Undefeated Woodland Jr. Hawks set to compete for New England crown

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PROSPECT — Everybody in the Valley is familiar with the success of this year’s Woodland and Naugatuck high school football teams. But perhaps the most successful gridiron gang in the area can’t be found on Back Rimmon Road or Rubber Avenue. Instead, you can find that group this Sunday at Wolcott High, playing for a shot at a New England championship.
The Woodland Jr. Hawks Jr. Pee Wee team is 11-0 and is set to face the Mount Hope Cowboys from Kingstown, R.I., Sunday at 10 a.m. at Wolcott High for a chance to play for the New England Pop Warner Division II Jr. Pee Wee championship.
What does that mean? Two more wins for the Jr. Hawks and they’re going to Disney World to play for the national championship.
The group of 20 players from Beacon Falls, Prospect, Naugatuck, Cheshire, and Bristol is led by head coach Ernie Jordan and assistants Joe Kmetz, Martin Heanue, Kevin Celli, Brian Swiatek, and Bob Lepri. Woodland compiled an impressive, 8-0 regular season record and has won its three playoff games without allowing a point.
That’s right — the Jr. Hawks haven’t allowed a single point to the best competition they’ve faced all year.
The offense is led by quarterback Tyler Arbuckle, running backs Kyle Searles, Tyler Rudolph, and Joel Guzman, and tight ends Giovanni Celli and Chad Vincent. Also seeing time on the offensive side of the ball are quarterback Zack Bedryczuk, running back Quincy Koch, and fullback Austin Griffen.
Of course, the skill players couldn’t do their jobs without a solid offensive line. Woodland is led by linemen Joe Kmetz, Bobby Hames, Scott Lawrence, Thomas Faryniarz, Peter Martonick, Justin Morrone, and Tom Smith.
The Jr. Hawks’ defense has been its most impressive element, allowing just 50 points in 11 games, including six shutouts. In addition to some players who play on both sides of the ball, the defense is led by defensive linemen Micah Silverman, Ian Romanski, Zach Laperriere, and Sean McKeown.
In qualifying for the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner Division II state tournament, the Jr. Hawks outscored their eight regular-season opponents, 209-50, while posting three shutouts. And as outstanding as it played in the regular season, Woodland has upped the ante in the postseason.
In the first round, the Jr. Hawks beat Milford II, 20-0. Then, Woodland beat Stratford, 6-0, to win the SCPW title and also handed Stratford its first shutout loss of the season, helped by Griffen’s game-winning interception with three minutes left in the game.
In their last outing, the Jr. Hawks defeated Western Connecticut Pop Warner champion Brookfield, 20-0, to win the Connecticut state title, which was the first overall state championship for any team in the history of Prospect-Beacon Falls Pop Warner.
If Woodland beats the Rhode Island champion this weekend, it will travel to Worcester, Mass., Nov. 26 to play for the New England championship against either New Hampshire or Massachusetts. The New England champ will advance to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., from Dec. 4 to Dec. 11.
Due to the high expenses of potentially traveling to Florida, the Jr. Pee Wee team is collecting donations to help offset the $19,000 cost. If you are interested in making a donation to the team, please e-mail league president Patrick Gibson at president@jrhawks.com.