H.S. football notebook Southington, New Britain shake things up
Before undefeated CCC foes New Britain and Southington kicked off Friday night, New Britain’s captains stirred the pot.
Each team’s captains met at midfield for the coin toss and were expected to shake hands. The Southington captains walked over, but the New Britain captains kept their hands locked with each other.
No pregame handshake.
Southington wide receiver Will Downes said he didn’t appreciate what the Hurricanes did.
“It definitely fired up us a lot more,” Downes said after the Blue Knights’ 27-24 win. “We were already juiced coming into the game and that just gave us more fire. I mean that’s just disrespectful honestly. It made us want to go out there and kick their butt.”
Whether it was used as a motivational tactic or not, the Hurricanes came out firing and led for most of the game. But Southington quarterback Jacob Drena engineered a final drive that produced a three-point win.
The Southington senior quarterback was part of the coin toss and wasn’t bothered by the antics.
“I didn’t realize they were going to do that. It doesn’t bother me that much,” Drena said. “If they don’t want to shake our hands, that’s fine. We’re going out there for a war, that’s how it is, that’s football. They shook our hands at the end of the game, so if they want to shake our hands at the end of the game, that’s all that matters to me.”
— Pete Paguaga
SMALL MARGIN FOR ERROR
Last season, two teams with three losses and one with four made the playoffs in Class M. Matt Hove, Wolcott’s second-year coach, doesn’t expect that to happen again, which is why felt his team’s latest win was so crucial.
“It was a big win for us,” Hove said, following the Eagles’ 34-27 upset of previously unbeaten Seymour Friday. “We needed this win to keep our playoff hopes alive. Class M is going to be a lot tougher this year than last year. I don’t think a 6-4 team’s going to get in at all. We’ve got to buckle down now and take it week-by-week, game-by-game. Our goal is still to get into the playoffs and see what we can do.”
The Eagles still have plenty of work to do to reach that goal. They’re currently 12th in Class M at 3-2 — the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs — and will play three of their final five games on the road. They’ll have a week off before returning to host Watertown Oct. 19.
“I’m not happy with being 3-2, but I’m not disappointed in how we finished the first half,” said senior quarterback Anthony Ligi, who ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over Seymour. “We had some up and downs. Coming off of this win, and then the bye week, it’s going to give us a lot of momentum the rest of the season.”
— Doug Bonjour
Much was made of the St. Joseph-Trumbull offense heading into the season and rightfully so, given the unit is led by senior quarterback and Maryland commit David Summers along with explosive running back Jaden Shirden.
However, it is the special-teams play which has made an enormous difference thus far in the season.
After St. Joseph was held on three downs by Ridgefield Friday night on the opening drive of the game, punter Luke Kirby blasted a kick from his own 34-yard line, pinning Ridgefield inside the 10.
Ridgefield would punt back three plays later and St. Joe’s began with the ball on the Tigers’ side of the field.
The flipping of field position does not show up in game stories or box scores, but St. Joe’s coach Joe DellaVecchia knows how important Kirby is to the team.
“This is Luke’s third year kicking for us and he has been doing a really good job punting,” DellaVecchia said. “It’s big for us. I am an offensive guy, I don’t care where we have the ball but for our defense, he makes them start deep on their own side and that’s really big.”
Junior Austin Jose handles the kickoffs and every kick against Ridgefield went into the end zone for a touchback. According to St. Joe’s coaches, Jose has hit eight consecutive balls into the end zone for touchbacks.
“We’ve never had a kid like that,” DellaVecchia said of Jose. “That is a valuable weapon that is helping us a ton. Knowing the other team will not be starting outside the 20 makes everything else we do easier.”
— Scott Ericson
RELISHING A WIN
Wins are hard to come by in the FCIAC’s middle tier, so when Fairfield Warde had a chance to put away upstart Danbury Friday night, it couldn’t squander the opportunty.
A strong fourth quarter led by a rushing attack propelled the Mustangs — who beat Danbury 26-10 — to their second consecutive win, raising their record to 3-2 heading into the bye week.
That’s the good news.
But a brutal schedule awaits after the break. Warde has Darien, Staples, Ridgefield and Ludlowe left on the schedule; those teams have a combined 15-5 record. The Mustangs — who also face McMahon — already fell to St. Joseph earlier in the season.
“We have four tough games and I think we can pull them out,” said Mustangs quarterback Joe Gulbin. “We didn’t get Wilton but we need to get two at least.”
— Ryan Lacey
AIRING IT OUT
Greenwich senior Gavin Muir once again showed that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the state. The Cardinals didn’t have to pass too much during Saturday’s 42-14 win over New Canaan, but they were effective when they did.
Muir completed 12 of 19 passes for 261 yards (21 yards per completion) and three touchdowns. He connected with his receivers and running back Tysen Comizio throughout the game.
“Gavin is under the radar, but wherever he goes, they are getting a competitor,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “He doesn’t want to get outworked.”
Senior wide receiver Stephen Bennett (three receptions, 76 yards, one touchdown) and senior wideout Lance Large (three receptions, 29 yards, one touchdown) capitalized on the openings they found in the New Canaan secondary.
Comizio, a senior, was a receiving threat against New Canaan, catching three passes for 120 yards.
“We schemed some things and we got the look we thought and we hit it a couple of times,” Marinelli said of the big pass plays to Comizio. “His receptions got us out of bad field position quickly.”
— David Fierro
A season ago, Mitch Ross left his post as the Darien offensive coordinator to take as head coach at Fairfield Ludlowe.
The Falcons were coming off an 0-10 season, and only mustered a 1-9 record in Ross’ first year.
But things are turning around. Ludlowe sits at 4-1, and while his former Blue Wave team is coming off their third-consecutive state title and are currently No. 1 in Connecticut, Ross is happy with his decision.
“People ask all the time why I would leave a team with a 35-game winning streak to come to a team with a 20-game losing streak,” Ross said. “It’s so much more rewarding when you have to struggle each game and turn around a program, when you go from 22 kids on the team to 100 kids on the team.”
The school and the town have rallied behind these new-look Falcons. So much so that every week Ross is seeing more kids come out for the team.
While most coaches wouldn’t accept players this deep into the season, Ross isn’t most coaches.
“I know in most programs they’d say that if you didn’t start out they can’t come out,” Ross said. “But for us, we want those kids to come out and keep on playing. So, each week we’ll take the extra kid who comes out and decides football is for them. We never know where the next good player will come from.”
— Anthony E. Parelli
MAKING THE ADJUSTMENTS
The first half of No. 1 Darien’s 24-0 win over Staples-Westport was, in a word, ugly.
The Blue Wave lead just 3-0, and the bigger, stronger Wreckers were giving them fits.
“We had a couple of defensive changeups and they had a couple offensive changeups and they forced me to grab the whiteboard and start drawing up,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said. “But, that’s what a good football game is all about.”
Darien came out and did what it normally does. Dominating both sides of the ball and outscoring Staples 21-0 over the final three quarters.
Trifone has seen his team wake up at halftime before, but he just wishes they would sooner.
“I hate the fact that we’re a second-half team,” Trifone laughed. “They’re very resilient and they’ve been here before, so they’re very poised. Halftime was as quiet as could be, in a good way, there was a quiet confidence.”
— Anthony E. Parelli