BEACON FALLS — Consider the Hawks’ quarterback question answered.
Sophomore Tanner Kingsley threw three touchdown passes in a span of just over five minutes in the second quarter and finished the game 8-of-11 for 134 yards in leading Woodland to a 41-18 win in last Thursday’s opener.
Woodland coach Tim Shea thought the 5-foot-10, 130-pound quarterback’s play went just like the team drew it up.
“We came up with a great game plan,” Shea said. “We kept it simple at first, trying to establish the run first and then use the play-action after that. We’ve said it all along that we’re not going to ask him to win games but take care of the ball, move it around, and don’t make mistakes.”
The Hawks established the run—Matt Zaccagnini finished with 187 yards on 37 carries with three touchdowns, one of which gave Woodland a 6-0 lead in the first—but Kingsley went beyond managing the game and instead propelled a very balanced offense.
“With the line blocking like that, I can throw the ball, and that’s what happened tonight,” Kingsley said. “[My receivers] were running good routes and getting good separation. Everything was working.”
Kingsley and wide receiver Anthony Scirpo hooked up on the two most impressive plays of the night in the second quarter.
With 11 minutes to play, Kingsley executed a play-action pitch to Zaccagnini, drawing the entire Sacred Heart defense to the left side of the field. The lefty rolled out to his right and had just enough on his throw to find Scirpo, who made a sharp shift to his left and darted into the end zone for a 65-yard score to make it a 12-0 lead.
“When it left my hand I thought, shoot, it’s going to be picked,” Kingsley said. “But Scirp went up and got the ball and made a great play.”
After the Hawks scored 10 more points on a Kingsley 2-yard pass to Kyle McClintick and a safety, Kingsley and Scirpo connected again. This time, Kingsley fit a pass in a miniscule window to hit Scirpo running down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown, making it a 29-0 game.
Scirpo, who finished with five catches for 103 yards and two scores, wasn’t surprised by being targeted as much as he was.
“Being the outside guy, I expect that because it’s my role,” Scirpo said. “When the running game gets working well, it opens up the passing game and our offense works really well.”
Woodland led, 35-0, at the half, but Sacred Heart made a strong comeback in the third quarter thanks to three touchdown passes by Javon Martin. Martin found Dwayne Ellis for two scores—a 6-yarder on the first drive of the half and a 21-yarder late in the third—and Shyquan Thompson for an easy 35-yard connection to pull the Hearts to within 35-18.
“We have to finish,” Shea said. “There were some games last year that we lost because we didn’t finish. Teams aren’t going to stop playing because of the score. Sacred Heart has some great kids all over the field and they made some plays, so we had to buckle down again to win the game.”
Zaccagnini quelled the Hearts’ momentum by leading an 11-play drive that lasted over six minutes and ended in his third touchdown of the night, a 5-yard trot that effectively sealed the game. He accounted for 58 of the 69 yards the drive covered.
“That was a huge mental position for us,” Zaccagnini said. “We had to calm down, get our breath, and get back to Woodland football. And that’s what we did.”
With a 1-0 start in the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division under their belts, the Hawks face perhaps their toughest test of the season this week against Ansonia, which crushed Copper contender Torrington, 49-20, in Week 1. Woodland hosts the Chargers on Friday at 7 p.m.
“It’s Ansonia,” Shea said. “They’re the big team in the league and the team everybody aspires to beat. We’ve got a Valley game coming and we’re all excited.”