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Week 7: WA rallies for 38-22 win over Fitch

Last year, the Woodstock Academy football team put up a banner in the Alumni Fieldhouse for a first time after it captured the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II title.

The Centaurs have put themselves in a position where they could add another title to their growing legacy.

On Saturday, the Centaurs downed Fitch, 38-22, at the Bentley Athletic Complex.

It was the first win for the Centaurs over an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I team since Oct.,31, 2009 when they downed Norwich Free Academy, 21-18.

But it also improved the Centaurs record in the four-team Division I to 1-1, tied with the other three,  East Lyme, NFA and Fitch.

The Wildcats helped Woodstock Academy’s chances when they defeated the Vikings on Friday to bring the division into the four-way tie.

Now, Woodstock Academy needs the team it just defeated to help them this Friday.

Should the Centaurs down the Wildcats on Friday night and if Fitch can defeat East Lyme, the Centaurs would claim the Division I title by virtue of their win over the Falcons.

It was a victory that will be remembered for a number of reasons.

“It was a special day for everyone,” Woodstock Academy coach Sean Saucier said of the win  which came on Senior Day and was also the Centaurs first victory in 2022 at the Bentley Athletic Complex in their final home game of the season.

The Thanksgiving Day game against Killingly, while it will be a home game, will be played at Nichols College in Dudley.

“I’m really happy for the kids and the seniors. I’m really proud of them. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Division I win and now, we just have to focus on going to NFA on Friday night and see if we can do it again.”

The player sporting one of the biggest smiles following Saturday’s game was senior Marcus McGregor.

He had never played football prior to his coming to Woodstock Academy and stepped on to the field last year as a junior.

In his first game at the Bentley Athletic Complex last year, the defensive lineman picked off a pass and returned it to the end zone.

In his final game on the home turf Saturday, McGregor made another special play which ensured the victory over the Falcons.

On the first play of the final quarter with the Centaurs up, 25-22, Fitch was forced to punt from its own end zone.

McGregor was lined up at defensive end.

“I was thinking about it before it even happened but I just came off the edge like lightning and took (the ball) to the crib,” McGregor said with a large smile.

He didn’t have far to go.

Punter Ben Perry was in the end zone when McGregor literally took the ball off Perry’s foot and cradled it for the touchdown.

“It was still in his hands and as soon as he let it go, I was on it,” McGregor said. “It’s a blessing. I can’t believe that happened.”

Saucier could.

“He’s just special. Nobody has a better attitude about the game than Marcus. I don’t think he has ever missed a practice and he has really high standards for himself and his teammates. Things like that happen when you prepare that way,” Saucier said.

The Centaurs (4-3) certainly were prepared for Fitch and early on, had the Falcons on their heels.

On the first series, Carter Saracina, normally a wide out, lined up in the back field twice and ran the ball on a pair of pitches.

It was just the start of a big day for the senior receiver who rushed for 55 yards, caught three passes for 53 more and even threw a pass to Brandon Nagle (4 catches, 71 yards) that netted 26 yards..

“My coach puts a lot of faith in me to make plays and I’m a playmaker – I make them,” Saracina said.

There was only one part of that equation he wasn’t happy with.

“That throw, I don’t want to talk about. It was rough but it made it,” he said.

Saucier gave credit where it was due.

“Offensively, (offensive coordinator) Connor (Elliott) had those different wrinkles, those different packages with Seamus (McDermott) at (quarterback). We had it ready last week, showed it once or twice but it was nice to utilize that. Connor was creative and the kids made the plays. Carter grew up as a running back and I’ve coached him since he was a little kid. He knows how to do that,” the Woodstock Academy coach said.

McDermott completed a seven-play, 65-yard drive on the Centaurs first possession when he powered the ball in on a 3-yard run out of the wildcat formation.

The Centaurs immediately got another shot when Austin Amlaw intercepted a pass but the drive stalled at the Fitch 25.

After the Falcons turned the ball over on downs at their own 34, the Centaurs had another good chance but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Henry Wotton.

The Centaurs stopped Fitch on downs at the Woodstock Academy 25 early in the second quarter and drove to the Fitch 24.

The Falcons intercepted a Teddy Richardson pass to briefly stall the Centaurs drive which resumed when Fitch fumbled two plays later and the Centaurs recovered.

On the next play, Saracina was barely touched as he scored from 13 yards out to make it 17-0.

But the game was far from over.

“We know what kind of program Fitch is and we knew they weren’t going to stop playing football,” Saucier said.

The Falcons (4-4) scored the next 22 unanswered points.

Perry (9-for-21 passing, 105 yards) found Adonis Fine open in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard score and then threw to Kevin Saintvil for a 9-yard score with 11 seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to three, 17-14, at the half.

Fitch then went ahead when Perry hit Calvin McCoy on a 29-yard strike to the Centaurs 1-yard line and on the next play, pushed the ball over the goal line himself.

But as fast as Fitch struck back, it shot itself in the foot on the next Woodstock Academy possession.

Two major penalties, an unsportsmanlike call and a flag for pass interference,  helped the Centaurs move 30 yards downfield to the Falcons 26-yard line.

Richardson (10-for-20 passing, 141 yards) hit Lucas Theriaque (3 catches, 43 yards) at the Fitch 1-yard line and then scored himself on a sneak on the next play to put the Centaurs ahead to stay, 25-22.

“For us to rebound from (Fitch’s 22 consecutive points) is special for me. It shows resiliency. I talk about riding the wave of momentum in a game and they do that now. When you do that, you can stay in a game. Some teams will pack it in when they give up a lead like that, we didn’t. We continued to make plays and our defense got stronger as the game went on. We figured out some things in the first half, made some adjustments at halftime but you can’t take away everything,” Saucier said.

McGregor followed the Richardson score with his own off the blocked punt and Saracina finished things off offensively with the 26-yard catch for a score with 6:49 left.

Theriaque then closed the door with his second interception of the game.

“It was awesome and on Senior Day, too, it felt amazing,” Saracina said of the win.

Prior to the game, Woodstock Academy honored its 17 seniors.

“We had a meeting with the kids prior to coming down (to the field) and gave the seniors the opportunity to share what they wanted to share about their experience, the game today, their teammates, their four years, whatever it was. That’s really special to be a part of and I heard some great stuff in there,” Saucier said.

Saucier got to greet 16 of his players as they were introduced on the field with their families and then was introduced himself, with his family and his son, Braiden.

“It was definitely different than what we expected but I was focused on the opportunity to walk out with my son which was almost taken away. To be able to walk him out on the field (Saturday) was special,” Saucier said.