NVL football beat: Seymour’s run game thriving with Salemme

On his preseason preview form, Seymour coach Tom Lennon listed the Wildcats’ offensive style of play as “ground and pound”.

Behind a veteran offensive line, the Wildcats have certainly thrived on running the ball. Seymour has averaged 265 rushing yards per game while compiling a 2-2 record heading into Thursday’s contest at Sacred Heart (0-4).

Junior running back Joey Salemme has carried the load, rushing 122 times for 750 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He’s a tremendous asset,” Lennon said. “He, specifically, has been our workhorse carrying the ball. He’s focused. He’s driven. We continue to expect big things from him this year.”

The 5-foot-8, 180 pound Salemme is in the midst of a breakthrough season. He saw some time in the backfield last season, running 36 times for 242 yards, but he’s Seymour’s main threat this season, and he has not disappointed.

“He’s a shorter kid, but so strong,” Lennon said. “He could get lost behind the offensive line and then just power through a hole. He has pretty good speed. Once he gets through he has a pretty good burst, and he also can catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Paving the way for Salemme are senior linemen Zach Sirowich and Dan Hink, juniors Brandon Otero and Chris Bogardus and sophomore C.J. Falcioni. The tight ends are senior Christian Thurmond and junior Julian Falcioni and the fullback is senior Jack Briggs.

“We came (into this season) focused on establishing the run,” Lennon said. “Our offensive line has done a great job.”

Briggs has been invaluable as a blocking back, according to Lennon.

“He’s a throwback Valley football player,” Lennon said. “He’s tough as nails. He could easily get more carries and run well for us, but he wouldn’t have himself to block for him. He’s such a good blocker.”

Although the Wildcats don’t throw often, junior quarterback Frankie Marcucio has done an effective job directing the offense. Marcucio, the son of Westhill coach Frank Marcucio, has completed 9 of 19 passes for 272 yards. All six of his touchdown passes have gone to Thurmond, who has made eight receptions for 266 yards.

Lennon said they decided to start Marcucio over senior Nick D’Agostino to better utilize their athletes.

“We thought from a development standpoint, if we could get a junior out there, he can grow and we could get two years out of him,” Lennon said. “(D’Agostino) is pretty athletic and we thought this way we could get the best 11 on the field and get our best weapons out there. Nick has been doing well at receiver for us.”

Sirowich leads the team with 39 tackles and has made one sack and one interception. Hink (37 tackles, one interception), Salemme (14 tackles, two interceptions) and Thurmond (15 tackles, one interception) have also contributed defensively.

“(Sirowich) is having a tremendous year,” Lennon said. “He plays middle linebacker, but we also move him to the (defensive line). We can do a lot of things with him. He’s as tough as they come. He has a motor that doesn’t stop. He plays with so much passion that it’s just great to watch.”

The Wildcats have been in every contest despite sporing a .500 record. Seymour lost a 24-21 decision to Amity in the season opener and then suffered a 48-41 defeat to Wolcott on Sept. 27. Both contests were decided late in the fourth quarter.

Despite games remaining with Oxford (2-2), Derby (4-0), Ansonia (4-0) and Woodland (4-0), Lennon believes his team can make a push at a state playoff berth.

“We had high expectations, we still do,” Lennon said. “We lost two tight games, if the ball bounces the other way we could have been on the winning end of them. We have a lot of winnable games remaining. We just have to go out and take care of business and then we’ll start to look at (playoff) points on Thanksgiving.”

The dreaded football 15

Woodland’s 25-22 victory over Naugatuck gave the Hawks the inside track at winning the Copper Division title, with St. Paul, Torrington and Holy Cross the only remaining hurdles to a second-consecutive division title.

And you know what that means.

Should the Hawks win their remaining division games and Ansonia win its remaining games, it would push the NVL championship to an extra week. With an 11-game schedule and three state playoff games, the programs would have a chance to play an unprecedented 15-game schedule this year, provided either team reaches the Class S state title game.

No team in Connecticut history has ever played 15 games. The most has been 14. But since the CIAC added an extra round of playoffs in 2010 compounded with an 11-game season, the possibility exists. It also exists in the FCIAC and SWC, where league title games are also held.

Though he didn’t want to look ahead, Ansonia coach Tom Brockett took issue with the idea of so many games on ‘The Show,’ the weekly high school podcast hosted by Laxworm.com. Brockett’s previous two teams won an unprecedented 14 games. Even then, he said, it was rough.

“I thought last year playing 14 games too much. We played 14 games in 12 weeks and I don’t think anybody in the country that does that — college, NFL, they all have bye weeks,” Brockett said.

“I’m surprised we keep adding games with all the concerns about concussions and this and that. it’s kind of going against everything else we’re talking about. For fans it’s great, gives them a longer time. We all love football. but when kids got to get prepared physically and mentally… it’s a lot, lot of games.”

–SEAN PATRICK BOWLEY

Staying put

The league’s two UConn recruits, Arkeel Newsome and Logan Marchi both reaffirmed their commitment to UConn in separate interviews with New Haven Register reporter Jim Fuller last weekend.

“I committed there. That is the commitment I made,” said Marchi, whose thrown for 1,358 yards and 14 touchdowns against 4 interceptions for the 3-1 Falcons. “Things can change, but right now that is where I want to be and where I want to stay.”

Newsome, who’s run for 869 yards and 14 touchdowns (15 overall) this season, said he’s still on good terms with running backs coach Kermit Buggs and his recruiting coordinator  Jon Wholley. “I’m still hoping to play there,” said the 5-8, 183-pound senior.

Newsome watch

Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome is 609 yards away from eclipsing the state’s all-time rushing record set by former Ansonia standout Alex Thomas. Newsome has 869 yards this year, good for 7,687 for his career. Thomas had 8,279 yards rushing from 2004-2007.

“He’s doing things never been done in state of Connecticut before,” said Brockett, whose team plays 4-0 Derby on Friday. “If you see him, he’s lot more than a stat guy.”

Newsome has carried the ball just 47 times so far, an average of 18.5 yards per game.

“We probably pad a kid’ss stats less than anybody. …But I think when you watch him play now, you say ‘Wow.’ …I’ve seen him play 40-50 times in his career and he just continues to amaze me.”

Kingsley watch

With his three touchdown passes against Naugatuk, Woodland senior quarterback Tanner Kingsley has 85 touchdowns, which ties him with former St. Joseph standout Joe Della Vecchia for No. 2 on the all-time touchdown pass list last. Masuk’s Casey Cochran (now at UConn) holds the state mark with 112 touchdown passes.

Kingsley averages 4.25 touchdown passes per game and is on pace to break Cochran’s record, especially if the Hawks play more than seven games the rest of the season.

Emotional night

In case you might have missed it, the video at right shows the scene at Woodland during an emotional 25-22 victory over Naugatuck.

The Hawks and the Greyhounds weren’t just playing for first place in the NVL Copper Division, the were playing for the inaugural George Pinho trophy, given to the winner of the annual game.

George Pinho was a Naugatuck graduate and a longtime youth coach in town whose sons, Jake and Jack, grew up playing at Woodland. George Pinho became an assistant coach for the Hawks and was heavily involved in the school’s athletics until he died, unexpectedly, of a heart attack in January. He was 48.

When Woodland’s victory was secured, Jack Pinho, a senior captain, took the trophy on a victory lap, celebrating with his team, his school and his fans.

Last Week

Ansonia 47, Wilby 14
Derby 34, Crosby 7
Seymour 42, Watertown 0
Woodland 25, Naugatuck 22
Holy Cross 55, Sacred Heart 24
Wolcott 44, Torrington 7

This Week

FRIDAY, Oct. 11
Ansonia at Derby, 7:00 p.m.
Crosby at Wolcott, 7:00 p.m.
Wilby at Watertown, 7:00 p.m.
Holy Cross at Kennedy, 7:00 p.m.
Naugatuck at Torrington, 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, Oct. 12
Woodland at St.Paul, 1:30 p.m.

Further Reading

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