BEACON FALLS >> Amid the delirious cheers of his teammates, classmates and fans, Jack Pinho grabbed the sparkling silver trophy, leaped on the sideline bench and thrust it high into the night sky.
This was for his dad.
This was for the whole Woodland community.
In defeating rival Naugatuck 25-22, Woodland’s football team simultaneously celebrated a 4-0 start, its 11th victory over the Greyhounds in 12 years, and — perhaps most important — it celebrated the life of George Pinho, a Naugatuck graduate, youth coach and, Woodland assistant coach who died of a heart attack in January at age 48.
“It’s been tough,” said Jack Pinho, whose older brother Jake played in the Woodland program. “He pushed me through everything. He always said, no matter what happens, just keep pushing.”
George Pinho’s name now graces the trophy given to the winner of the game and, as far as the Hawks were concerned, the inaugural trophy belonged nowhere else but in his victorious son’s hands.
“We preach family and togetherness,” said Woodland coach Tim Shea, a Naugatuck graduate himself who knew Pinho all his life. “And when he went, we made it a point that we were going to stick through everything and do a lot of things for him because I do believe he’s watching.”
Thanks to a 306-yard passing night from Tanner Kingsley and a strong, second-half effort from Woodland’s defense, Jack Pinho was indeed clutching his father’s trophy at game’s end.
“It’s indescribable,” said Jack Pinho, beaming from ear to ear. “The feeling is just something you can’t explain. It’s awesome.”
Kingsley threw three touchdown passes, including one to Pinho, and the Hawks withstood a late Naugatuck comeback attempt to stay unbeaten. They now have the inside track on the Copper Division title.
“Woodland football is a family. we’ve always been a family,” Kingsley said. “We played for Jack, we played for his family and we played for each other.”
Naugatuck coach Craig Bruno gambled and lost on a fourth-down at the Greyhounds’ own 20 in the first quarter and it led to an easy Woodland touchdown.
Bruno dismissed the gamble as no big thing, especially because his team eventually got the score back with a fake punt pass which led to Kevin Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“That’s how we play,” he said. “We’re going to continue to play that way. I thought there were a lot of big plays in the game that were made. …They’re a good team. They played hard.”
Woodland coach Tim Shea chalked the play up to Bruno doing what Bruno does. “You live by the sword, you die by it,” Shea said.
It perplexed Kingsley, but he and his teammates gladly took it.
“For them to go for it on 20, I’ve never seen that In my life,” he said. “To give our offense that kind of field position, it hurt them.
“These guys disrespect us every year. But we work hard and we come out with another win.”
Still, Woodland needed defense to stay ahead. The Hawks made the biggest play of the first half when they halted Bradley 9 yards from the goal line. Kingsley and the offense then marched 91 yards for the go-ahead touchdown — a 9-yard pass from Kinglsey to Pinho for a 12-8 halftime lead.
Naugatuck’s Ryne Griesenauer caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jason Bradley to start the second half. But the Hawks rolled right back down the field and scored on Taylor Tucciarone’s 5-yard TD catch.
That score put the Hawks up for good 18-16 with 6:57 left in the third quarter. They all but iced the game when Bradley, trying to make something out of a bad punt snap, was dropped by Woodland’s Will Flormann at the 8-yard line.
Just a few plays later, Kingsley put the Hawks up by nine with a 2-yard touchdown run for a nine-point lead early in the fourth.
Naugatuck received a momentary gasp of life when Tom Douty caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bradley. But Woodland recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out.
Sophomore Sean McAllen was a spear in Naugatuck’s side all night. He took screen passes for big gains to keep long touchdown drives alive and, despite being 5-foot-8 and matched against Griesenhauer, a 6-foot-5 receiver, McAllen held him to one touchdown. McAllen also broke up a pass intended for Griesenhauer late in the game.
“Our kids work hard and tonight our defense showed up when it had to,” Shea said. “I think after a few weeks of people saying we haven’t played anybody, we played somebody tonight.”
NAUGATUCK 0 8 8 6 — 22
WOODLAND 6 6 6 7 — 25
- W–Mike Kenney pass 6 Tanner Kingsley (pass failed)
- N–Kevin Robinson 1 run (Jason Bradley run)
- W–Jack Pinho 10 pass Kingsley (pass failed)
- N–Ryne Griesenauer 47 pass Bradley (Kevin Robinson run)
- W–Taylor Tucciarone 4 pass Kingsley (pass failed)
- W–Kinglsey 3 run (Will Flormann kick)
- N–Tom Dowdy 12 pass (pass failed)
- Records: Naugatuck 3-1, Woodland 4-0
Note: This story has been updated and modified from its original version with additional comments from the game.