ANSONIA — One wondered if the fence was going to stop Jadin Blackwell after No. 8 Ansonia’s 26-20 win over Woodland in an NVL football classic Friday night. He had eluded a few other containment efforts on the biggest play of a battle of unbeaten teams a few minutes earlier at Jarvis Stadium.
Blackwell dodged a block at the line, got over the upback and blocked a punt in the last minute of the game, giving the Chargers the ball at the Woodland 3 with 21.8 seconds left. Shykeem Harmon punched it in on the next play to break a tie with his third touchdown to keep the Chargers unbeaten, 8-0.
“I was locked in,” Blackwell, a sophomore receiver/defensive back said. “Coach told me I had the punt. I see a hole open up, and I just ran through and I jump: I came down with it.”
The play turned out to be the difference in an entertaining nail-biter on the first frigid night of the fall, temperatures dropping toward freezing in the evening.
But it didn’t end the game. Tyler Bulinski connected with Jason Palmieri (six catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns) for a 38-yard gain that got the Hawks (7-1) to the Ansonia 27 with 7.1 seconds left.
Noah Wagnblas defended Bulinski’s first-down pass to leave 27 yards to go for Woodland with 2.1 seconds left. On second down, under pressure from Garrett Cafaro, Bulinski heaved a prayer that Garrett’s brother Tyler Cafaro hauled in to end the game.
After the teams shook hands, Blackwell ran to the fence behind the Ansonia bench to greet Chargers fans, ran to the corner to grab a pylon and greet others, ran to the fence behind the goalpost for another pylon and another celebration.
“(Woodland) did a lot,” Blackwell said. “It was a great game. It was a nice battle.”
It was, filled with standout defensive plays and some huge offensive nights. It also included 12 Chargers penalties for 67 yards, not including the illegal-motion call negated when Joe DeDomenico returned a fumble 30 yards to put the Hawks up 14-6.
“The thing I’m happy about is my kids kept playing hard. Execution, I’m real, real disappointed,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “The most important thing is just keep playing.”
Ansonia rode Harmon in the second half. He finished with 184 yards on 34 carries, including 25 rushes for 147 yards and two of his scores after halftime.
Harmon’s second score capped a 51-yard, 10-play drive late in the third quarter.
But on the next play, Bulinski found Palmieri for a 40-yard gain, then found him again three plays later for a 22-yard touchdown that, after a missed PAT, left the game tied at 20 with 11:16 left.
“We were confident, but we weren’t overconfident,” Palmieri said. “We had a shot. We did everything we could.”
James Champagne’s interception in the end zone for Woodland kept the Chargers from taking the lead with 50 seconds left. But Ansonia forced a Hawks three-and-out, setting up Blackwell’s heroics.
Both teams are in good position to make the eight-team Class S playoffs.
“I hope we do see them again. I think they hope they see us again,” Palmieri said. “That’s the best game they’ve played all season, best game Ansonia’s had in a long time. It’s pretty exciting. I hope we can give them another one.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Shykeem Harmon ran 34 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns, the last set up by Jadin Blackwell’s punt block.
Ansonia has won 93 games in a row against NVL opponents and 46 consecutive regular-season games at Nolan Field. Both streaks date to Thanksgiving 2010, when Naugatuck beat the Chargers 38-20.
This was the closest regular-season home game and only the third NVL game within a touchdown during those streaks.
Ansonia beat Seymour by one point in 2013 and topped Woodland 30-28 in 2014, both on the road. The closest home game had been the Chargers’ 34-22 win over Naugatuck last Thanksgiving.
The Chargers’ only regular-season loss, period, since 2010 was a 14-8 loss at Newtown in 2014.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. … That’s one of the best teams in the state of Connecticut, and we came out and played with them. They made one more play than we did, and they got the victory.” —Woodland coach Chris Moffo