The North Branford High School football team continued to showcase its high-power offense and stifling defense in the semifinals of the Class S State Tournament as the third-seeded T-Birds topped Woodland, the No. 7 seed, 62-27.
"I'm thrilled – we got our first playoff win [against Trinity Catholic] in a while and now to get this, we're pretty darn excited right now," said Coach Mark Basil, whose team now faces top-seeded Ansonia this weekend. "Going up against a team like Ansonia – you don't often get an opportunity to play a team like them on that level on that stage so we're pretty excited."
North Branford started off strong, taking a 14-0 lead just five minutes into the contest with Dale Hausman punching in the first from two yards out and quarterback Brandan Basil running in the keeper from the one-yard line.
Woodland responded three minutes later, getting on the board with a score of its own, but with two minutes to go in the opening frame, Joe Delucia rushed 12 yards for the T-Birds' third score in a seven-minute span and a 21-7 first-quarter lead.
That was as close as Woodland would get, though, as North Branford's defense held the No. 7 seed to just one touchdown per quarter, while the offense tacked on six more scores through the final three frames.
The T-Birds' defense was led by Gary Falanga, who tallied 10 touchdowns in the game; Josh Melaccio, who had nine; and Delucia with eight tackles. Hausman added seven tackles, Andrew Calamita and Christian Sgro each had six and Alex McGuigan and Austin Calamita each had five. Sgro also added two sacks, while Andrew Calamita had one.
Not even two minutes into the second half, Delucia capped a quick North Branford march down the field with a four-yard touchdown. The teams then traded possessions with Woodland taking advantage for a score with 4:06 to play before the half to cut it to 28-13.
North Branford, though, quickly responded as Hausman broke away from the pack for a 36-yard touchdown to give the T-Birds a 35-13 halftime lead.
"Today we came back to what we've done all year-run stuff out in our spread sets," said Basil. "Hausman has been a secret all season. He's a very physical, talented kid back there and he's able to pound out the tough yards."
Hausman led the team in rushes with 18 for 178 yards in the game. Delucia added 80, Basil had 53 and Josh Melaccio had 51. Basil also was 14-for-21 passing for 214 yards.
The T-Birds wasted no time getting back to it in the second half. After Woodland kicked off, Delucia again eluded the Woodland defense. He broke away from the crowd and showed off his speed, running 61 yards for a touchdown.
Seven minutes later, North Branford again pushed toward the end zone, this time scoring on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Basil for a 48-13 lead. With 1:30 to play in the third quarter, Woodland scored, but North Branford's Delucia tossed the ball to Chris Caron, who broke a Woodland tackle for a 39-yard score and a 55-19 lead heading into the last quarter.
Woodland scored first in the fourth quarter, completing the two-point conversion. Hausman punched in the T-Birds' last score from five yards out with 5:28 to play to finalize the scoring at 62-27.
"That's a good team over there and I'm glad we came out with the 'W,'" said Basil.
T-Birds Head to Class S Finals
With the semifinal win in the books, North Branford is now looking forward to the Class S State Tournament finals. The T-Birds will face top-seeded Ansonia, which stands at 13-0. Ansonia's road through the state tourney includes a 53-16 win over eighth-seeded Prince Tech in the quarterfinals and a 41-13 victory over fifth-seeded Hyde in the semifinals.
UPDATE: The finals will be played at UConn's Rentschler Field this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 8 with a 10:35 a.m. kickoff.
Haven't Gotten Enough on T-Birds' Football? Here's more coverage:
- North Branford Football Moves on to State Finals!
- North Branford Tops Trinity Catholic to Move on to Class S Semifinals!
- T-Birds’ Football Takes on Hyde Tonight in Thanksgiving Eve Showdown
- T-Birds' Football Dominates Haddam-Killingworth
- T-Birds’ Football Still Perfect at 7-0
- T-Birds’ Football Tops Valley in Season-Opener
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