Turnovers lead to first loss for Hawks

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Woodland's Sean McAllen pulls away from  Holy Cross' Zach Mason, left, and Trai Weaver (4) during their NVL matchup in Waterbury Nov. 1. McAllen would go onto score on the run. Woodland fell to Holy Cross, 37-18. –RA ARCHIVE
Woodland’s Sean McAllen pulls away from Holy Cross’ Zach Mason, left, and Trai Weaver (4) during their NVL matchup in Waterbury Nov. 1. McAllen would go onto score on the run. Woodland fell to Holy Cross, 37-18. –RA ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — Even as substantial favorites, not many teams can make mistake after mistake and still expect to earn a victory.

The Woodland football team found out that fact the hard way last Friday at Municipal Stadium as the Hawks committed four turnovers and a slew of other errors in a 37-18 loss to Holy Cross, a result which prevented a second straight Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division title from going to Beacon Falls for the time being.

“We made way too many mistakes tonight to win,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “Hats off to Holy Cross. They did a great job executing and capitalizing on our mistakes.”

It all went downhill for Woodland (7-1, 4-1 NVL Copper) after a strong first quarter in which it scored easily on its two opening series. The Hawks gained a 12-7 lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Kingsley to Taylor Tucciarone and a 33-yard scoring run by Sean McAllen. Those drives combined to rack up 160 yards in about 3 minutes of possession and eight plays, but that was almost all the success Woodland experienced.

The Crusaders started to hold the ball on offense. They started getting pressure on Kingsley. They started making big play after big play with few failures.

It all began to come together when Woodland took over on downs after making a fourth-down stop inside its own 5-yard line. On second-and-11 from the 3, Gerron Pendarvis brought pressure from Kingsley’s front side and drew a holding penalty. Because the foul occurred in the end zone, it went as a safety and drew the Crusaders to within 12-9.

Holy Cross failed again offensively when Mike Kenney picked off Joe Kalosky on fourth down, but Pendarvis threw the pendulum back to his Crusaders when he peeled off his block and intercepted a middle screen at the Woodland 8-yard line. On the next play, Justice McDaniel punched in the go-ahead touchdown to make it 16-12.

“I knew we had to get pressure, and I figured I could be the one to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Pendarvis said. “I watched a little extra film this week to prepare for the screens.”

Crusaders coach Mike Giampetruzzi saw the game at a tipping point and decided to let his kicker, Prospect’s Kyle Broderick, boot it over the edge on the ensuing kickoff.

Broderick dribbled an onside kick to his right, where Brandon Black recovered at the Woodland 45-yard line. It once again denied the ball for the Hawks, which possessed the ball for just 8:11 in the first half.

“I figured we would take a chance,” Giampetruzzi said. “We were getting the momentum and it just seemed for a great time to call it.”

Two plays later, Trai Weaver scored his second touchdown of the night on a 41-yard option pitch from Kalosky to make it a 23-12 Holy Cross lead with 4:36 left in the first half. Weaver added two more touchdowns in the second half and finished with 174 total yards.

Although the Hawks rallied to make it a 23-18 halftime score on an 11-yard pass to Tucciarone from Kingsley, who tallied his 100th career touchdown toss on that play, they never sniffed another point — thanks in part to a muffed punt with less than a minute left in the half.

“A lot of the problem was we couldn’t get off the field on defense,” said Shea, whose team held the ball for only 15:54 the entire night. “We usually get teams to third and fourth downs but we couldn’t get off the field tonight. The safety and the onside kick didn’t help.”

Holy Cross got consistent pressure on Kingsley, whose second half included two sacks, a second interception and a lateral pass that was fumbled away. Kingsley was held to a season-low 143 yards on 13-of-24 passing. The Crusaders also converted on three of five fourth-down attempts, while the Hawks failed on a crucial fourth-and-1 early in the second half thanks to a procedure penalty.

Naugatuck’s 56-20 victory over Holy Cross Thursday night left the door open for Woodland to win the Copper Division title. The Hawks need victories over Torrington Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Beacon Falls and another over Derby on Nov. 15.