Upset-minded Hawks face tough task

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Woodland’s Justin Morrone (57) and the Hawks’ defense will have to contain Seymour senior quarterback Jaylen Kelley to pull off an upset on Thanksgiving eve. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Justin Morrone (57) and the Hawks’ defense will have to contain Seymour senior quarterback Jaylen Kelley to pull off an upset on Thanksgiving eve. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The history of the Woodland-Seymour gridiron series has seen games that decided NVL titles and a game in the state playoffs. Overall, the series is tied 7-7, but the two sides enter the 14th annual Thanksgiving eve battle on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Seymour (7-2) comes into the game fighting for a playoff spot, while the Hawks (1-8) just put their first game into the win column and are in a rebuilding phase.

“Seymour has a great quarterback and a very good running back and they will be tough to handle,” Woodland head coach Chris Moffo said. “Our kids really needed the win over Kennedy to get that weight off their backs going into this game. I’m proud of how hard they worked and never gave up, and it finally came out in our favor.”

The Hawks will have to maintain that momentum, but it may be difficult to sustain against a Seymour team that has accumulated 49 touchdowns on the season and averaged 50 points in its seven wins. Losses to Wolcott (33-30) and Ansonia (41-20) have shown that the Wildcats are not invincible, though.

Seymour is led by senior quarterback Jaylen Kelley, who has thrown for 1,440 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 763 yards and 10 scores this season.

Kelley isn’t a one-man show, however.

Junior Bobby Melms has rushed for 623 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s added 14 catches for 350 yards and five touchdowns through the air. Receiver Alex Massie (19 catches, 521 yards, 9 touchdowns) is Kelley’s top target.

“I think we are going to come in a little more focused now that we put up our first win,” Moffo said. “Our defense has really started to come together in the past few weeks. Obviously Seymour has a lot of weapons to contain, and it’s going to play a big part in our success starting with the guys up front and our linebackers.”

Woodland senior Scott Lawrence leads the team with 81 tackles. In the win over Kennedy, senior Isaac Negron was consistently in the backfield making tackles for negative yards.

It will take that kind of defensive effort to slow down a very explosive Seymour team.

Junior Tom Faryniarz (34 tackles) and sophomore defensive backs Edit Krivca (42 tackles) and Carter Amore (35 tackles) will need to stop the long gain as the Hawks try and contain Kelley.

Woodland junior running back Tom Smith (11), who has 485 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground this year, and the Hawks will look to run over Seymour on Thanksgiving eve. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland junior running back Tom Smith (11), who has 485 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground this year, and the Hawks will look to run over Seymour on Thanksgiving eve. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The Seymour defense has been very opportunistic this year. In their seven wins, the Wildcats allowed just 8 points per game, forced 14 turnovers and tallied 11 sacks.

The Wildcats’ defense will have to deal with Woodland’s run-first offense.

Negron leads the way on the ground with 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior Tom Smith provides a second running option and has 485 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Quincy Koch has thrown for 249 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for five scores. Smith hauled in both touchdown passes.

A solid game in the trenches from senior Cody Doyle, junior Justin Monroe, sophomore Joe Shea and freshman Alek Tolboe will go a long way in the Hawks’ gaining traction against the Wildcats.

“It’s a big task but anything can happen on Thanksgiving,” said Koch about facing Seymour. “We will get ready during the bye week and come out and give it our all. The coaches always prepare us with a great game plan and if we watch the film and do our jobs we will be all right.”

Editor’s note: This article appears in the Citizen’s News’ special Thanksgiving football section published the week of Nov. 25, 2016.