Thanksgiving pg 9 11-24-21

There will be a lot of reunions on Thanksgiving Day at Killingly High School.
And they won’t only be in the stands.
The football game between Woodstock Academy and Killingly at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday will bring together people who haven’t seen each other in some time as it always does.
But that will also be true among the teams on the field as well.
The two schools share a common sending town, Brooklyn.
They also share a common program, Killingly-Brooklyn Youth football, and many players grew up playing with or against one another in that program.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Woodstock Academy senior receiver/defensive back Jackson Goetz. “We’ve all grown up together and have known each other forever. Playing against each other (on Thanksgiving Day) is just crazy.”
And it’s not just any Thanksgiving Day game.
It’s the first Thanksgiving Day game for both teams since they met in 2017.
Killingly comes in with an 8-0 record and is the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division III champs.
It will not be the last game of the season for Killingly as it is guaranteed a Class M state playoff berth.
Woodstock Academy has equaled its most wins in a season in program history as it comes in with a 7-2 record.
For a first time ever, the Centaurs captured an ECC title as they are the Division II champs.
Woodstock Academy needs a win over Killingly, however, to even have a bit of a chance to qualify for the Class L state playoffs.
“I think you have two of the best teams in the ECC playing against one another,” said Killingly coach Chad Neal. “Fitch is the other one but you have the Division II and Division III champs going at it on Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving creates memories.
“The tradition of it, the routine of it, everything changes this week and a half. Practice times change. We were out there early on Saturday morning doing a dry run to be up early and being ready to play football at 10:30 in the morning. Everything changes, it’s unique, a lot of people remember playing on Thanksgiving, hopefully, (his team) will too,” said Woodstock Academy coach Sean Saucier.
Saucier played his high school ball for the Putnam Clippers.
“I do have special memories,” Saucier said of his Thanksgiving Day experiences. “We lost to Plainfield in my junior year and won our senior year to move on to the States. Thanksgiving, Putnam-Plainfield, was always a great rivalry.”
Neal is also a Putnam High grad and has those same fond memories of playing on the holiday.
”It’s nice to play on Thanksgiving morning with all that tradition, the night before; getting up early; the alumni at home; the big crowd, everything that goes into it. It’s special for the kids, whether you are going to the playoffs or not, it’s that special community game,” Neal said.
The Centaurs are a more balanced team than Killingly coming into the contest.
Woodstock Academy is led by senior quarterback Ethan Davis who also happens to hail from Brooklyn and also played in the Killingly-Brooklyn youth football program.
Davis has thrown for 1,356 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
He has also rushed for 940 yards and 12 more scores.
“We use him as a running back and that’s where his athleticism and gifts really come out,” Saucier said. “His body has changed a lot since his sophomore season; he has put on a lot of muscle. He’s got bigger, stronger, faster and while he is a consistent passer, his threat as a running back has really evolved.”
As Ethan Davis goes, so do the Centaurs.
“He leads by example and he stays pretty humble and that is a special quality. It’s not really about him even though, a lot of times, it is about him. It’s not because he wants it that way, it’s more about what he accomplishes,” Saucier said.
For example, Davis’ performance in the lead up to the Thanksgiving game where he rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 170 yards and two other scores in a 42-8 win over Ledyard.
There have only been two hiccups.
A one-point loss to Norwich Free Academy at home and a six-point loss to East Lyme in a game in which the Centaurs were knocking on the door, inside the 5-yard line in the closing moments and could not punch it in.
“We should have won both of those, everyone knows we should have, but we can’t go back in time. We just have to move on and our season has been a good one. I hope we can make States if we win this game (versus Killingly),” said Davis.
Goetz, one of Davis’ best friends, has also been his favorite target this season.
He has caught a team-high 46 passes for 520 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We’ve all grown together as the season has gone on. Me and Ethan grew up together so we have always had that relationship or bond with any sport we play,” Goetz said.
Carter Saracina (36 catches, 643 yards, seven touchdowns) has also been a Davis fave.
The Centaurs will need them and their defense to step up against Killingly.
Killingly tends to be a bit more one-dimensional, relying on its running game to produce the desired results.
That running game has delivered with senior Jack Sharpe, whom both Davis and Goetz grew up playing with in K-B youth football, leading the way with 1,018 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“It’s not going to be easy to tackle him and I’m not necessarily looking forward to that,” Goetz readily admits.
Sophomore Soren Reif is Sharpe’s sidekick in the backfield and has 819 yards and 11 touchdowns to his credit.
Killingly had a statement game of its own as it is coming off a 48-0 win over NFA.
In that contest, Killingly ran only 18 first-half plays compared to the Wildcats’ 57, but was ahead at halftime, 41-0.
The Killingly defense has also been stout.
It has not allowed more than 14 points in a game and has produced shutouts in its last three games.
But, this is Thanksgiving Day, and anything can happen.
Most of all, it’s just the joy of being able to step out on the field with, hopefully, thousands of onlookers for a true memorable experience.
“It will just be fun to play with (Killingly) on the same field. It’s going to be special. I’ve been waiting to play Killingly for three years. There will be a lot of people there. It’s just a different game,” Goetz said.
Prep Basketball
Gold falls in New Haven
The first two games against national opponents resulted in the first two losses of the season for the Centaurs Gold prep basketball team.
The Centaurs traveled to Albertus Magnus College in New Haven on both Friday and Saturday for the National Prep Showcase tournament.
The Centaurs lost on Friday afternoon to Hargrave Military Academy, 72-68, and followed that up on Saturday afternoon with a 66-56 loss to Mt. Zion Prep.
The Centaurs are now 5-2 on the season.
Woodstock Academy struggled from beyond the 3-point arc against Hargrave Military, making only 3 of their 16 attempts and also missed six free throws which hurt in a very closely-fought contest.
Hargrave, out of Chatham, Va., held only a 33-32 lead at the half.
Keenan Emmanuel did have the range for the Centaurs as he made 5-of-7 from the floor including a pair of 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 15 points.
Dominic Strothers didn’t take many shots, but the Woodstock, Va. native in his second year with the Centaurs, made 3-of-5 from the floor and finished with eight points.
Jayshane Woodard paced the Gold squad off the boards with 11 rebounds. Promise Opurum added eight caroms.
Hargrave Military had four players in double figures led by Madison Durr with 17 points while Leland Walker added 15.
Woodstock Academy again played tough against Mt. Zion, out of Maryland, in the first half Saturday.
The Centaurs held a 26-25 advantage, but were outscored 41-30 in the second half.
The big difference came from the free throw line.
Mt. Zion was 18-for-22 from the charity stripe in the second half and 23-for-30 for the game.
The Centaurs only went to the free throw line 11 times in the whole game.
Strothers again wielded the hot hand as he finished with a team-best 18 points, making 8-of-11 from the field.
Diovion Famakinde was the only other player in double figures for the Centaurs with 11 and added a team-high six rebounds.
R.J. Luis led Mt. Zion with 23 points, 11 came from the free throw line while Elijah Jones added 16.
The Centaurs now get a bit of a Thanksgiving Day break.
They are next scheduled to play on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at South Kent School.
Blue Prep basketball has mixed results
The Centaurs did well on the road, but ran into a tough opponent at the Alumni Fieldhouse Friday.
Northfield-Mt. Hermon visited the Centaurs and posted a 70-62 win to drop the Blue prep team to 3-4 on the season.
Things were much better last Wednesday on the road.
The Centaurs handed Hoosac School a 76-35 loss behind a 15-point effort from Logan Talbot.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy


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