Zac Livingston (81 yards/19 carries) finds running room behind Zak Slater (72) and Andrew Pugliese (76).
Wethersfield Victory Makes for a Happy Thanksgiving
NEW BRITAIN - Extreme weather conditions and a second-half surge from a physical Newington football team could not deter the Wethersfield Eagles from reclaiming the Thanksgiving Trophy Nov. 27 with a 16-14 victory at Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field.
The first quarter, played in driving rain and a strong wind, ended in a 0-0 gridlock, though the Eagles drove inside the Newington 30 on their first possession.
Wethersfield pushed deep into Indian territory as the second period opened, but the Newington defense, led by seniors Christian Zotti, Nick Mamet and Marcus Guadarramma, pressured junior quarterback Matt Sanzaro into three-straight incomplete passes as the Eagles turned the ball over on downs. The Wethersfield defense countered with strong play from Jimmy Malizia and Austin Pallone, which yielded little running room and forced the Indians to punt.
The Eagles drew first blood with 4:59 left before halftime as Sanzaro capped a 10-play, 50-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring pass to Whit Devaux, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Zac Livingston to give Wethersfield an 8-0 advantage.
“Zac has had a very consistent year, with over 1,000 yards receiving the ball and rushing the ball combined, and has scored seven touchdowns,” head coach John Campanello said. Livingston totaled 81 yards rushing on 19 carries in his final appearance for Wethersfield.
WHS went three and out on its next possession, but failed to get the punt off, giving the Indians great field position. Newington capitalized quickly and made the Eagles pay, as junior quarterback Jake Hedberg fired a 19-yard scoring strike to Kyle Armour in the right corner of the end zone with 2:17 left in the half.
The Eagles made their 8-6 lead hold up until the final quarter, when they upped the ante with 8:41 left in the game. This time Sanzaro called his own number and found plenty of running room up the middle on a 32-yard bolt to pay dirt.
“You could have driven a truck through that hole. My line made it so easy to run,” said Sanzaro, who followed his TD run with a two-point conversion pass to Giovanni Serrao for the 16-6 lead.
“Matt’s had a great year throwing the ball and has done a fine job of running our offense,” Campanello said of Sanzaro, who came into the game with 1635 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. “He has great accuracy and great pocket presence. He’s a leader and we feed off of his play.”
Sanzaro was 25-38 on the night, good for 188 yards and a TD, and added 118 yards rushing and a TD on 17 carries as the Eagles recorded their seventh-straight victory to finish the season at 8-3.
Newington senior Isaiah Young, who totaled 114 yards rushing on 18 carries, crossed the goal line from eight yards out with 4:33 left in the game and added the two-point conversion to slice the Eagles lead to 16-14. Head coach Roy Roberts said he never considered following Young’s TD with an onside kick, and the Indians’ defense stood tall to give its offensive counterparts the ball back with just over two minutes to play in the fourth quarter and a last crack at the win.
“We were definitely trying to move the ball on that last drive, and had a couple of first downs,” Roberts said.
Wethersfield had other ideas as to how the game would end, with Richard Williams’ second interception of the game ensuring that the Eagles left New Britain with the victory as the sophomore picked off a Hedberg pass at the Newington 45 with 47 seconds left to play.
“We had opportunities on offense tonight that we just couldn’t take advantage of. We spent a lot of time on the deep side, our side of the field, in the first half. We just couldn’t get out of that rut,” Roberts said. “Jake Hedberg is my guy. We’ve just got to make more plays around him to help him out a little bit. We were kind of bending but we never broke.
“At half time, we talked about not giving Wethersfield anything else and I thought we did a good job making them work for what they got in the second half. We also made an adjustment up front and we were able to open up some lanes for Isaiah to get going,” said Roberts, whose Indians finished the season at 5-6.
Campanello cited the play of linebackers Alex Fournier and Richard Williams, who defended well against the run, and cornerback Austin Pallone, who picked off Hedberg to snuff out a drive at the Eagles seven-yard line early in the third period.
“We have a great bunch of kids,” Campanello said. “I’m happy for them to finish on a good note. They’ve bought into what we wanted them to do. They work hard and really pay attention to detail.
“This is a great rivalry against Newington. It’s always fun to have the trophy and that will make our holiday better.”
The Eagles last had possession of the trophy in 2010, when they finished up at 9-2 after a 34-27 victory scored on Thanksgiving morning on Newington’s Alumni Field.