Football Knights on the ground
STAMFORD — For those used to seeing the Stamford football team running a spread offense and attacking opponents through the air, as it has done the last few seasons, it might have come as a surprise to see them lean on the run so heavily Saturday.
That is just what the Black Knights did, using running backs Lenny Garcia and Jaden Dawkins along with mobile quarterback Isaiah Johnson, forming a quality attack via the ground game.
The plan for the Black Knights was to try and establish the run early this season, but it took until the third game for it to result in a victory.
This week, the Black Knights new run-first approach will be put to the test when Stamford vists No. 1-ranked Darien on Saturday.
“Coming into the season we wanted to be a run-first team,” Stamford coach Jamar Greene said. “We ran the ball well, but got away from it in the Warde game and we did it against Ridgefield early on, but once they got up by a few touchdowns we had to scrap it. Against Trinity we stuck with it and it worked for us. The game plan was run first. Our receivers are a little mad about it, but we felt like we were a little bigger than (Trinity) and we felt we would be run first and ground and pound.”
The Black Knights utilized the combination of Garcia and Dawkins for the first time against Trinity with Dawkins making his season debut after dealing with a leg injury.
Garcia finished with 146 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns as Stamford beat Trinity for its first win of the season 19-7.
“This is a big one coming off the two losses. We made a couple mistakes, but we got the win,” Garcia said. “This was more of a run game than passing. We barely passed the ball this game and they couldn’t stop the run.”
Greene said having Dawkins available to spell Garcia kept him fresh late in the game when he busted out a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“It helps Lenny a lot having Jaden (Dawkins) back because when he needs a rest, Jaden is there,” Greene said. “Against Trinity, every other series the other one of them became the feature back. Anytime you can keep the ball on the ground, keep the clock moving and not fumble, you can stay in games.”
Only time will tell of Stamford is going to stay committed to taking a run-first approach, but against Trinity, the game plan worked.
Darien, however, is a different beast, presenting far more challenges to Stamford’s running game with a defensive unit anchored by All-State linebacker Connor Fay and featuring an array of talented players who swarm to the ball.
“(Fay) is everywhere on the field. He is a dominating factor in both the run and passing games and we need to find a way to block him,” Greene said. “(Darien’s) defense is big and strong up front and they often play with six defensive backs. They cover every gap, they are well disciplined and the linemen always get their hands up on pass plays and knock down passes.”
Last Saturday, St. Joseph’s running back Jaden Shirden was running into a wall of tacklers at the line of scrimmage all afternoon as the Blue Wave defense shut down the high-powered Cadets offense.
The challenge will be made even greater because many of Stamford’s linemen go both ways, playing on offense and defense.
Of course, the bigger challenge comes in facing Darien at all.
The Blue Wave are the three-time defending Class LL champions and currently ranked No. 1 in the GametimeCT state media poll after knocking off previous No. 1 St. Joe’s 22-7 last Saturday.
The Black Knights are hoping the run-first approach will keep the ball in their hands, keeping Darien’s dangerous offense off the field.