The Woodland-Naugatuck series has become one of the NVL’s best rivalries since it began in 2003. The Hawks have historically gotten the best of the ‘Hounds (leading the series 8-1, Naugy’s only win coming in 2006) but there is usually plenty on the line for both teams. That will be the case again Friday night when Naugy hosts Woodland in a game that will either get the Greyhounds back in the Copper Division race or help the Hawks move one step closer to the division title.
Remmy’s Keys to the Game: The Hawks feature one of the best, if not the best, passing threats in the league. With that said, the game plan will be simple for Naugatuck: Force Woodland to run the ball and we’ll win on our home field. That’s a very tough assignment, though. And it’s not a given that Woodland will turn to its running game even if things aren’t going right with the passing game. The Hawks win or lose with their passing game. I’ve seen some good things from Naugatuck quarterback Jason Bradley. The sophomore has shown some signs of improvement since earlier in the season. And he is definitely a threat to the Woodland secondary, especially when he scampers out of the pocket with his eyes downfield. Woodland will need to find an athlete on defense to contain Naugy running back Mick Pernell. The Hawks will see Pernell lined up at the slot and in the backfield which will certainly allow some other key guys on the Greyhounds’ offense to have an opportunity to make some big plays.
Kyle’s Keys to the Game: For the first time this season, Naugatuck’s defense gave me reason last Saturday to worry about how it could handle an opposing offense. While the Greyhounds did a good job bringing lots of pressure and disrupting Holy Cross’ passing game for much of the first three quarters, the Crusaders made a nice adjustment to Naugy’s risky attempt to play man defense across the board with either one shallow safety or none at all (the safeties are young, too). Cross quarterback Kristian Harmeling took advantage of his opportunities, hitting several slants over a weak middle of the field, vacated by linebacker pressure. If Harmeling did it, you can bet Tanner Kingsley will have even more success with his two big wideouts, Anthony Scirpo and Rahmi Rountree, along with slot receivers Brian Reis and Jack Pinho. I think it will be interesting to see whether Naugy brings the house again (its base defense usually brings four or five guys, sometimes with a middle linebacker coming, too) or tries to sit back. On the flip side, Woodland’s defense will get a much better test this week than it had last week in Torrington. I’m waiting to see Naugatuck use Mick Pernell more in the slot, especially if teams bottle up his running game early like Holy Cross did last week. I think that would be a very difficult matchup for Woodland to defend because the Hawks have been at their best in run defense so far this season.
Remmy’s Players to Watch: Woodland quarterback Tanner Kingsley will be starting on my NVL Fantasy team again this week because I think he will have the opportunity to have another big game. Big-time players do big-time things in big-time games. Last season, I picked Hawks wide receiver Anthony Scirpo to have a monster game last year against Naugy. And he did. Here’s what I said:
This game has all the makings for Kingsley to be spectacular because Naugy’s pass defense has been pretty suspect this season with the loss of some studs due to graduation. Hawks wide receiver Anthony Scirpo is also due to have a breakout game. Scirpo is a reliable target and looks like he is one of Kingsley’s more favorable targets.
Scirpo had a 59-yard touchdown run, two touchdown receptions and an interception in that game. I expect nothing less in this game. Scirpo will have his chances at grabbing some interceptions, too, as I feel Naugatuck will have to go to the air a lot in this game. Two players that have really impressed me on the Naugy side have been Jerome Love and Matt Carda. Love runs very hard and is a very shifty back. He is overshadowed by Pernell but you will see Love run the ball with authority and punish defenders in the process. Carda is just an animal on defense. He is quick to the ball, hits very hard, plays with a lot of emotion, and simply makes big plays for his team. This game could go either way.
Kyle’s Players to Watch: I’m very, very interested to see how the Naugatuck linebackers play. Guys like Ronald Parker, Brandon Kuczenski and Dennis Murphy, along with Love, have taken their turns blitzing (usually pretty effectively). Add them to Carda, Tom Douty and Devon Watkins on the defensive line and Naugy has one of the best defensive fronts in the league. But the linebackers won’t all be able to come against Woodland’s spread, which has at least three (with a tight end) or four (without) wide receivers at all times. We’ll have to see how often (and from where) those ‘backers come and how well they play in coverage. The Hawks usually don’t try to bomb it right downfield but rather utilize some west-coast elements in the passing game, which makes the linebackers all that much more important. Nobody should sleep on Woodland running back Joe Fancher, either. He has been one of the most underrated backs in the league so far and averages 104.6 yards per game. He’s effective on screens, too, which could really throw the Naugy blitz through a loop. Woodland’s front seven has to keep playing as well as it has been, which includes Eric Collodel, Kevin Brennan, Nick Brown, and Jim Barrett.
After the success Holy Cross’ passing game had against Naugatuck, especially in the second half last week, it looks like the door is open for Woodland to have similar success. Naugy will have to hold the ball with better offensive line push, and its secondary will have to play much better to beat Woodland. But the Hawks are on a roll. Their powerful offense and underrated defense will get the job done again.
Picks: Remmy- Woodland, 35-28. Kyle- Woodland, 41-28.
Extra Points: A Woodland win plus a Holy Cross loss to Sacred Heart would give the Hawks their first division title since 2007. If Woodland and the Crusaders both win, the teams’ Week 8 matchup in Beacon Falls will have most of the Copper marbles on the table. … The Woodland-Naugatuck game is the WATR Game of the Week, and Kyle and Bob Sagendorf will have the call starting at 6:50 p.m. on WATR 1320 AM and watr.com. … Check out Kyle’s Rep-Am Red Zone blog, where he has this week’s Gimme Five, the new power rankings, a summary of last week’s big three NVL games, notes from other local teams and more throughout the week. Also, watch Kyle, Mike and Mark Jaffee in this week’s Red Zone show. … The Predictions Tracker is updated through Week 6. … Jaffee caught up with Ansonia’s Tyler Lester, who will likely miss the rest of this season with a broken leg. … The Day’s Ned Griffen went through his weekly playoff update. Check it out. Kyle will have his closer look at the local squads soon.
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