Week 1: Centaurs honor teammate and post win
It was an emotional night.
The Woodstock Academy football team was playing its first game minus one of its senior captains, quarterback Braiden Saucier, who suffered a medical emergency in week No. 1 of the season.
The Centaurs delivered the best medication possible to their teammate and friend and his father, the team's head coach, Sean Saucier - a dominant victory on the field.
Woodstock Academy rolled past the Weaver Beavers, 47-0, in Hartford.
"The team is good,' said acting head coach Connor Elliott about the team’s mental state prior to the Centaurs' game with the Beavers. "The energy was great all week at practice. We’re missing two leaders, a leader on the coaching staff and someone the kids look up to in Coach Saucier and our leader at quarterback in Braiden. We send our best wishes to them and their family. We know they will be back as soon as they can on the sidelines and will do whatever they can to help the program. That's the type of young man Braiden is and the type of coach and person that Sean is as well."
To honor their teammate, captains Carter Saracina, Austin Amlaw and Evan Roy carried out Braiden Saucier’s No. 10 jersey with them when they went out onto the field for the coin flip.
In addition to that adversity, the team had a new quarterback at the helm.
Junior Teddy Richardson got the nod to take over behind center. But he, too, received a gift courtesy of the Woodstock Academy defense.
That unit gave Richardson some breathing room early against the Beavers (0-2).
After Woodstock Academy went four-and-out on its first possession, Weaver got the ball on the Centaurs 41.
Two plays later, the Beavers had gained a yard.
The two teams then swapped a pair of five-yard penalties.
But on a third-down play, the ball was jarred loose by Woodstock Academy defensive lineman Marcus McGregor.
Linebacker Seamus McDermott saw the football on the ground and an open field ahead.
He scooped it up and took it 55 yards for the first score of the game.
"It just sparked the fire," McDermott said.
On the next play from scrimmage, McGregor pounced on a Weaver fumble at the Beavers 10.
Richardson took the ball into the end zone on the first play from scrimmage only to see his touchdown nullified by a holding call.
Woodstock Academy gave the ball back when it missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
But it wouldn't have to wait long as Saracina stepped in front of a pass from Weaver quarterback Kahlil Barno and returned it 20 yards for a pick-6.
"Things just built on top of each other. It got the team's morale up and just boosted us," McDermott said.
It was a good thing that the defense stepped up for Woodstock Academy early.
The offense was a bit slow on the uptake.
"I was really happy with those (defensive) plays but we started on offense like we did last week and sputtered out of the gate a little," Elliott said. "But going up, 14-0, took pressure off the offense. That's what Coach (Jesse) Bousquet and the defense preach. They expect to get as many touchdowns as we get on offense."
The offense got its chance.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Richardson guided the Centaurs on a brief eight-play drive that began just inside midfield, moved downfield quickly on a 21-yard pass play to Saracina and ended in a 5-yard scamper by Richardson for six more points.
“It lets you play football, you are not forcing the issue nearly as much, you’re not trying too hard which I’m not saying (Richardson) did. He’s a laid-back guy but a real competitor, but those defensive scores did make it a lot easier,” Elliott said of the early lead taking some pressure off the offense.
It took just four plays, including a 34-yard run by Austin Amlaw, to make it 27-0 on a 1-yard dive by Trevor Savoie with 9:45 left in the first half.
Richardson then hit Saracina down the left sidelines for a 30-yard score.
Richardson completed 5-of-8 passes for 76 yards and rushed for 60 more yards.
"It was special, amazing, a great team win," Richardson said. "The offense started coming after the first two drives. We needed this win. It was everything and we did it for (number) 10 (Braiden Saucier) and Coach Sauce. We couldn't do it without them."
The second half was short due to running time on the clock.
But Richardson did find the end zone on a 25-yard run in the third quarter.
"Not bad," Elliott said of Richardson's first varsity start. "I thought we got his feet wet a little bit. A little on the ground, a little through the air, a lot to clean up across the board but that's the football coach in me. I should probably turn that part of my brain off for (Friday) and we will get to that (Saturday)."
Gabe Luperon-Flecha added the final touchdown on a 1-yard dive in the fourth quarter.
Sam Clark finished with 38 yards on the ground for the Centaurs, Sam Clark added 34 as the Centaurs had seven different players run the football.
“That’s what I was most happy about from the offensive perspective. We were able to run the football and rotate guys through. We have a true by-committee backfield. We have to keep guys fresh, keep guys rotating with a lot of them playing both ways. It was good to see that and see the O-line getting some push and we have to keep building off that,” Elliott said.
There was also something in it for Elliott.
It was his first career win as a head coach.
“It feels a little too soon. It feels like I should be helping the kids pick up and someone else should be answering the questions. It’s an easy job when you have, first and foremost, great kids, an amazing team and a great staff that puts the work in and makes my job easy. I’m blessed,” Elliott said.
The Centaurs play their first home game of the season on Saturday when they host Windham at noon at the Bentley Athletic Complex.