We can’t remember the last time we had a Game of the Week that featured a pair of rivals in a matchup that is almost too close to call. That’s what we have in Week 4, though, when Naugatuck and Woodland put their 3-0 records on the line in a massive Copper Division contest. It’s time to preview this one, starting with our video, which is presented by the Pour House Sports Tavern in Naugatuck and Wolcott.
Remmy’s Keys to the Game: The Greyhounds must know that they have only beaten Woodland once over the last 10 years. Once the ‘Hounds accept the fact that their history with the Hawks has been awful, they may collect themselves and play great football this week. There are two things I think Naugy will need to do to win this game: Establish a run game with running back Tom Douty and play exceptionally in their secondary. Contrary to what most may think, Woodland is a pretty balanced team on offense but are obviously more of a threat to go up and down the field throwing the ball. Naugatuck has size and speed in the secondary at corner and safety, which I think will change Woodland’s game plan a bit and the Hawks will have to throw shorter routes and occasionally catch Naugatuck off-guard with passes down field to try and win this game.
Kyle’s Keys to the Game: Because these two teams are the ones with which I’m most familiar, I tried to go around the field and see which team might have an advantage in which area. When push comes to shove, I’m still going to take Tanner Kingsley as my quarterback and his new receivers have been very dependable early in the season. Jason Bradley is no pushover, either, but I sometimes worry that the Greyhounds just want to throw the ball downfield and hope for the best with their tall wide receivers. I’m not sure that will work against the Hawks. Naugatuck definitely has an advantage in its size on the offensive line, but Woodland blitzes more than any of the three teams the ‘Hounds have faced so far. I think the Greyhounds have to send more than four guys against Kingsley, too, because he is too good when he’s allowed to sit in the pocket. The only trouble Kingsley has had over the last year and a half is when teams get after him. Naugy’s top two cornerbacks, Nate Franklin and Maleek Brooks, are talented enough, I think, to man up and give the ‘Hounds some defensive flexibility. In the Greyhounds’ only test so far against Wolcott, the Eagles’ deep ball wasn’t near as effective as short passes in to the flats. The short passing game has been Woodland’s strength and I think there is some room to exploit that. How the teams mix in the run game and screens and their effects on blitzes will be fascinating.
Remmy’s Players to Watch: The stars in this game will be quarterbacks from both teams: Naugatuck’s Jason Bradley and Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley. Kingsley comes into this game completing 70 percent of his passes and has a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. What does that mean? It means if Naugy’s secondary (Ryne Griesenauer, Kevin Robinson, Maleek Brooks, etc.) are playing great defense, Hawks sophomore running back Sean McAllen, who leads the team in rushing, will have to step up. As for the Greyhounds, Bradley will have to make sure he does not turn over the ball by trying to make plays that aren’t there. If Naugatuck is able to run the ball with Tom Douty behind its massive line, it will shorten the game and keep Kingsley off the field.
Kyle’s Players to Watch: I’m thrilled to see how each team’s top cornerback (Woodland’s Coby Vaccarelli and Naugatuck’s Nate Franklin) impacts the game. Both teams have deep wide receiving corps (Naugy has Griesenauer, Bryan Coney and Rick Plasky, and Woodland boasts Mike Kenney, Dylan Abarzua and Jack Pinho) but I think those corners will have a big say in this game. In a game as close as this one should be, it may only take one turnover — one sharp defensive play by either guy — to determine a winner. In the other matchup I’m interested in, which pass-rushing linebacker will have the best game? Naugy’s Jour’dan Hopkins almost never drops back and likes to try to come through the middle, while Woodland’s Levi Fancher is capable of playing in different spots, including bringing pressure from the edge. Those two players are also capable of creating critical takeaways.
As some of our bloggers have written in their picks, this game is about as close to a toss-up coin flip as we have seen around here in a long time. Our first instincts were to pick Naugatuck — maybe because the Greyhounds were our preseason picks to win the Copper Division — but Woodland also has played three teams with a combined record of 0-9. We can look at last year and see how Kingsley carved up Naugy’s defense for a then-NVL record 502 yards and eight touchdowns, but those Hawks are otherwise different than these Hawks. Sure, Naugy had plenty of luck go its way to beat Wolcott, but we know these Greyhounds have been there and done that. Sometimes that’s just enough.
Picks: Remmy- Naugatuck, 40-33. Kyle- Naugatuck, 44-42.
Extra Points: The Naugatuck-Woodland game is also the WATR Game of the Week. Tune into 1320 WATR-AM or watr.com for the broadcast starting at 6:20 p.m. … The Red Zone blog is updated with new stuff (and more coming), including Kyle’s analysis of the Week 4 state polls and soon his Week 4 edition of Gimme Five. … The Lonesome Polecat’s Ned Griffen always has the fix for you statewide football fans, but the centerpiece of this week’s blog is last week’s Wolcott-Seymour game. … Sean Patrick Bowley posted his beat report on the NVL, too, and included Vincent Gambino’s game-winning touchdown pass to Jay Pelletier in his GameTime plays of the week video (see that below). … There’s lots of stuff for us to update around here, including the record chases of Tanner Kingsley, Logan Marchi and Arkeel Newsome. We’ll have some more info on that soon. … The Rep-Am’s Rick Wilson wrote a game rewind from that Wolcott-Seymour classic, and Mark Jaffee caught up with Marchi after UConn fired coach Paul Pasqualoni earlier this week. … Kyle had the pleasure of writing about Woodland’s entry into the Rep-Am Red Zone Hall of Fame, which is Pat Krakowski. There is all sorts of stuff on Krakowski and the 2003-04 Hawks in the Red Zone, from the main feature to all sorts of extra stories and multimedia (including highlights from the last four games in 2004).
(Fast forward to 5:54 for the Wolcott-Seymour game-ender.)
The Week 4 Game of the Week is presented by Blanchette Sporting Goods. BSG has been a family-owned and operated sporting goods store for more than 40 years. Located in Shelton, Blanchette carries not only a wide selection of equipment, but also a full line of apparel for several Valley schools. Blanchette can also handle embroidery, screen printing, trophies and more. Call today at 203-929-6331 or visit the showroom on Bridgeport Avenue.