Woodland gridders sustain 42-7 defeat

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BEACON FALLS — So much for Woodland football regaining its status as an offensive juggernaut—or a defensive force, for that matter. The Hawks were dominated on both sides of the ball Friday night in their home opener, allowing almost 500 yards of offense, while managing only 156 themselves, en route to a 42-7 pounding and their first loss of the young season.

In the early going, the Black and Gold’s offense appeared to pick up where it left off at Municipal Stadium. Woodland quickly racked up two first downs, inching toward midfield on a 10-yard run by junior tailback Jack DeBiase and a 10-yard hookup between senior quarterback Steve Petracca and senior wide receiver Colin Grommisch.

But the drive was halted abruptly by the first of several botched snaps between senior center Payten Gallagher and Petracca, the ball flying over the QB’s head on third down, forcing the Hawks to punt.

Giving the ball to Wolcott on Friday night never ended positively for Woodland, particularly because of the absolute dominance of the Eagles’ ground game over the seemingly fledgling Hawks’ defense. Of the 400-plus total yards Wolcott piled up, all were gained by running through, over, or by multiple Woodland defenders.

“I don’t think Putnam or Kennedy was as strong or as physical as Wolcott was,” senior lineman Mike Diurno said. “They came in ready to punch us in the mouth. We knew they were going to be pretty big and strong, but we didn’t expect them to punch us in the mouth like they did.”

Greg Jackson made that first punch on a 1-yard run with 4:40 left in the first quarter. The Hawks fumbled the ensuing kickoff but managed a defensive hold to regain possession. But that possession ended in disaster when Petracca was sacked and fumbled away the ball at his own 12-yard-line. Quarterback Dom Gambino scampered 12 yards on the very next play, making it 14-0 Wolcott.

The offensive issues continued for Woodland on its next possession, which also served as the debut of the Wild Hawk formation, putting DeBiase in the backfield to take the direct snap alongside junior Chris D’Occhio. But another poor snap on third down forced the Hawks to punt again.

After forcing a turnover on downs, Woodland finally found the end zone on a 72-yard run by D’Occhio, trimming the deficit to 14-7 with 9:26 left in the second. But that was as close as the Black and Gold got, as a 1-yard sneak by Gambino on Wolcott’s next possession re-extended the lead to 21-7 at the half, and the Eagles’ running game accounted for three more scores in the second half to cap a dominant performance that left them as one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Naugatuck Valley League.

“We have to block and pass better,” Diurno said. “Our running game is solid. If we can pass effectively and block better to give our quarterback a little more time to pass the ball, we’ll be fine. If we get punched in the mouth early again, we have to stay in the game and not lay down. But we’re putting that loss behind us now and focusing on Watertown.”

The Hawks travel to the Indians’ new turf Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Woodland is now 2-1 overall, but still 1-0 in the NVL Copper Division; its next divisional matchup is Oct. 16 at undefeated Holy Cross.