By CAMERON MAYNARD
For The Williamson Daily News
NAUGATUCK - Hady Ford earned his first win as head coach of the Tug Valley Panthers as his team disposed of the Class A rival Sherman Tide, 32-12, at Bob Brewer Field on Friday night.
On the visitors' first drive of the game, they were set up to punt on a 4th-and-11. The Panthers blocked the punt, but the Tide would recover ahead of the first down marker, giving them a fresh set of downs.
Sherman would capitalize off this recovery with 2:58 left in this first quarter as junior tailback Davy Jarrell ran the ball in for a 10-yard score, and it was 6-0 SHS after a failed PAT attempt.
Tug would regain the lead, however, with 8:04 left in the first half as senior quarterback Ethan Varney took the ball on a 2-yard keeper for the touchdown and then threw a pass to junior wide receiver Caleb May for a successful 2-point conversion, putting them in the lead 8-6.
On the home team's fourth drive of the game, Sherman sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Colby Buzzard came up with an interception of Varney. Buzzard would come through again on their ensuing drive as he caught a 23 -yard touchdown on a slant pass from sophomore quarterback C.J. Winnell with 2:12 left in the second quarter, making it 12-8 Tide after another unsuccessful PAT try.
The Panthers would respond just before the half closed as sophomore tight end Ethan Colegrove hauled in an 8-yard pass from Varney with just 14 seconds left in the half. The two teams would go into the intermission with the black and white leading 16-12 after the 2-point try was good with a catch by May, capping off an eight-play 54-yard drive that included a conversion on a fourth-and-8 with a 31-yard pass from Varney to May.
Sherman's first two drives of the second half would stall, with the second one ending on an interception by TVHS sophomore wide receiver and defensive back Tanner Kirk. However, a personal foul penalty by Valley would move them back 15 yards after the turnover, and they would start their next drive at the Tide 46-yard line.
On a 4th and 11 from the SHS 47-yard line, May kept the Panthers' drive alive as he snagged a 17-yard dart from Varney. Kirk's interception would prove to be beneficial for the home team as they drove down the field in 54 yards and 11 plays, cashing in on a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Zack Savage. The two-point conversion was again successful, and Tug Valley extended its lead to 24-12 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.
Valley broke the game open with 2:41 left in the 3rd quarter as Varney threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to May, and, like all of their prior scoring drives on the night, the 2-point conversion attempt was good, and they pushed their lead to 32-12. This would prove to be the last score and the winning score.
The visitors were vying to get on the scoreboard in the second half on their eighth drive as they ventured into Tug Valley territory, but they failed to do so as Varney intercepted a pass from Winnell.
It was a rough second half for the Tide as three of their 4-second half drives ended in turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble.
Tug outgained Sherman in total offense 325-191. The Black and White won the rushing battle 182-141, but they were especially efficient in the passing game, outgaining the Tide 143-50 in that department.
Jarrell had a strong showing on the ground for the visitors, hitting the century mark on 10 carries and finding paydirt once to represent the majority of Sherman's offense.
Varney passed for 143 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers, but he also proved his dual-threat ability as he rushed for 83 yards and one score. Savage added 13 carries for 76 yards and the score while May grabbed five catches for 95 yards and the touchdown.
Ford, who put a win on his resume for the first time in Naugatuck, credited his team for their effort.
"It feels great," Ford said. "And it's not so much just for the win, but the heart and effort our guys gave tonight, they found out who they could be and that makes me happier than anything. The wins and losses I like, but them seeing and developing the people they could be, that's what I love."
TVHS had a strong defensive performance, holding Sherman scoreless in the second half. However, it was the play of Varney and Savage that stood out to Ford.
"Those guys are leaders," he said. "In practice, they're the first ones up in the line, they work hard, and they push everybody else. There's no stopping those guys. If we'll work hard, keep working and get the mental things right, the sky is the limit for us."
Ford pointed out that his team won the mental battle against the Tide, and he believes that bodes well for them moving forward.
"Mentally, I feel like we broke the other team," Ford said. "That's what these guys needed. They needed that one thing to say, we can do it. And now that they see that they can, there's nothing that's going to stop us."
Tug Valley improves to 1-1 with the win and hits the road this Friday night as they head to Hannan in a 7:30 p.m. kick, and it's back on the home front for Sherman as they fell to 0-2 and will host Richwood in a 7:30 p.m. tilt.
Score by quarters
SHS (0-2): 6 6 0 0
TVHS (1-1): 0 16 16 0
SHS: 10-yard run by Jarrell (PAT No Good) 2:58
TVHS: 2-yard run by Varney (Two-point by May) 8:04
SHS: 23-yard catch by Buzzard (PAT No Good) 2:12
TVHS: 8-yard catch by Colegrove (Two-point by May) 0:14
TVHS: 3-yard run by Savage (Two-point by Savage) 7:09
TVHS: 25-yard catch by May (Two-point by Kirk) 2:41
Cameron Maynard is a freelance sports writer for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.