BEACON FALLS >> With an imposing offensive line and a talented running back in Jake Ward, Morgan ran all over teams this season.
Not Woodland though. The Hawks refused to let it happen.
The No. 4 Hawks limited the Huskies’ ground game and reached the Class S semifinals for the second straight season with a 47-21 win Tuesday over No. 5 Morgan.
Woodland will now face No. 8 Bloomfield in the semifinals at Wolcott High on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“They owned the box,” Morgan coach Mike Eagle said. “They owned up front, really. That was the ball game. Simple as that. It was kind of surprising considering what we did all year. They game planned it well.”
Woodland brought a ton of pressure and a variety of looks. The Huskies could not get their read game in sync and looked confused at times.
Ward came in with 2,494 yards and 41 touchdowns on the year, running behind a huge, physical line. But on Tuesday, he finished with just 71 yards on 20 carries. Morgan finished with 89 rushing yards, which included just 2 yards after halftime.
“They made some big plays in the first half,” Woodland coach Tim Shea said. “But we made some adjustments and challenged our guys. They took it upon themselves and stepped up.”
Woodland standout quarterback Tanner Kingsley and the offense took care of the rest. Kingsley finished with 262 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-37 passing. Morgan gave the Hawks receivers plenty of space and Kingsley took advantage.
“They were playing deep off of our guys,” Kingsley said. “We had good drives going. We didn’t really have that big play, but we kept moving forward.”
Running back Sean McAllen carried 13 times for 100 yards and two scores and made four catches for 45 yards. Coby Vaccarelli chipped in with 11 carries for 55 yards and three touchdowns. He also made an interception.
A 10-yard touchdown run by McAllen and a 10-yard pitch from Kingsley to Levi Fancher for a score gave Woodland a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Morgan responded on its next drive to cut the deficit to 7. Alex Lipka connected with Gary Forbes for a 27-yard pass, which helped set up a 3-yard touchdown from Lipka to Forbes. The two teams later traded scores. Then, in the final minutes of the half, Morgan’s Mateo Zumpano mishandled a punt return and Jack Pinho recovered for Woodland at the Huskies’ 30. The Hawks capitalized as Vaccarelli scored on a 1-yard run with 18 seconds left to give Woodland a 27-13 lead at the half.
“That was big momentum,” Kingsley said. “That really put the dagger in them before half.”
Vaccarelli scored on runs of 7 and 2 yards in the third quarter to give the Hawks a 40-13 advantage and seal the win.
Just two years removed from a 1-9 season, the Huskies finished 10-2 and reached the postseason for the first time since 2000.
“They bought into the program, the system and into each other,” Eagle said. “They made this program relevant again. We’re all sophomores and juniors for the most part. This team will be back here next year, again looking for more. We’re disappointed with the result, but it was a good experience and where the program is, we’re very happy.”
As for Woodland, the Hawks are looking to take care of some unfinished business. They knocked off Capital Prep thanks to a late drive in the quarterfinals last season, but then North Branford pummeled the Hawks 62-27 in the semifinals.
“Last year was tough,” Kingsley said. “We want to win this game and get to Arute Stadium.”
Woodland 47, Morgan 21
(at Beacon Falls)
Morgan 0 13 0 8 — 21
Woodland 7 20 13 7 — 47
W—Sean McAllen 10 run (Will Flormann kick)
W—Levi Fancher 10 pass from Tanner Kingsley (Flormann kick)
M—Gary Forbes 3 pass from Alex Lipka (Jon Lee kick)
W—Sean McAllen 9 run (Flormann kick)
M—Jake Ward 47 pass from Alex Lipka (kick failed)
W—Coby Vaccarelli 1 run (kick failed)
W—Coby Vaccarelli 7 run (Flormann kick)
W—Coby Vaccarelli 2 run (kick failed)
W—David Bobbie 12 run (Flormann kick)
M—Mateo Zumpano 25 pass from Alex Lipka (Forbes pass from Lipka)
Team records: Woodland 11-2; Morgan 10-2