Second half woes continue for Woodland

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Woodland’s Matt Zaccagnini (25) runs free Monday versus Holy Cross at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. The Hawks fell to the Crusaders 43-7. RA ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — Woodland was once again within striking distance of a quality opponent at halftime. The Hawks trailed Holy Cross, 12-7, at halftime of Monday’s game at Municipal Stadium.

But for the third time this year, things fell apart in the second half as the Crusaders rolled to a 34-7 victory to clinch the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division championship and leave Woodland’s state playoff hopes in jeopardy.

“That’s been the story in our three losses,” Woodland head coach Tim Shea said. “We come out in the second half and feel like we still have a decent plan of action. We’re just not getting it done in all three phases.”

The Hawks’ (5-3) only lead of the game came midway through the second quarter. After Zach Happy recovered a fumble near midfield, Tanner Kingsley hit Kyle McClintick on an 18-yard pass to the Holy Cross 33-yard line.

Matt Zaccagnini burst a 17-yard run to the Crusaders’ 11, and four plays later Kingsley snuck in from 1 yard out to give the Hawks a 7-6 lead with 5:01 left in the half.

But Holy Cross (7-1) dominated the rest of the way. On the ensuing drive, Holy Cross quarterback Zach Brown converted on a third-and-8 by floating a pass along the right sideline for Isaiah Wright, who leaped over the defender and came down with a 35-yard catch to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Brown scored on a 1-yard run for a 12-7 Crusaders lead.

Holy Cross’ first drive of the second half was very similar. On a fourth-and-9 from the Woodland 34, Brown again hit Wright for a 20-yard connection. Joe Lynch later ran a 3-yard touchdown to give the Crusaders a 20-7 advantage.

On Woodland’s next drive, Lynch came up with a crucial 8-yard sack on Kingsley to stall the Hawks inside Holy Cross territory. That was the end of any Woodland momentum for the rest of the night.

“I was coming off the edge and read it,” Lynch said. “It was a play-action and he rolled right at me.”

Kingsley faced constant pressure all night, throwing three interceptions and taking four sacks.

“A lot of people lately have been loading the box to make us do some other things,” Shea said. “They had us timed up pretty well on the snap count.”

Kingsley’s first interception was made by Lynch on the Hawks’ opening drive of the night when he grabbed a deflection and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to give Holy Cross a 6-0 lead.

“I kept dropping back and saw the defender coming up and I knew he was going to tip it,” Lynch said. “I just read it. I knew it was coming. I picked it and took it to the house. It set the tempo for the rest of the game. It obviously worked. It got us rolling.”

“It happens,” Shea said. “The kid made a good read on the ball. It’s not going to deter us from throwing. But that’s football.”

Wright intercepted Kingsley twice in the fourth quarter to prevent the Hawks from getting any closer. Wright returned one for an interception while Adrian Brown added a rushing touchdown for the Crusaders, who will face Ansonia next Thursday for the NVL title.

Meanwhile, the Hawks fell back in the Class S playoff race and will need to win their final two games, along with some help, to make the postseason for the second straight season. Woodland hosts Wolcott on Saturday at 1 p.m. before the Thanksgiving eve game in Seymour.

“We have two left—senior day and Thanksgiving,” Shea said. “It all depends on how this senior class wants to go out.”

Saturday’s game against the Eagles will serve as a fundraiser for the Fisher House, a foundation that provides free or low-cost housing to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers. All veterans and current servicemen and servicewomen will gain free entry to the game with identification, and the team will be selling T-shirts.