WOODBURY >> For the second week in a row, Nonnewaug’s football team (1-3) could taste the victory in a narrow loss.
Last week, at Suffield, four plays made the difference.
Saturday afternoon, at home against SMSA/University (2-2), the Chiefs still churned in the final minutes of a 26-20 loss to the Tiger Hawks.
“For two weeks in a row, our effort is outstanding,” said Nonnewaug coach John Oko.
SMSA quarterback Willy Alicea was his own best running back, racing for three of the Tiger Hawks’ four touchdowns and 200 yards on the ground.
Nonnewaug’s Jon Gombos (17 carries for 107 yards); Nick Uberti (10 carries for 42 yards) and Xhin Llenga (9 for 56 yards) evened it up.
“We ran the ball, but our defense was spotty at times,” said Coach Oko.
The Tiger Hawks found some holes. So did the Chiefs.
Neither team could find an air attack.
Alicea was 3-for-7 for 32 yards and an interception by Nonnewaug’s Kevin Young.
Nonnewaug quarterback Christian Metallo’s passing stats matched Alicea: 4-for-9, 28 yards.
“Last week (against Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby), we threw the hell out of it. It depends on who you’re playing,” said Oko. “(SMSA) has more team speed.”
If the Chiefs rued their lack of reward for the second week of hard work, satisfaction came in the Tiger Hawks’ frustration for much of the game.
“We should have had more, but we hit a couple of bumps,” said SMSA captain Alicea. “I’m a senior leader, so I had to do what I could, along with our other seniors.”
“(Alicea) benches 270 pounds,” said SMSA/University coach Graham Martin. “They all lift after practice.”
The Nonnewaug effort showed up with SMSA’s first offensive series.
Starting from their own 49-yard line, the Tiger Hawks climbed upfield to the Nonnewaug 23 before hitting their first bumps.
Alicea had a 20-yard run. Senior Kadeem Johnson took over for another 15 on two carries.
At their own 17, the Chiefs stiffened for no gain, then a pass incompletion.
With one more pass attempt, Young, a sophomore, struck for his interception.
Nonnewaug couldn’t get any traction. Neither could the Hawks for the rest of the quarter.
“The longer you let a team hang around, the better they feel about themselves,” said Coach Martin.
Alicea got on the board early in the second quarter, sneaking across from the one-yard line, then again four minutes into the second half, on a 20-yard run.
Still, after two failed conversions, the lead was just 12-0.
Nonnewaug senior Xhin Llenga was the work horse in the first half, five carries for 25 yards.
Now, in the second, Llenga (9-for-56 yards); Nick Uberti (10-for-42); and Jon Gombos (17-for-107) shifted into gear.
Down by 12, Uberti returned Shawn Lozada’s kickoff 39 yards to the SMSA 41.
Gombos, netting just 3 yards in the first half, picked up 37 yards in five carries for the Chiefs’ first touchdown. Nick Bordiere kicked the extra point. The Chiefs were in the game, 12-7.
SMSA ran away again: Johnson for 25; Alicea, 9; Johnson for the final 6. This time, Alicea ran it in for the two-point conversion, 20-7.
Nonnewaug’s effort was there.
Gombos was the featured runner again in a nine-play scoring drive from the Chiefs’ 44-yard line.
After 33 yards in five carries, he finished the series with a 15-yard rush to the end zone.
“It feels good being able to hit and run the ball,” said Gombos.
Alicea had one more response, a 42-yard scoring run starting the fourth period, 26-13.
The Chiefs were still talking.
This time, Llenga was the horse: 13 yards; 9 yards; 2 yards; 7 yards.
Uberti took over for 12 yards, then a final four, plus another kick by Bordiere, 26-20.
Nonnewaug’s defense held. With 4:59 remaining, the Chiefs had time.
In four downs, they had to hand it over.
SMSA could get only to the Nonnewaug 40, 1:26 to go.
The Chiefs had one more try.
This time, quarteback Metallo hit Troy Hardisty for nine yards on fourth down.
With 38 seconds left, it was a yard short.
The Chiefs host 3-1 Canton next Saturday.
Ellington/Somers goes to Hartford’s Dillon Stadium to play SMSA/University Thursday night.
SMSA/University 26, Nonnewaug 20
At Nonnewaug High School
SMSA 0 6 14 6-26
Nonnewaug 0 0 13 7-20
- S-Willy Alicea 1-yard run; conversion failed
- S-Alicea 20-yard run; conversion failed
- N-Jon Gambos 7-yard run; Nick Bordiere kick
- S-Kadeem Johnson 6-yard run; Alicea two-point conversion
- N-Gambos 15-yard run; kick failed
- S-Alicea 42-yard run; conversion failed
- N-Nick Uberti 4-yard run; Bordiere kick
Rushing: S-Willy Alicea 21-for-200 yards; Kadeem Johnson 15-for-48 yards; Ezequiel Ortiz 3-for-8 yards. N-Jon Gombos 17-for-107 yards; Nick Uberti 10-for-42 yards; Xhin Llenga 9-for-56 yards.
Passing: S-Alicea 3-for-7/32 yards/interception. N-Christian Metallo 4-for-9/28 yards.
Receiving: S-Johnson 2-for-18 yards; Patrick Richards 1-for-14 yards. N-Uberti 2-for-16 yards; Trevor Scappatura 1-for-3 yards; Troy Hardisty 1-for-9 yards.
Records: SMSA/University 2-2; Nonnewaug 1-3.