It was an ugly night for weather and execution in Montville's season opener Thursday against Watertown.
And though the number of penalties out-totaled the number of points, the Indians will file away their 20-13 victory as a potentially valuable commodity down the road if they emerge as a Class M playoff contender.
False starts, delays of game, illegal shifts, facemasks, blocks in the back, holding, roughing the passer. Montville and Watertown both allowed overzealous officials opportunities to call nearly every infraction in the rule book.
It wasn't a dirty game, but on a night when summer turned nearly frigid during a windy, drizzly cold front, there was not crisp football to match crisp weather. The endless penalty procession and two key turnovers inside the 10-yard line nearly overshadowed what evolved into an impressive win against a respected, cross-state opponent.
After saluting his team's heart for sealing the win in the fourth quarter, Montville coach Tanner Grove reamed his players out in a post-game huddle for "unacceptable" execution, especially on their home field. The end result, though, was victory.
"We had some sloppiness and plenty of mistakes, but the bottom line is we got the win," Grove said. "This is what you work all summer camp and preseason for. To come out here on a night like this, playing a quality team from the Naugatuck Valley League and getting after it, I think the kids showed a lot of toughness and resolve."
Montville showed the big-play weaponry of past years, scoring on its second play when quarterback Nick Clemons hit receiver Brandon Johnson with a 68-yard TD pass. Watertown answered late in the first quarter on Anthony Abeldabo's 4-yard TD run to cut it to 7-6.
Montville drove inside the 20 only to see the drive foiled when backup qb Tecumseh Champlain's pass was intercepted at the 5 and returned for a touchdown. Much in line with the game's theme, a Watertown penalty nullified the scoring runback.
Watertown took a 13-7 lead on the third quarter's first play on Abeldabo's 60-yard run. The lead stood until five minutes left in third quarter when, what else, a huge mistake turned the game around.
Watertown muffed a fair catch of a punt, and Clemons recovered on the 25-yard line. A 20-yard pass from Clemons to Johnson set up Clemons' 1-yard TD run to make it 14-13.
Montville's defense, paced by Clemons (one interception), linemen Ruben Diaz, Jake Basilica and Ryan Murtha, linebackers Champlain, Zach Holloway and Strecker, held strong against Watertown's balanced spread offense.
"The defense was great," Clemons said. "We had a powerhouse team last year that didn't have many close games, but we locked down when it counted today."
Strecker (130 yards on 20 carries) made the score, 20-13, with a 60-yard run with 1:40 left to play. The TD, though, gave Watertown the ball back with a chance to send it into overtime.
"As a coach you're screaming to fall down so we can run the clock out," Grove said. "But the kid is the heart and sould of our team and he breaks loose. It would have taken a sniper to stop Kenny."
Perhaps frenetic finishes will form a common thread for Montville games this season.
"This is team is young and coming along," Grove said. "It could be fun. As much as we'd like to be up 49-0 at the half like some games last year, now we've got to play."