophomores Jett Hall, DeSousa, DJ Ottowell and Nathan Gendron, have all experienced what being a National Champion is like. Confidence is a key motivator when faced with adversity.
“After we lost to Torrington we came together as a team,” said Scianna. “We knew we were going to get really good and show who we are and that made us unstoppable down the stretch of the season.”
There is just no replacement for confidence and what it can do to the mindset of a football team. Naugy thrived on that confidence and won the final eight games in a row including a stunning 14-7 win on Thanksgiving Day to claim the NVL championship.
“When we were down 7-0 going into the locker room we knew our fight wasn’t over,” added Scianna. “I just kept my mindset that if something happens early in the second half don’t panic. We stayed confident and came out as a team and won.”
Naugatuck hosted a state playoff game as the No. 2 seed (9-1) in Class L and dropped a tough 20-17 decision to No. 7 seed Masuk-Monroe (8-2). It was a tough way to end a season filled with so much promise, but the win on Thanksgiving Day and an NVL championship will have to do for now.
“Our team worked very hard over the summer and continuously improved throughout the season,” said Deitelbaum. “Our backfield is unique and can definitely keep defenses off balance. The offensive line is extremely talented and physical and they lead the way.”
“I had no doubt that this team was going to be very successful this season. Everyone on this team steps up and contributes throughout the game. We work as a team alongside a phenomenal coaching staff. The team mentality has contributed to the success we had this season.”
BY KEN MORSE