SEYMOUR >> Although Woodland had already clinched a state playoff berth prior to its contest with rival Seymour, their meeting Friday was still meaningful for several reasons.
For one, the Hawks wanted to continue their winning streak against the Wildcats. More importantly, Woodland would secure a home game for the quarterfinal round with a victory.
For three and a half quarters the Hawks seemed destined to accomplish neither as a tenacious Seymour defense held the explosive Woodland offense relatively in check. But the underrated Hawks defense made several stops of their own, and then scored the winning touchdown with 4:54 remaining to rally to a 22-19 Naugatuck Valley League victory at DeBarber Field.
Woodland defeated Seymour for the fifth straight time and evened the series at 6, although the Hawks hold a 6-5 advantage in games played during Thanksgiving week. Seymour won a Class SS semifinal contest over Woodland in 2007.
Senior quarterback Tanner Kingsley scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run and then sophomore Sean McAllen ran in the successful two-point conversion to cap the victory.
“It’s a big win,” Kingsley said. “It’s just a big win; this is our rival. There’s nothing we wanted more than to win this game. At the beginning of the year this is one of our goals, to win this game every single year. We left it all on the field.”
The victory allowed the Hawks (10-2) to secure the No. 4 seed in the Class S playoffs. Woodland will host No. 5 Morgan at 6:30 p.m. in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. It’s the first time since 2004 that Woodland will host a playoff game.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Kingsley about playing at home. “We have Morgan, we just have to get to work and get prepared.”
After forcing Seymour to punt, the Hawks took over at their own 45 on the eventual winning drive. Two big plays, both on third down, helped extend the drive. Kingsley connected with Mike Kenney for a 20-yard pass, and then sophomore Colby Vaccarelli ripped off an 11-yard run to bring the ball to the Wildcats’ 2. Kingsley would score on the next play.
“The offense has been stepping it up on every big drive we had to make,” Kingsley said.
Seymour (6-5) led for much of the game but the momentum changed sides after Wildcats junior Joey Salemme exited the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and Seymour clinging to a 19-14 lead. Salemme never returned. On the ensuing possession after Salemme’s injury, Woodland scored the winning touchdown.
“As much as our offense as primarily gone through Joe, we do have a bunch of playmakers,” Seymour coach Tom Lennon said. “We’re confident, it’s not like the end of the world when he goes down, but, obviously, it’s a big blow.”
After forcing another punt with Seymour leading 19-6, Kingsley connected with Kenney on a 31-yard touchdown pass. Kingsley then hit Kenney on the two-point conversion pass and the Hawks trailed 19-14 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Woodland scored first on an 18-yard run by Sean McAllen in the first quarter. Seymour then dominated the second quarter. Salemme scored on a 6-yard run, and then connected with Julian Falcioni on a 37-yard touchdown and with Nick D’Agostino on a 38-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 19-6 at halftime.
Salemme finished with 168 yards on 34 carries and completed 4 of 5 passes for 110 yards. Jack Briggs and jack Osiecki made interceptions for Seymour, while Christian Thurmond recovered a fumble.
Levi Fancher recovered two fumbles for Woodland, while Chris McDonald recovered one of his own that sealed the victory with under a minute remaining. McAllen gained 118 yards on 19 carries.
WOODLAND 6 0 8 8 — 22
SEYMOUR 0 19 0 0 — 19
W—Sean McAllen 18 run (kick blocked)
S—Joe Salemme 6 run (Frankie Marcucio kick)
S—Julian Falcioni 37 pass from Joe Salemme (kick failed)
S—Nick D’Agostino 38 pass from Joe Salemme (run failed)
W—Mike Kenney 31 pass from Tanner Kingsley (Kenney pass from Kingsley)
W—Tanner Kingsley 2 run (McAllen run)
Team records: Seymour 6-5; Woodland 10-2