Monday, September 21, 2009
Housy stops Tech in first varsity home game
By PETER WALLACE
TORRINGTON — Both teams had a right to walk away happy from a 34-20 Housatonic High School football win over Wolcott Tech Saturday afternoon in Torrington.
For the Wildcats, in their third year as a program, everything looked good except the score (and sometimes an errant scoreboard) at Tech’s first-ever varsity home game.
“They were 100 percent better than last year,” said Housatonic coach Deron Bayer.
“The biggest difference is the amount of work the kids put in this summer; more than half the kids worked out,” said Wildcat coach Jamie Coty, whose team had just one year of JV experience, then suffered through an 0-11 season against some premier varsity teams last year.
Saturday’s results for Tech were at least as positive as the points they put up on the scoreboard, maybe more.
“I didn’t feel that they really stopped us all day,” said Coty. “We killed ourselves with costly turnovers and missed tackles that led to big plays.”
For Bayer and the Mountaineers, the final score was a reward for their own hard work, but also a genuine relief for a coach who insisted his team came in as underdogs.
“I just realized last week how young we are,” Bayer said. “In practice, I asked anyone who started last year to line up behind me. There were just seven guys; Tanner Brissett is the only one who started all 11 games last year (the Mountaineers went 5-6). Basically, we’re a first-year program.”
If so, both teams’ fans have a right to be happy. With the exception of those few glitches by Tech, it was a tough, well-executed grind-it-out game on both sides — with an experienced grind-it-out leader at each forefront.
That was Brissett, a junior, for Housatonic, who did it all in Housy’s single wing offense, in which two backs take direct snaps with multiple options for each. Brissett, as the experienced go-to guy, alongside sophomore Donyell Williams, made the Mountaineer passing game a surprise payoff feature in Coach Bayer’s normal run-run-run offense. Brissett (15 rushes for 150 yards) and Williams (18 for 81) did rumble for a combined 231 yards on the ground on 33 carries, but Brissett’s passes were the bullets for three of five Housatonic touchdowns.
“The passing comes with experience,” smiled Brissett, quick to dismiss the idea that Williams won’t also eventually throw passes in the do-anything Housy offense. Brissett completed 6 of 13 passes Saturday for 85 yards.
“It was more than I could have expected,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t really expect to play as much as I did last year as a sophomore.”
Wolcott Tech’s iron man to match Brissett was junior Isaiah Harrington. If Brissett’s game was sometimes a guessing game between run and pass, everybody knew that Harrington was going to pound at and around them from the Wildcat line of scrimmage. At 5-fot-6, 175 pounds, Harrington carried 31 times for 164 yards.
“He’s our horse,” said Coach Coty. “He’s been with us since freshman year and he’s done everything we asked.”
“He killed us on cutbacks because of our lack of experience,” said Housy’s Bayer.
Harrington wasn’t happy with the day, despite his own performance.
“I was anticipating a win because we worked so hard,” he said.
It’s the kind of work guaranteed to make both teams look good this year, regardless of future scores.
Saturday, after nearly a whole quarter of probing each other’s good-sized lines, Housy sophomore Williams made the big runs — 32 and 16 yards — that led to the Mountaineers’ first score. Perched on the Tech 12, Brissett passed to Will Perotti for the touchdown, with 2:30 left in the period. The point after failed.
Tech quarterback Tom Notchick marched the Wildcats down the field in response; then a dropped pitch-back gave the ball back to Housy at its own 25.
The Mountaineers are young, but they pounce on mistakes. Eleven plays, moving into the second quarter, methodically chewed up turf, then Brissett capped it with a 10-yard pass to Zach Williams. Forrest Hayden kicked the extra point for a 13-0 Housy lead with 10:20 left in the half.
Wolcott Tech worked too hard to let a shutout stand this week. Especially Harrington. He carried on nine of 14 plays moving toward the half, then finally carried it in from the Housy three, 33 seconds left. The kick failed, so the teams went into the locker room with a ball game, 13-6.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Brissett put his ultimate stamp on the game. From his own 36 yard line, he appeared trapped behind the line by a swarm of Wildcat tacklers. Instead, he burst out for a 64-yard touchdown, then passed to Rick Johnson for the two-point conversion, 21-6.
For the Wildcats, that was one shoe dropped. The other hit the ground just seconds later with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage after Housy’s kickoff. Mountaineer senior lineman Barrie Richardson recovered it the fumble on Tech’s eight yard line. Three plays later, sophomore fullback Forrest Hayden punched it in for an add-on touchdown. Housy’s bid for a two-point conversion failed, but Tech was in a 27-6 hole thanks to two game-changing plays.
Notchick (10 rushes for 39 yards in the game) and Harrington worked down the field for eight points on a 10-yard Harrington touchdown and two-point conversion run, but 27-14 was too wide a gap in the final quarter.
Brissett had one more nice pass (15 yards), to Zach Williams, for a Housatonic touchdown midway through the fourth.
Notchick found his own passing range with a 20 yard throw to Patrick Higgins, then a 20-yard scoring strike to Stephen Oakes with just 24 seconds left in the game. The kick failed, leaving the final score at 34-20.
It was a game in which Housy coach Bayer found his youngsters pretty grown up.
Coty’s Wildcats face tough Avon and Coventry teams in the next two weeks, but based on a solid first-ever opening day at home, a first-ever program win is actually possible, thanks to all that work.
If it comes as a stunner, the taste will be all the more sweet.
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