ANSONIA – The Ansonia offensive line and defense should be given a lot of credit for the Tiger’s 14-7 victory over National Trail on Friday night. The offensive line allowed Ansonia’s backs to control the game on the ground and with that, the time of possession.
From the start it was a ground and pound game for Ansonia. The Tigers received the opening kickoff and started from their own 44. For nearly seven minutes, the quarterback play of Isaac Barga and runs from Reece Stammen and Brock Shellhaas produced 55 grueling yards. Unfortunately, they need 56 yards to get on the board. The Blazer defense stiffened up when Ansonia had first and goal from the 10. The Tigers were able to get it to the one but turned it over on downs.
The Blazers only ran four plays through the first quarter and a half of play, but it was their first play that put the only points on the board for Trail. Backed up next to their own goal line, National Trail handed the ball off to their speedy running back, Peyton Lane, who went 99 yards for the score. Ansonia Coach Matt Macy admitted they knew Lane was fast and tried to go after them with a different front. “They got past our first level and once they were past that…That kid they have is fast and we had our fastest kid on the other side of the field and there was no way he was catching him.”
Ansonia responded on their next drive. The Tigers took the ball at their own 25 on the kickoff with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter. They once again methodically drove the ball down the field. For the second time in as many drives, the Tigers had first and goal from inside the 10. This time it was from the five-yard line. After losing a yard on their first play, Barga found Stammen in the end zone for a six-yard completion and the touchdown. The two-point attempt was good on a run from Stammen. Ansonia led 8-7.
The score would remain the same going into halftime.
On their first drive in the second half, the Blazers had an opportunity to go on top. Trail was stopped on the Ansonia 16 and elected to try a 32-yard field goal on fourth down. The Tigers got penetration and were able to block the kick and took over on their own 11 yard.
Ansonia’s drive stalled and the Tigers punted the ball away. Trail’s ensuing drive also stalled and the Blazers chose to punt. Guarding against a fake punt, Ansonia chose not to put anyone deep to receive and it cost them. Trail got a great a bounce on the kick and the Blazers were able to down it at the Ansonia two-yard line.
Although backed up next to their own goal line, the Tigers started a drive that would eventually seal the victory. Ansonia drove the ball 98-yards over the course of 10 minutes. From the Blazer one-yard line, Stammen found the end zone for the second time in the game. The two-point attempt was no good, but Ansonia had a 14-7 lead.
“That’s our game,” said Macy. “We’re not that explosive, but we’re able to sustain drives.”
Trail had an opportunity to tie the game, but their final drive ended on a fourth and 11 when a Blazer receiver let a pass slip through his hands. Ansonia was able to go to the victory formation for the final minute of the game.
Macy praised the opposing team, “It was a war. National Trail is probably the best coached team in the league. It is always hard to go against them.”
Coach Macy was also visibly proud of his team and what they’ve been able to accomplish in a year where they have faced several injuries. “Isaac Barga coming in at quarterback, he replaces a kid (Hunter Buckingham) that has been a three-year starter and took us to the playoffs. Those are hard shoes to fill and Isaac – it’s only the seventh game he’s started in his life at quarterback so he’s still developing. He’s only a junior so I think he is going to be great.”
Friday night was senior night at Ansonia and Macy admitted his seniors were the difference in the game. “Our seniors carried us tonight. Brock Shellhaas running the ball, Austin Helmke leading it. The seniors really carried us tonight.”
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