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Week 8: NFA thwarts Centaurs with late score

The Woodstock Academy football team didn’t see it coming.

In football, teams rarely do.

The Centaurs had held Norwich Free Academy scoreless in the second half and limited the Wildcats to just 37 yards in offense.

So, after a 26-yard field goal by Woodstock Academy’s Henry Wotton had put the Centaurs up by three with 6 minutes, 38 seconds to play, things looked pretty good.

But NFA came up with two big plays and that was all it needed to record a 21-17 win over Woodstock Academy on Friday afternoon.

The game helped decide the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title.

All four ECC Division I teams were in the running as they had identical 1-1 records coming into Friday with head-to-head play to be the determining factor.

Fitch would come out the winner.

NFA’s win over Woodstock Academy eliminated the Centaurs from contention but Fitch’s 34-20 win over East Lyme on Friday in Groton gave the title to the Falcons as they had also beaten the Wildcats earlier in the season.

Woodstock Academy had a couple of prime opportunities to put the Wildcats away in the second half.

A 24-yard run by Carter Saracina late in the third quarter gave the Centaurs the ball on the NFA 22-yard line.

Trevor Savoie rushed for five more and an 8-yard pass by Teddy Richardson (14-for-24 passing, 148 yards) to Seamus McDermott gave Woodstock Academy a first-and-goal at the NFA 9.

But a sack pushed the Centaurs back three yards and it was followed by an incomplete pass. Richardson did run for 10 yards to the two-yard line but on fourth-and-goal, a trick play resulted in an incomplete pass and NFA took over on downs.

Gage Hinkley carried the ball nine yards on the first carry but it was the only positive yardage the Wildcats would get as they were forced to punt. A fumble on the punt resulted in Woodstock Academy taking over the ball on the NFA 4.

But a false start, two incomplete passes and a running play meant the Centaurs were staring at a fourth-and-goal at the 9.

Wotton was called up and delivered the 26-yard field goal.

But the Wildcats rallied quickly.

Jeremiah Paul caught the kickoff at the NFA 12 and wasn’t stopped until the Woodstock Academy 40.

Three plays later, quarterback Colby Ayuyu found Conor Gaughan open behind the Centaurs defensive secondary on a post pattern and Ayuyu delivered the 39-yard touchdown pass to put NFA ahead with 5:11 to play.

An NFA interception on the next series sealed the Centaurs’ fate.

Woodstock Academy (4-4, 1-2 ECC Div. I) had gone ahead when Richardson hit Saracina (7 catches, 128 yards) on a short screen. Saracina weaved his way through the defense, got to the sidelines and changed gears, streaking for the 62-yard score.

It took a little longer for NFA but it also reached the end zone on its next possession.

The Wildcats worked their way methodically downfield (3-6, 2-1) in 12 plays, taking almost six minutes to score on a 1-yard dive by Hinkley with just 45 seconds left in the first quarter.

A Woodstock Academy turnover allowed the Wildcats to take the lead in the second quarter.

NFA recovered a fumble at the Centaur 35 and took just four plays, getting it to the 18-yard line where Paul converted on a reverse to make it 14-7 in favor of the hosts.

Woodstock Academy defensive lineman Marcus McGregor helped set up the tying score.

For a second week in a row, he blocked a punt and the Centaurs took over on downs at the Wildcats 24.

A 13-yard pass to Saracina two plays later gave Woodstock Academy a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line and junior running back David Bunning took it in from there to tie the contest.

The Centaurs have another game prior to their showdown with Killingly on Thanksgiving Day.

Woodstock Academy has to complete its suspended game with Enfield on Wednesday at 6 p.m.