Season preview: football

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Naugatuck’s Aaron Smith (48), right, runs with the ball during a game against Watertown in November 2019 at Naugatuck High School. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

Naugatuck

2019 results: 5-5.

Graduated: John Mezzo, Isaiah Williams, Paul Marsh, Jeff Schebell, Malachi Gatison, Dante Miranda, Herve Tshibamba, Tyvias Dippelhofer, Joshua Lastra, Anson Lau, Syed Ahmad, Alexis Chacon, Kyle Carey, Amarion Akinsanya, Chavez Lewis.

Seniors: Michael Hill, Jason Spino, Ethan Garcia, Aaron Smith, Tim Northrup, Charlie Sinotte, Kelvin Mitchell, Blake Andrews, Cass Miller, Tyler Ruisi, Connor Maxwell, Ernest Nyuggwila, Nick Linton, Matt Munno, Travis Caetano, Denzel Amoako, Ayden Tripp.

Naugatuck was looking for a new start after finishing 5-5 in an injury-plagued season last year.

Head coach David Sollazzo stepped down in June and the reigns were turned over to offensive coordinator Ollie Gray.

The Greyhounds graduated 15 seniors and a solid core of starters, but still had some seasoned veterans coming back to pick up the slack. Then the pandemic hit, and the CIAC canceled the fall football season.

“I thought we had a pretty good core group coming back and they were excited to turn this around,” Gray said. “But for now we will keep practicing and see where we go from there.”

There is some talk about playing football as a club sport this fall or playing 7-on-7 as well as some linemen challenges.

“The kids are still coming out to practice,” Gray said. “We are in a see-where-we-go-from-here mode. There has been talk about club football but that could come with some financial concerns. But before we even get there we need to meet with the Naugatuck AD Brian Mariano, the superintendent of schools and the Board of Education to see if we can take that request to the local board of health.”

Gray said it’s a shame the season was canceled.

“I feel bad for the kids, especially the seniors with this being their last go-around. Some of them are looking to go on to play in college, and we are doing our best to get video clips and player profiles out to the respective colleges,” he said.

Woodland’s Joe DeDomenico (6) runs past St. Paul’s Connor Isaiaha (5) Oct. 11 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

Woodland

2019 results: 9-2; reached Class S quarterfinal.

Graduated: Andrew Rowley, Tyler Bulinski, James Champagne, Ryan Knobel, Alex Tolboe, Kyle Ministro, Collin Lacy.

Seniors: Elijah Johnson, Joe DeDomenico (All-Division), Angelo Kolicinaku (All-NVL), Matthew Deptula, Andrew Shea, Nicholas Rosseau, Michael Bunce, Nathan Grom, James Troy, Brett Barrett (All-Division), Joshua Morrone, Justin Petta, Jack Bronn, Gerald Gory Jr.

The Hawks may have been headed back to the drawing board after graduating the second winningest quarterback in Woodland history, Tyler Bulinski, but there was still a lot in the cupboard for a team coming off back-to-back 9-2 seasons and playoff appearances.

There was talent brewing throughout the lineup, including junior All-NVL and All-State player Jason Palmerie, and the Hawks were working hard to advance past the state quarterfinals. The cancelation of the football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a bitter pill to swallow for a team that was intent on taking the next step.

“It’s really hard after losing the spring sports season to come into the fall hoping to get back out there and then it was ripped away from them like that,” head coach Chris Moffo said.

“But the kids are resilient,” he continued. “They are coming out every day still working hard. We are putting together player profiles and film clips for those players who are interested in going on to play in college.”

There was a movement among some Valley schools to play football as a club sport this fall, but nothing concrete as of last week. There was also discussion on playing 7-on-7 and including challenges for linemen.

“I’m not sure where this is going at this point. There has been talk about 7-on-7 and club ball, but none of that has been settled,” Moffo said. “It’s just a tough position for these kids to be in. I know they were looking forward to the season.”

Editor’s note: The CIAC Board of Control Sept. 29 announced an alternative season for full-contact, 11-on-11 football between the winter and spring seasons.