BEACON FALLS — Woodland and Seymour met for the 15th time on the gridiron on Thanksgiving eve. With the overall series tied at 7-7, the Wildcats came into the Woods looking for a win and to punch their ticket to the playoffs.
The game started off quickly as both teams scored on back to back drives.
The Wildcats went 44 yards in 46 seconds and capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Jaylen Kelly to take a 7-0 lead. The Hawks answered right back as senior captain Isaac Negron scored from 21 yards out to tie the game.
Woodland tried to steal a possession with an onside kick following the touchdown but the Wildcats recovered.
“We knew how powerful their offense was so we tried to keep the ball away from them,” Woodland head coach Chris Moffo said.
After the onside kick, Bobby Melms took it to the house from 53 yards out to put the Wildcats up 14-7. It was the first of three unanswered touchdowns as Seymour pulled away for a 55-20 win.
Moffo’s plan to keep the ball away from Seymour (9-2) worked as the Wildcats only had the ball for 5 minutes and 18 seconds in the first half. The only problem was they scored six times, including four touchdown drives in under a minute of game time.
Melms had 158 yards on nine carries in the first half and two touchdowns on just three rushes in the first quarter. Melms, the 100 meter dash champion in the NVL, helped the Wildcats rack up 300 yards of offense on just 19 plays in the first half.
“Bobby Melms is incredible and a really special player for them,” Moffo said.
Melms finished with 193 yards on 12 carries.
Kelly had 13 carries for 152 yards and added 127 more yards through the air on 5-for-9 passing and one touchdown to Alex Massie, who ended the day with four catches for 106 yards.
Negron had his sixth 100-yard rushing performance for the Hawks (1-9) with 169 yards on 21 carries and two scores. Junior Tom Smith added 102 yards on ten carries, 87 of which came on his lone touchdown run.
The Hawks will lose five seniors this year to graduation and replace them with six rising seniors if they all come back. It is safe to say the Hawks are a young team, but their younger players have gained valuable experience this season.
“The experience is so important for our freshmen and sophomores moving forward because the game speed is something you can’t mimic. The physicality of a real game is not something we can reproduce at practice, so having these young guys already experiencing it is huge for us,” Moffo said.
Replacing the team’s leading rusher, leading tackler, and leading passer will be a challenge for the Hawks.
“We are only losing a hand full of guys but they are huge losses. Quincy Koch, Cody Doyle, Isaac, and Scott Lawrence are all players that leave big shoes for our team to fill,” Moffo said.
The offensive and defensive lines will miss Doyle, who recorded a sack in his final game. Lawrence led the team in tackles by a wide margin.
“Right now it looks like Smith, Edit Krivca, and Zachariah Kabusk will be our running backs, and Tyler Bulinski has the inside track to replace Koch at quarterback. The quarterback spot will be an open competition though,” Moffo said.
Looking back on this season, Moffo said the Hawks played hard every game regardless of the outcome. There was effort that any spectator could see on every play.
“Our record was obviously not what we wanted it to be, but it had nothing to do with the effort put forth by our players,” Moffo said.