Football Brunswick falls in Class A title game
A stingy defense, an opportunistic offense and a little bit of trickery enabled Choate Rosemary Hall’s football team to keep the beat going.
The Wild Boars beat yet another foe on Saturday and they certainly accomplished plenty with their latest win.
Choate Rosemary Hall continued its long reign of supremacy in the NEPSAC, registering a decisive 25-8 win over visiting Brunswick School in the Mike Silipo Bowl — a triumph that gave the team its fifth straight NEPSAC Class A championship and 48th consecutive win, spanning five seasons.
Quarterback Shane Baldwin threw a touchdown pass, running back Jonathan Saddler scored on a 65-yard run and Hunter Burns reached the end zone on a fake field goal for the Wild Boars, who exhibited stellar defensive play throughout.
“This win required our special teams, offense and defense to contribute and each unit did,” said Baldwin, a sophomore/Darien resident, who completed 8 of 14 passes for 93 yards. “We spent a lot of time in the summer and during the season working toward this one goal and it’s awesome that we were able to see it through today.”
Said Choate coach LJ Spinnato, who has not lost one game during his coaching tenure at the school: “Our team isn’t worried about wins and losses as much as playing their best and playing for each other, which breeds success. Our effort was high throughout the game.”
While Choate finished with a record of 10-0 and another NEPSAC championship to its collection, Brunswick concluded its season at 8-2.
“We lost so many seniors from last year’s team, including 17 starters, so making it this far was a great accomplishment,” Bruins coach Jarrett Shine said. “Our team bought into our family atmosphere and gave maximum effort. Making it to this game says something about our team.”
Senior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson accounted for Brunswick’s touchdown, catching a scoring strike from junior quarterback Nick Winegardner late in the third quarter. Brunswick trailed 3-0 after the first quarter and 10-0 at halftime.
“They were very well coached, they didn’t make many mistakes and they held us to eight points, by making stops when they had to,” Johnson said. “You want to move the ball down field and score, but we weren’t able to do that consistently, which is why we weren’t able to come out on top.”
Seniors Walter Soefker and Sean Dennehy each had one interception, while Saddler, Beau Luther, Johnny Wu and North Peters each registered sacks for Choate. The Wild Boars, whose squad has numerous players who have competed on the team for four seasons, while never losing a game, received a boost from offensive linemen Cameron Polmeni-Hegarty, Jan Kaufmann, Crawford Sargent and Gary Kazanjian.
“We’ve been working toward this game since last November,” said Sargent, a Greenwich native. “It feels great to work hard with our brothers and to come out on top after such a great team effort. We have a lot of four-year starters on our team, who have focused on executing their roles and playing for each other.”
Senior placekicker Will Powers converted a 29-yard field goal, giving Choate a 3-0 lead with 3:42 remaining in the first quarter. Baldwin completed a 31-yard pass and senior Shaka Moales had a 15-yard run to help key the drive.
The Wild Boars extended their advantage when Baldwin rolled left and connected with senior receiver Spencer Witter with three seconds left in the second quarter. On the previous play, Witter caught a 19-yard pass from Baldwin, setting the Wild Boars up on the Bruins 1-yard line. Wu’s fumble recovery set the home team up deep in Brunswick territory. The Bruins committed four turnovers in the opening half.
“Going into this game we knew we had to play a perfect game against them, so when have have four turnovers in the first half, it doesn’t increase your chances,” Shine said. “Tip your hats to them, LJ has done a great job with them. We stopped them on the goal line one time and it should have been 3-0 at the half. Our defense was great.”
The home team seized a three-score lead 5:32 into the third quarter. Saddler took Baldwin’s handoff, broke a pair of tackles and sprinted down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. Hunter Burns’ conversion run gave the Wild Boars an 18-0 edge.
“Every single hole was open because of everyone was blocking on the play,” Saddler said. “I just did my job and ran as fast as I could to the end zone. “The second half, we had to keep grinding against a tough team like Brunswick and we focused on improving our execution.”
The Wild Boars sealed the game and their 48th straight win when Burns, a holder on field goals and point-after attempts, kept the ball and scored on a fake field goal, dashing 30 yards to the end zone to give his squad a 25-8 lead at the 3:07 mark of the fourth quarter.
“It was open on our field goal attempts earlier in the game and the third time, we had the guts enough to call it,” Spinnato said. “It was great to see it work.”
Winegardner completed 11 of 25 passes for 95 yards and received a lot of pressure throughout. Senior Michael Gottlieb rushed for 54 yards for the Bruins, who were paced defensively by junior lineman Howard Powell and senior linebacker Nick Villis.
“No one expected us to get here, so it feels good to prove everybody wrong,” Gottlieb said. “We stuck together all year and made it to a bowl game against one of the best teams in New England history. Credit to our defense, they kept us in games all year whenever our offense was lacking.”
Added Villis: “Choate’s offense was efficient. They got the ball to a lot of guys, so they didn’t get too tired. We are happy with how our defense played, this is the least amount of points Choate scored this season. At the end of the game, we just started getting a little tired.”
Running back Daryan McDonald helped power the victors’ ground attack, gaining 96 yard. Saddler added 79 rushing yards in the winning effort.
“Our offensive line gave me time to get the ball down field most of the time and we were able to punch it into the end zone a couple of times today, which proved to be the difference in the game,” Baldwin said. “This was a great way to end our season.”
BRUNSWICK 0 0 8 0 — 8
CHOATE 3 7 8 7 — 25
C — Will Powers 29 field goal
C — Spencer Witter 1 pass from Shane Baldwin (Powers kick)
C — Jonathan Saddler 65 run (Hunter Burns run)
B — Cornelius Johnson 6 pass from Nick Winegardner (Winegardner run)
C — Burns 30 run (Powers kick)