NAUGATUCK — The New Canaan Rams defeated the Naugatuck Greyhounds 21-12, eliminating them from the Class L state tournament Tuesday at a muddy, rain-soaked Veterans Field.
No. 3 Naugatuck (9-2) had no illusions entering into the game against No. 6 New Canaan (10-1), which is pursuing its fifth straight state title and will face No. 2 Daniel Hand in Saturday’s semifinals.
Despite New Canaan’s laudable offensive attack, led by junior quarterback Matt Milano, the attention belonged to New Canaan’s defense with its six sacks on Naugatuck quarterback Erich Broadrick, as well as its three forced turnovers (two fumbles, one interception).
On New Canaan’s offensive side, wide receiver Kevin Macari was responsible for all three of its touchdowns, not to mention 155 yards of total offense.
The game started with mixed blessings for the Greyhounds. With their first possession on second down, Broadrick fumbled the ball for a loss of 15 yards. But on their next possession, after a New Canaan three-and-out, Broadrick connected with Marquan Williams for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make the game 6-0 after the missed extra point.
After that, though, the offense sputtered for the rest of the night.
“We scored early and then we could never get anything consistently going,” Naugatuck coach Rob Plasky said. “We moved the ball on them, but we shot ourselves in the foot too many times, either with a turnover or a penalty. So that really hurt us. You can’t have setbacks against a team as good as this.”
As the second quarter started, the Rams stepped up their offensive game against a stout Naugatuck defense. Matt Milano connected with Kevin Macari for a 40-yard completion, setting up an 11-yard completion only two plays later (again to Macari) for the touchdown.
An interception by Willie Gould led to Macari’s second touchdown of the night, a 62-yard catch bringing the game to 14-6.
The commitment of the Naugatuck defense in the second quarter was not without worthy mention: Tyler Conklin’s interception of a Milano pass in the end zone, a fumble recovery at the 38-yard line, and another interception by Reuban Berger were evidence enough of Naugatuck’s ability to keep pressure on a offense known for its aerial attacks.
But it was Naugatuck’s offense that continued to squander opportunities—messy ball handling, penalties, turnovers, and sacks for big losses kept Naugatuck from generating any positive yardage.
The third quarter saw much of the same: Miscalculated Naugatuck passing but noteworthy defense, especially in Nathan Hollie’s block on the New Canaan punter.
The fourth quarter saw another long pass from Milano to Macari early on, this time for 49 yards, for New Canaan’s third touchdown.
Even with constant pressure from the Rams’ defense, Naugatuck was capable of one particularly outstanding play—a quarterback flick to the back, making a completion that would not only bring the Greyhounds all the way to the 1-yard line, but also set up a Broadrick sneak into the end zone to make the game 21-12.
The Hounds seemed ready to strike and ready to keep their hopes afloat after a Rams three-and-out. But after a big reception looked like another Greyhound touchdown, Naugatuck lost the ball to New Canaan with only five minutes left to play. After another possession ending in a Rams interception, the season ended for the Greyhounds.
Despite the loss, Plasky was able to look upon the recently ended season in a very positive light.
“We won two out of three,” said Rob Plasky, as candidly as possible. “We won a Copper Division title, we won an NVL title, but we missed the one that the kids wanted the most. We were hoping that our last game of the season was going to be a win.”
“To put (the season) into perspective,” said Plasky, “the kids left it all on the field. We played a team that won four straight state championships and I’m proud of the way we came out here and battled against them.”
Plasky was quick to look toward Naugatuck’s future, while not failing to acknowledge the committed effort of this year’s team.
“We have to work hard in the offseason, do the things we’ve been doing, and have kids commit to the program like these 19 seniors did,” Plasky said. “We have to continue to work hard and believe in what we do and know that we’re good.”