An unforgettable win on Thanksgiving

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Greyhounds still stand as last NVL team to beat Ansonia

By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

The Naugatuck High football team celebrates its 38-20 win over Ansonia on Thanksgiving in 2010 in Ansonia. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

This is the fourth story of a series commemorating anniversaries of significant moments in local sports history. This story looks at the 10-year anniversary of the Naugatuck High football team’s upset win over Ansonia on Thanksgiving, which gave the Greyhounds their most recent Naugatuck Valley League title.

Ten years after Naugatuck’s memorable Thanksgiving upset of Ansonia to win the Naugatuck Valley League football title, former Greyhounds coach Rob Plasky still basks in the glory of the accomplishment.

“It’s something you’ll never forget for the rest of your life,” Plasky said. “It’s few and far between when Naugatuck has beaten Ansonia. It’s pretty rewarding when you look at the history of Ansonia and what they’ve done.”

Naugy’s 38-20 rout of the Chargers before an estimated 4,000 fans at Jarvis Stadium was the highlight in an outstanding season for the Greyhounds, a group that still stands as the most recent NVL squad to beat Ansonia. But Plasky knew he had a high-potential team months before Thanksgiving.

“We got in a full-fledged brawl at Central Connecticut (football camp) with New Britain,” Plasky recalled. “We were doing an inside drill (for the running game), and when the brawl erupted, it turned into our whole team in the brawl. It was like our family was standing up for each other. I think right there I knew there was a bond where they had each other’s back.”

“Then I saw kids running around town as I was driving in Naugatuck,” he continued. “I saw groups running when it was 100 degrees out. They were getting together without any of us telling them to do it. We knew we had something special.”

The Greyhounds were loaded with talent. Senior quarterback Erich Broadrick engineered the offense, which often utilized a diverse running game led by Andrew Cirino and Jake Yourison. Tyler Conklin led an athletic group of wide receivers, and a number of players, including Marquan Williams, Dashawn Wingate and transfer Ruben Berger, were both rushing and receiving threats.

Naugy brought physicality to the field, too, with tight end-linebacker Iman Farimani and linemen Aaron Echevarria, Mike Giugno, Rob Colucci, Niko Cari, Tim Woodfield, Nate Hollie and Nick Douglass.

Berger, who had played at Sacred Heart, proved to be a linchpin on both sides of the ball. His speed made him an offensive threat, his skill made him an All-State defensive back, and his attitude helped the team dynamic.

“Ruben moved into Naugatuck and he was instantly accepted,” Plasky said. “There were like five guys on the team he was close with, and they all had such a bond. He came into our program and you would have thought by Week 3 that he’d been there for four years.”

Naugatuck wide receiver Marquan Williams (9) attempts to elude Ansonia’s Montrell Dobbs on Thanksgiving in 2010 in Ansonia. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

The ‘Hounds cruised to a 7-0 start, scoring an average of 44 points in those victories. Most expected the Week 8 game against Woodland to be for the NVL Copper Division title and the right to face Ansonia for the league crown. The Hawks pulled a 25-6 upset on a sloppy Veterans Field, and Plasky and the Greyhounds figured their championship opportunity was gone.

That was until the NVL unraveled its complex tiebreak rules and announced that Woodland needed to beat Sacred Heart the following week to actually clinch the division title. Plasky waited with bated breath as he got text updates from that game.

“I remember it like it was yesterday — Woodland was playing Sacred Heart and I was at a business meeting,” Plasky said. “It was pins and needles. We figured Woodland would beat Sacred Heart and we almost wrote it off that we’d let it slip away. I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t in our hands, but you’ll take anything you can.”

The Hawks’ loss, combined with Naugy’s 24-13 win over Holy Cross the next night, gave the ‘Hounds the division title and put the league championship on the line for the Thanksgiving game.

Ansonia entered that contest with a 9-0 record and boasted the state’s leading rusher in Montrell Dobbs, but the Chargers had two close calls against Woodland and Derby. The latter of those games became a source of inspiration for Plasky and his coaching staff.

“Derby came out with some decent athletes in skill positions — one back, spread,” Plasky recalled. “In the first quarter when I saw how Derby caught Ansonia off guard, I don’t think Ansonia was ready for it. I looked back and didn’t see another team do that against them. There’s a lot of preparation that has to go into beating Ansonia. In four days, we probably spent 24 hours on film. I told him I wanted to go back to 2005 film (against Ansonia) and how it seemed like you never had enough guys to block them. I finally figured out why, and I’ll never give up that secret.”

With that, Naugy retooled its offense and came out in a base spread while also utilizing some trickery. On the Greyhounds’ fourth play, Broadrick hit Farimani for a 22-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

“When he connected on the first pass, he came over to me and said, ‘Coach, put this (expletive) team on my back,’” Plasky remembered with a laugh. “I knew we were going to win that game in the first quarter. When he hit that pass-back, that’s a tough play to execute. The fact that he had the time and poise to get that throw back to Iman Farimani against the grain, I said, ‘This game is over.’ They had confidence enough to win.”

Broadrick added a 1-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to make it 14-0, but the Chargers rallied to tie the game with 34 seconds left in the half. Instead of taking a knee into the locker room, Plasky saw an opportunity for a turning point.

“Normally against Ansonia, you’re just happy going into the locker room at 14-14,” Plasky said. “I said BS to that and went into the two-minute drill. We marched right down the field and we got down far enough for Mick Pernell to put one through the uprights. The morale of the team when you can go into the half like that — you can beat one of the most storied programs in Connecticut — that was a turning point.”

Naugatuck’s Erich Broadrick drops back to pass against Ansonia on Thanksgiving in 2010 in Ansonia. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

Pernell’s 31-yard field goal made it 17-14 at the half, and Naugatuck dominated after the break. Broadrick hit Conklin for a 62-yard score on the first series out of the locker room to make it 25-14, and the ‘Hounds took a 32-20 lead into the fourth quarter. Naugy recorded an astounding eight sacks in the second half, including five by Echevarria, to prevent any rally by the Chargers. Dobbs finished with just 102 yards on 25 carries, a line inflated by one 48-yard run earlier in the game.

Broadrick finished 14-of-20 passing for 302 yards and accounted for all five touchdowns en route to earning the Clarence Fortin MVP Trophy. Afterwards, none of the muddy Greyhounds wanted to relinquish the feeling of their first win over Ansonia — and first NVL title — since 2001.

“If I could have cooked a turkey on that field, I would have,” Plasky joked. “(Ansonia) wanted no part of us staying on that field, and I wanted no part of leaving that field. When you look back at the camps, the 5 a.m. lifting, the kids getting together to run — don’t take that away from us. You’ll never take that away from that group. They did it.”

Since that morning, Ansonia has won 95 straight games against NVL opponents and wrapped up nine league titles. The Chargers have lost just once on their home field since, a 2018 playoff game against Bloomfield.

“I look back 10 years later, and not only has Ansonia not lost an NVL game since then, but nobody beats them on their home field,” Plasky said. “Anybody that has put the Naugatuck uniform on or still follows Naugatuck football, I don’t think anyone will forget that.”