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FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Ansonia vs. North Branford For The Class S TItle
by Eliot Schickler | Dec 7, 2012 5:38 pm
Going in to Saturday’s Class S championship football game in East Hartford, most would consider the Ansonia Chargers favorites over the North Branford Thunderbirds.
But as Chargers coach Tom Brockett pointed out, North Branford won’t be pushovers.
“North Branford is going to be a great challenge for us,” Brockett said. “They are well-coached, have great players at the skill positions and are led by a great quarterback. They have one of the best offenses in Connecticut.”
The Chargers are gunning for their 18th state title Saturday at Rentschler Field. Top-seeded Ansonia (13-0) faces third-seeded North Branford (12-0) at 10:30 a.m. on UConn’s field.
The teams haven’t played against each other this season, but they have faced a common opponent: North Branford defeated seventh-seeded Woodland 62-27 Sunday in the Class S semifinals.
Ansonia beat Woodland twice, 47-16 Sept. 21 and 56-26 Nov. 15 in the NVL Championship game.
Although North Branford defeated Woodland by a greater margin than Ansonia did, its coach feels that’s irrelevant.
“We’re excited to go up against the No. 2 team in the state,” Thunderbirds coach Mark Basil said. “We play different styles, and it’s like comparing apples to oranges. They are well-coached and we’re looking forward to the challenge of facing them.”
One challenge Basil will face is stopping Ansonia junior tailback Arkeel Newsome, who broke the state record for career rushing touchdowns in Ansonia’s Class S semifinals win over Hyde Leadership.
Newsome has rushed for 2,008 yards on 199 carries this year.
That’s an incredible 10.09 yards per carry, numbers not seen often outside of video games.
“He’s [Newsome] a good patient runner,” Basil said. “We hope to stick to our reads and get to the ball. We have to get as many guys to the ball as possible.”
The record-setting tailback isn’t the Chargers’ only offensive weapon.
Sophomore quarterback Jaiquan McKnight (396 yards rushing on 36 carries) can run and pass (57-105 for 1,300 yards and 23 touchdown passes).
Senior captain Andrew Matos (38 catches for 975 yards and 13 touchdowns) is McKnight’s favorite receiver.
Leading North Branford’s defense are senior linebacker Gary Falanga and junior linebacker Josh Melaccio. Falanga has 101 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Melaccio has 91 tacks, four sacks and two interceptions.
The Thunderbirds are led on offense by senior quarterback Brandon Basil (166-273 for 2,793 yards and 40 touchdowns).
Basil especially likes to throw to classmates Chris Caron (48 catches for 993 yards and 15 touchdowns), Joe Delucia (42 catches for 702 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Alex McGuigan (35 catches for 545 yards and seven touchdowns).
North Branford is also tough on the ground, with senior Dale Hausman (129 carries for 1,311 yards and 13 touchdowns) leading the way.
Defense has been an Ansonia trademark in its previous titles, and this year is no exception.
The Chargers suffocated Hyde’s offense in the semis, limiting the Howling Wolves to eight net yards in the first half.
Senior captains Jh’Mel Trammell, Hazekiah Duncan, Raeshaun Finney and Ryan O’Connor, classmate Ephraim Collins, junior Saiheed Sanders and sophomore Tyler O’Connell sparkled on defense for Ansonia against Hyde.
“We have to play great defense and move the ball on offense,” Brockett said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
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