First Wolcott played in and lost a wild, 42-36 overtime game vs. Naugatuck.
Coach Jason Pace lost his voice.
He was just beginning to it back when his team did it again.
Down 34-6 in the second quarter, Wolcott rallied to stun Seymour 48-41 in a game won on Vincent Gambino’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jay Pelletier with 11.6 seconds remaining.
And now Pace has lost his voice again.
At this rate, his vocal chords will be shredded by Thanksgiving.
Pace may not mind so much if Wolcott winds up returning to the the state playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Wolcott returned a majority of its starters from last year’s 9-1 team, including senior back Joe Lynch. The most notable loss, however, was do-everything, all-state quarterback Mike Nichol.
But junior Vincent Gambino has been much better than advertised. He’s led team that has scored 146 points in three games, throwing for 786 yards and 11 touchdown passes against four interceptions.
Pace an idea about what Gambino could do from watching Gambino run practices as Nichol nursed bumps and bruises throughout last season. “Believe it or not, our practices were almost better with Vin than Mike,” Pace said.
They noted Gambino had a stronger arm than Nichol, but what surprised Pace was Gambinio’s ability to run. “There were plays we took out in the preseason because we weren’t sure he could run the ball,” Pace said.
Gambinio showed them quickly, running for a long touchdown early in the first half vs. Naugatuck. “We knew then we had a pretty good player,” Pace said
Seymour almost stuffed Gambino’s and Wolcott’s playoff hopes into the discard pile.
The Cats were up 34-6 in the second half. It was 34-13 at halftime.
“I knew if we didn’t get this one, we’d be in trouble,” Pace said. “We have had high expectations especially because of the last two years, so I just really got on the seniors. I told them, ‘We need this game.’
“I didn’t want to accept, I couldn’t process what was occurring. I just didn’t want to accept it.”
Neither did his players, apparently. The Eagles started the second half with a touchdown drive and the comeback was on.
The rest of the game was a blur, with Gambino amassing 400 yards and five touchdown passes, two apiece to seniors Adam Santopietro and Jayson Matos.
Wolcott, which was down 48-27 after three quarters, scored twice more and tied the game with just over 2 minutes remaining.
Pace said he almost went for 2, “to try and just end it right there,” out of pure exhaustion from the previous two weeks.
But there was plenty time, timeouts and confidence in the team to get the ball back.
Wolcott’s defense held and the ball was in Gambino’s hands with just a minute left.
The quarterback started off with a long run on first down. With 20 seconds left and a defender in his face, Gambino leaped and heaved a pass to senior Jay Pelletier for the winning 21-yard touchdown.
“It was one of greatest plays I’ve even seen under pressure,” Pace said.
Though team lost three-year staring offensive lineman Tom Longo (knee) for the remainder of the year, Wolcott can now face a daunting midseason schedule, which includes unbeaten Newtown, Derby and Ansonia with enthusiasm and confidence.
They play Torrington (0-3) on Friday and Crosby (0-3) next week before facing Newtown.
“It was great, great win,” he said. “I but don’t want to have to come back like that ever again.”
SCOREBOARD TILT -or- DEFENSE OPTIONAL
The NVL has become one of the most entertaining leagues in the state, if you’re a fan of big plays and insane point totals instead of defense.
Overall, the 10 NVL teams averaged 43.7 points last week. Games were won by an average score of 54-33.
“Part of it is the quarterbacks,” Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno said. “There are a lot of good, all-state caliber quarterbacks in this league. About five or six guys.”
In reported statistics on MaxPreps.com, five NVL quarterbacks are among the state’s Top 25 yardage leaders, including three in the top five: St. Paul’s Logan Marchi (No. 1, 1,166 yards), Woodland’s Tanner Kingsley (No. 4, 823 yards), and Wolcott’s Gambino (No. 5, 726 yards).
Derby junior Mike Kreiger and Crosby freshman Mike Marshall are No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. That’s not including Jai’Quan McKnight, the junior all-state QB/DB at Ansonia.
In addition to the Wolcott-Seymour barnburner, the Crosby-Watertown, St. Paul-Torrington and Derby-Wilby games were shootouts..
Anthony Yordon ran for 177 yards and two scores as Watertown held off Crosby and Marshall, 36-30. Marshall threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-35 passing.
Marchi threw for 420 yard and four touchdowns and Eli Parks ran for 124 and three scores as St. Paul won its second consecutive game, 52-37 over Torrington. Raiders sophomore quarterback Connor Finn threw for 238 yards and four touchdown passes.
Derby scored two touchdown early and outlasted Wilby 44-33. Junior quarterback Mike Kreiger threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns. But Wilby sophomore quarterback Darrien Bell might have been more impressive, accounting for 329 yards and four touchdowns of total offense.
However, Derby’s Tyrae Small, back from a one-game suspension, picked off three of his passes to help the Raiders improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1997, coach George French‘s junior season.
Woodland had a comfortable 34-6 lead over Kennedy before the Eagles tacked on 20 fourth-quarter points in a 34-26 Woodland victory.
Though it lost, Seymour junior Joe Salemme had a night vs. Wolcott. He ran for 174 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries. He has run for 510 yards and five touchdowns this year.
Woodland’s Kinglsey threw three touchdown passes last week to up his career total to 82, which put him into third place all-time ahead of Southington’s Dan Bruetsch (80). He is just four touchdowns away from surpassing St. Joseph’s Joe Della Vecchia (85). With eight regular-season games remaining, Kingsley is 31 from surpassing Masuk’s Casey Cochran‘s record of 112 set in 2011.
Kinglsey and Woodland (3-0) take on Jason Bradley and Naugatuck (3-0) in a key Brass Division battle Friday night at Woodland.
Despite spending most of his second halves on the sidelines, Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome has run for 657 yards on 30 carries this season. He’s scored 10 touchdowns on the ground.
For his career, the UConn commit has run for 7,475 yards and 118 touchdowns. He’s a mere 238 yards from eclipsing Bristol Central’s Tim Washington for No. 2 on the all-time list and 805 yards from eclipsing former Ansonia standout Alex Thomas as Connecticut’s all-time rushing leader.
DERBY’S LARUE BACK
Derby coach George French received some good news concerning senior back Jordan LaRue. The senior will be available to play after spraining his ankle vs. St. Paul two weeks ago. He will play vs. Crosby.
Derby (3-0) at Crosby (0-3), 7
Watertown (1-2) at Seymour (1-2), 7
Wilby (2-1) at Ansonia (3-0), 7
Naugatuck (3-0) at Woodland (3-0), 6:30
Holy Cross (2-1) at Sacred Heart (0-3), 7
Wolcott (2-1) at Torrington (0-3), 7
St. Paul (2-1) at Kennedy (0-3), 3:30 p.m.