By Andy Hutchison
FAIRFIELD >> Given the way Fairfield Warde High School’s junior running back ran the football, it might have been appropriate to make a one-time addition – ” T.J.” – to the name of the trophy the Mustangs won by toppling host Fairfield Ludlowe in the annual Thanksgiving Day clash.
T.J. Gallagher rushed for 300-plus yards and five touchdowns in a 44-21 feast of a win over the Falcons, giving the visitors possession of the Gallagher-Banyas Memorial Award for the year.
Warde capped off the season with a 4-7 record and the Falcons finished up thankful for a winning campaign at 6-5. Warde, coming off a loss in last year’s Thanksgiving Day battle, holds a 5-4 edge in the series.
Gallagher, upon receiving the Most Valuable Player award after the game, tried to hand his hardware to one of his linemen, senior Colin McKeown. He finally got McKeown, after some resistance, to accept the kind gesture.
“I’m really honored to be honest,” McKeown said. “He’s totally about the line. He appreciates all the hard work we do.”
McKeown and fellow linemen Ahmed Hourani, Tyler Mazut, Vincent Dumas and Billy Money combined efforts to block and open holes throughout the 20-something degree, windy at times morning.
“We completely dominated up front,” Warde Coach Duncan DellaVolpe said.
As cold as it was, Gallagher had no trouble heating up, scoring a trio of times in the opening half as the Mustangs jumped out to a 22-6 lead.
The Falcons, led by their MVP of the game, quarterback/ kick returner Matthew White, closed to within 22-12 before halftime but Gallagher and company pulled away in the third quarter.
Ludlowe’s Warren Davis had a three-yard rushing score, and White crossed the goal line with a one-yard run in the first half.
The Mustangs reeled off three unanswered second-half TDs. A six-yard screen pass from QB Brandon Bisack to Ryan Brown opened the second-half scoring. Gallagher, after running in the two-point conversion, proceeded to break free for scores of 75 and 69 yards to pour on the gravy and put the game out of reach.
The Falcons got two points on a safety when Stephan Zadravec blocked a punt and the ball bounded through the back of the end zone. Ludlowe’s final score came on a Nick Inniamo one-yard rush into the end zone.
Warde’s Joey Potenza and Daniel Reale both had second-half interceptions to help the Mustangs seal the win.
“The key to our victory was our preparation in practice,” Gallagher said. “The line really stepped up today.”
As did the running back. “He’s a gamer. We knew he could do that,” DellaVolpe said.
The Warde coach also knew his team could win despite the records of the teams coming into the contest. His Mustangs, after all, have had a tough schedule this fall, and are a much more competitive group than the numbers indicate.
It was a tough way for the Falcons to end an otherwise strong season.
“It’s very hard to say it now but one game doesn’t define your season,” Ludlowe Coach Vin Camera said. “We knew we could win with these kids right now and we did.”