(Ansonia CT) In eleven years you can build up a ton of frustration.
But when it ends, the elation is notable.
The Naugatuck faithful poured onto the Jarvis Stadium field after the Greyhounds stunned Ansonia, 14-7, on Thanksgiving Day.
“We don’t own the NVL (Naugatuck Valley League) anymore,” surmised Ansonia coach Tom Brockett afterwards. “We just got beat.”
In the last 103 meetings against NVL opposition, the Chargers had “owned” the league. But no longer.
The last NVL win against Ansonia was exactly eleven years ago.
The behavior of the Naugatuck afterwards said a lot about the stifled pain they had in falling short year after year. Everyone was hugging someone. Greyhounds’ coach Chris Anderson was up on the players’ shoulders.
Comparable for me was the American League playoffs in 2004 against the Yankees. Down three games to one with a lengthy history of losses to New York, the four-win recovery was about as sweet (for me) as it will ever get. What happened after that is a faded memory, but that playoff win over the Yankees will never die.
And I’m sure that many will recall today’s game in a similar light even though it was only a regular-season event.
There are playoffs ahead this week for both teams. Class L Naugatuck (#2 seed) will host Masuk on Tuesday night. Class S Ansonia (#3 seed) gets Seymour on Tuesday night.
After today’s victory, the Greyhounds (9-1) will enter the playoffs as the NVL champions.
The NVL title was the prize for the winner of today’s game. Ansonia (9-1) was certainly the favorite. Both reporters from the Connecticut Post picked them. Despite Naugatuck’s impressive record, you knew their history against Ansonia.
The last time the teams met on Thanksgiving (2019) it turned into a 52-8 Ansonia rout.
The Chargers also had a nine-game win streak going against Naugatuck. The game was at Ansonia. No reason to expect a Chargers’ surprise.
But it happened.
“Our coaches had a great game plan for us,” explained Naugatuck senior Mikey Deitelbaum afterwards. “We left everything we had on the field.”
Mikey had a remarkable game for the Greyhounds. Some of his highlights: scored the game winner in the 4th quarter, recovered a fumble in the 4th quarter, snapped on punts.
“It’s crazy to think that it has been so long since they were beaten in the league,” added Mikey. “For us to be the one to beat them is pretty remarkable.”
To win this game, Naugatuck had to be almost perfect. And that they were.
Ansonia needed to be off their usual game for Naugatuck to have a chance. And they definitely were that.
“What we did today really surprised me,” said Coach Brockett. “What Naugy did, didn’t surprise me. They’re a good football team.”
No fumbles, interceptions, costly penalties for the visitors. For the home team? Multiples in each area.
When Ansonia had its act together, they marched seventy-five yards in the last five minutes of the first half to a touchdown.
Key play in the drive was a catch-and-run by star tailback Darell McKnight.
Quarterback Chris Kaminski plowed in from a yard away after Dave Cassetti nearly scored the play before.
Ansonia’s halftime lead (7-0) was significant because, despite numerous miscues, they were leading. Also, Ansonia’s defense was able to stuff all three of Naugatuck’s first-half possessions on fourth downs.
“We knew that this game would be won on the defensive end,” said Mikey Deitelbaum. “We allowed a first-half score off a lot of mistakes. In the second half, we fixed those mistakes. We shut down the run and made them a little uncomfortable and took the game from there.”
The combination of Naugatuck’s upgraded defense and a continuation of Ansonia mistakes keyed the final result.
“They made plays,” said Coach Brockett, “and we didn’t. We dropped balls all over the place. We roughed a punter. We couldn’t have been any sloppier. You play like that, and you deserve to lose.”
In Naugatuck’s productive second half, they used big plays on their first two possessions to produce points.
Meanwhile, Ansonia had THREE fumbles on their first second-half possession, and a long run called back because of a penalty.
Sophomore Jett Hall was huge in the two Greyhounds’ scores.
On Naugatuck’s first touchdown, Jett turned the right corner and outran three Ansonia defenders fifty-two yards to the end zone.
The extra-point kick evened things.
Next possession, Ansonia continued with its miscue tendencies. Two more fumbles, a dropped pass, and a snap over the quarterback’s head, ruined this possession for the Chargers.
The Greyhounds followed with the game winner.
Jett Hall, the runner, keyed the touchdown on the previous possession. On the game-winning possession, which stretched into the 4th quarter, we saw Jett the passer.
Naugatuck QB Jibree Bartell rolled left and handed off to Jett going the other direction. The trickery enabled Jett to set himself and get off a pass to 6-5 Aidan Robertson.
Just as the ball reached Aidan, the defender slipped eliminating a battle in the air. Aidan wasn’t tackled until the play covered forty-nine yards to set Naugatuck up at the Ansonia 12.
On the first play after the productive flea flicker, Mikey Deitelbaum entered a big hole up the middle and reached the end zone.
The EP gave Naugatuck a, 14-7, lead with eight minutes remaining.
Plenty of time left for Ansonia but their luck continued to be very bad. Their final two possessions ended in turnovers (fumble and interception).
The interception, by Dave Bien in the final minute, put the Greyhounds into kneel-down territory and the celebrations began for Naugatuck.
A frustrated Coach Brockett certainly had it right afterwards when he said, “We didn’t take advantage of opportunities.”
“Ansonia is a great team,” said Mikey Deitelbaum. “They’ll always be a great team. To beat them you have to leave it all out there, and we did.”
I was very impressed with Ansonia defenders Carlos Pinto and Alex Romanowski.
Mikey scored three touchdowns in their win over Woodland on November 12th.
Naugatuck coach Chris Anderson had two state champions while coaching Woodland. Chris was also an All-State player at Derby.
The Greyhounds have qualified for the playoffs four times since 2010. They haven’t, however, won a playoff game since 1993. Maybe this year?
Coach Tom Brockett has led Ansonia to the playoffs in all fifteen years of his being head coach there.
In the Naugatuck/Ansonia Thanksgiving series, the Chargers have seventy-six wins, thirty-five losses, and ten ties.
The atmosphere at today’s game was special. There was a lot at stake, and you could feel it.
Weather was perfect with temperatures close to fifty degrees with plenty of sunshine.
Continue to wonder why team rosters are so hard to find. There was a program but only Ansonia had a roster in it. Trying to identify players shouldn’t have to be such an adventure IMO.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)