ANSONIA – An adage is that the team that controls the line of scrimmage controls the game, and this was the case on this night as Ansonia pounced on Twin Valley South early and often Friday night in a Cross County Conference matchup.
In soggy conditions, Ansonia dominated not only the line of scrimmage, but all facets of the game – offense, defense and special teams – as the Tigers erupted for 35 first-half points on their way to a 43-0 rout of the visiting Panthers.
South entered the game with a winning record and was hoping to knock the Tigers out of their chance to make the playoffs. The Tigers need to win out to have a chance at hosting a first round playoff game, so there was a lot on the line. Most observers were expecting a close game, but the Tigers were not to be denied on this night.
In their previous game against Tri-Village, South’s offensive line was able to power the ball down the field and grind out a victory. But against the stalwart Ansonia defense they were held to numerous three and outs. Time after time the Panthers were met at the line of scrimmage when they tried to run. And passing under wet conditions was hard. Ansonia did not pass often, but they were effective. But when South tried to get back in the game and pass, they would flutter away or were intercepted. Ansonia also recorded three sacks and held South to less than 50 yards of offense in the first half.
Ansonia benefited handsomely from good field position. South gambled and elected to go for it on fourth down and short yardage several times – at midfield and a time or two in their own territory. It was not a good bet as Ansonia’s defense stuffed them each time – giving the ball to the offense with a short field. Amazingly, the Tigers starting offense never turned the ball over. But the defense netted a plus 3 on turnovers. Issaac Barga had an interception and Hunter Muir had two fumble recoveries. All three of these turnovers were converted to scores, so the Tigers did a great job of taking advantage of their opportunities.
Even special teams did a good job. They covered the ball well on kickoff’s and kept South’s Cade Cottingim, who has returned four for touchdowns this year, from doing any damage. They did fail on a mishandled extra point kick, but made up for it the next try when they ran a fake kick to perfection and completed a pass to make up for that missed try.
Finally, even the JV’s made a statement. Both teams emptied their benches in the last quarter. After exchanging possessions, the Ansonia JV’s put together a nice drive in last minutes and Isaac Barga completed a pass to Jacob Longenecker for the last score of the night. It was all Tigers, all night.
“I have to hand it to our defensive coordinator, we planned well ahead of time,” Ansonia coach Eugene Hoening said. “We kept the ball in front of us and made them earn anything they got. Field position was a big factor. We stopped them several times on fourth downs and that gave us favorable field position. Also the fumble recoveries gave us good position. You give a team a short field, and you can score before you shoot yourself in the foot.”
Hunter Muir had a good night for Ansonia with two fumble recoveries and two touchdown receptions on a cold rainy night.
“Hunter Muir has always been a good receiver for us and we would like to get the ball to him more often,” Hoening said. “But when you are running the ball so well – just run the ball. He has good hands and a great leaping ability. With him against a defensive back it is almost always a mismatch.”
With the cold and rain, it was a night made for running the ball and Reece Stammen had a good night.
“He runs hard and is a bruiser,” Hoening said. “He is like a Timex watch – he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”
Scoring for the Tigers: Reece Stammen 27-yard run; Hunter Buckingham to Hunter Muir 41-yard pass; Stammen 4-yard run; Stammen to Muir 22-yard pass; Barga to Longenecker 8-yard pass.
Next week Ansonia plays Tri-Village.