TORRINGTON >> Torrington High School’s football team (0-5) put together its best half of the season while dipping into its reserves on the way to a 33-3 loss to Naugatuck (4-1) Friday night at the Robert H. Frost Sports Complex.
Sophomore Nate Manchester stepped up as quarterback in the wake of injuries.
“I was the freshman quarterback last year,” said Manchester, the Raiders’ punter all year while seeing duty as a wide receiver and defensive back.
Manchester did a little of everything behind innovations created by Torrington coach Gaitan Rodriguez and his staff. He had a first-half interception on defense, punted deep into Naugatuck territory on several occasions and ran an offense full of surprises on the ground if not in the air.
“We call it our change-of-pace offense,” Rodriguez grinned. “We put our heads together to turn a net adverse situation into something we could do. I’m lucky to have the staff I have.”
The innovations showed up in reverses and even a switch with running back Zak Mancini to make Manchester the receiver on one of just four passing attempts by the Raiders.
That one backfired, but the net effect of the innovations was Naugatuck frustration in a first half the Greyhounds won just 12-3.
“They held the ball,” said Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno. “It took a lot of time. Our defense played well; we just didn’t have the ball that long.”
Naugatuck averaged 43 points in its three prior wins so far this year. The only other team to hold the Greyhounds under 40 points was Wolcott, which beat them 25-22.
Saturday’s first two series had the look of another Greyhound scoring spree.
Torrington received and punted after six downs, despite the aid of penalties.
Naugatuck had the first twist when quarterback Jason Bradley flipped to freshman Nicolas Cantoni for a 24-yard pass to Ryne Griesenhauer. Then Bradley (12-for-17/173 yards) knocked out another huge chunk of real estate with a 22-yard pass to Kevin Robinson. Bradley held it for the last three yards and Naugatuck’s first score.
The Greyhound kick failed.
Then Torrington’s fun began.
After Naugatuck’s defense held again, Manchester pinned the Greyhounds back to their own 11-yard line with his punt.
Nuagatuck went for a first down on fourth-and-two on their 30 yard line. Torrington’s defense stuffed Tom Douty for a two-yard loss.
On third down at the Greyhound 28, Mancini and Tyler Marens did a reverse for eight yards.
The Raiders were close enough to line up for a 35-yard field goal by junior P.J. Kilmartin, 6-3.
Naugatuck’s Nate Franklin popped the feel-good balloon with a 45-yard kickoff return to start the second quarter, leading to a two-yard touchdown by Kevin Robinson, 12-3.
Manchester pinned the Greyhounds again, with a punt to their own four.
Scoring was over for the half.
“I was feeling it,” grinned Manchester. “Sometimes, the ball just takes some good bounces. You have to put it in position, but luck has a part.”
The Greyhounds scored two more touchdowns in the third period – another three-year run by Bradley and a 45-yard breakaway by Douty.
Maleek Brooks’ interception on the trick pass play in the fourth put a damper on the innovation for the moment.
Still, staying close for a great first half against a quality team is a great step.
“The entire team did everything I asked in a great week of practice,” said Rodriguez. “I hope they can put that together as the reason for the good result.”
Naugatuck 33, Torrington 3
At Torrington High School
Naugatuck 6 6 14 7-33
Torrington 3 0 0 0-3
N-Jason Bradley 3-yard run, kick failed
T-P.J. Kilmartin 35-yd field goal
N-Kevin Robinson 2-yard run, kick failed
N-Bradley 3-yard run; James Brewer kick
N-Tom Douty 45-yard run; Brewer kick
N-Maleek Brooks 18-yard interception run-back; Brewer kick
Rushing: N-Kevin Robinson 5-for-20 yards; Jason Bradley 4-for-13 yards; Tom Douty 5-for-48 yards. T-Zack Mancini 14-for-43 yards; Tyler Marens 7-for-27 yards; Nate Bresson 4-for-34 yards.
Passing: N-Jason Bradley 12-for-17/173 yds/interception. T-Nate Manchester 0-for-2/interception; Zack Mancini 0-for-1/interception.
Receiving: N-Tyne Griesenhauer 5-for-71 yards; Kevin Robinson 3-for-45 yards; Rick Plasky 3-for-57 yards.
Records: Naugatuck 4-1; Torrington 0-5.