(Editor’s note: This column, published in the Oct. 13, 2012, edition of the Republican-American, recaps Naugatuck High’s victory over Torrington in Naugatuck Valley League football action.)
TORRINGTON, Conn. — If Friday night’s game between Naugatuck and Torrington were one of those fancy murder mystery dinners, either one of two culprits would have been acceptable killers.
No, two shady waiters didn’t show up to do the damage. Turnovers and Mick Pernell’s speed were to blame.
The Greyhounds had five takeaways and Pernell amassed 225 yards of total offense as Naugy rolled to a 54-20 victory at the Robert H. Frost Complex to assume leadership of the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division.
Pernell, a 5-foot-8 senior, is as cool and upbeat as can be. But his legs aren’t so friendly to defenders — especially those dressed in home maroons Friday.
“I’m pretty fast,” Pernell said.
Why, yes. Yes he is. Isn’t there a saying that goes along with that?
“Speed kills,” Naugatuck interim coach Shawn Kuczenski said.
Pernell, along with the rest of the Greyhounds, dominated offensively the entire night. On Naugy’s (4-1, 3-0 NVL Copper) first series, which was set up by a Kevin Robinson interception, lasted just one play: An in-stride pass from Jason Bradley to Pernell for 53 yards and a touchdown to make it 7-0.
The Red Raiders (2-3, 2-1) drove down the field on their ensuing drive, tying it on a 1-yard run by Phil Bresson. But the series’ success on the ground (68 yards) alerted the Naugatuck staff to a necessary change.
“We knew they were running some end-over and were outnumbering us,” Kuczenski said of Torrington’s persistent runs outside its overloaded left side. “We made one little change to fix that and it worked.”
It sure did, but not before Pernell and Bradley hooked up again on a 54-yard pass—this time on a screen in which Pernell used a trio of blockers and his afterburners—to make it a 14-7 lead.
“Brandon (Kuczenski), Dags (Mike D’Agnone) and Jerome (Love) had pancakes on their corners,” Pernell said. “It was ridiculous.”
Blocking for Pernell might be fun for the ‘Hounds, but it apparently can be a tough task.
“I try to do the best I can just to keep up with him,” Brandon Kuczenski said. “I try to help him out on the edge and get a little piece of someone before I watch him run by.”
After Pernell’s second outburst, Naugy’s defense took over. On a fullback dive to Torrington’s Nick Lorenzo, Love entered the scrum to make a tackle and exited on the other side with the ball in his arms. He stopped running 75 yards later, when he hit the end zone.
The following series, Pernell intercepted Torrington freshman quarterback Connor Finn. The very next play, Bradley hit a wide-open Ryne Griesenauer for a 67-yard score and a 28-7 advantage midway through the second.
“It got away from us with a few quick turnovers,” Torrington coach Dan Dunaj said. “They’re a good team and they’re hard to come back on when you get down like that.”
Naugatuck’s defensive penetration, which limited Torrington to just 52 yards in the first half following the Raiders’ opening score, forced another three-and-out on the next drive. Pernell, out of the wildcat, zoomed down the right sideline on the subsequent play, adding a stutter-step inside the 10-yard line to complete his 56-yard score and give Naugy a 35-7 halftime lead.
That edge at the break came with just one first down, 14 plays and less than six minutes of possession.
“It’s hard to defend us,” said Shawn Kuczenski, whose team has scored 179 points in its last three victories. “Teams have to worry about our pass because Jason is showing he can throw it, and teams have to worry about the run at the same time.”
It wasn’t as difficult for Naugy to do the defending. Aggressors Brandon Kuczenski and Matt Carda credited practice with their performances.
“We have our starting offensive line against the starting defensive line so we’re always tested,” Brandon Kuczenski said. “That’s the kind of thing we like to focus on.”
Shawn Kuczenski said he likes sticking those two on the same side of the defense to allow for more pressure.
“They’re our two strongest players,” he said. “If I put them on the same side, how are you going to stop it?”
Pernell added a 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to finish his output. Bradley, who tossed for 235 yards and four scores, also hit Brandon Kuczenski with a 38-yard touchdown pass in the third before Love tallied the Greyhounds’ last touchdown on a 42-yard run to make it a 54-13 game.
Devone Thomas led Torrington with 106 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, both in the second half.
Naugy now controls its own destiny in the division. It hosts Holy Cross (3-2, 1-1) next Friday.
“Everyone was saying that we couldn’t win a big game so this was a big statement,” Pernell said.
“It makes a big statement,” Brandon Kuczenski said. “It says Naugatuck football is back and we’re ready to make some noise and go after some championships.”
(Editor’s note: Here’s how the column looked in print.)