Competitive games on the FCIAC schedule are special treats that don’t come around very often.
But Ridgefield may be in for a second straight nailbiter when it visits St. Joseph — a team that’s also had a dramatic win this season — Saturday in another crucial matchup with state playoff implications.
Ridgefield stayed in the Class LL race when they rallied late to top Staples 24-20 last week. The Cadets and Tigers are meeting for the first time since September 2014.
St. Joseph (3-1) — which reached the Class M final last year — sits behind 10 undefeated teams in the Class S standings. With eight teams reaching the tournament, a loss would be a hammer blow to the Cadets’ hopes.
“I don’t know if there are must-wins, but the more we win the better off we will be,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “Looking at things, I think two losses would put us in major danger (of missing the tournament).”
The Cadets — who stunned New Canaan in Week 1 — are coming off a bye week after overcoming a slow start to topple Wilton 41-21 Oct. 2. Ridgefield quarterback Greg Gatto threw a touchdown pass in the final two minutes to retake the lead against the Wreckers.
“We definitely know we’re never out of it and that we’re always a play away,” Gatto said after the game in Westport. “We just stuck to the process and made sure to take it one play at a time and we just made plays.”
“I do like the idea that he came back,” added Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahanaca. “He took his role as a leader and didn’t just shy away from it.”
Della Vecchia anticipates the Tigers may mirror the Cadets.
“They have a lot of great athletes and do a lot of good things on offense like we do,” Della Vecchia said. “They do a lot of things that are very similar to us, and we have to be prepared for them.”
St. Joseph aims to be balanced on offence, much like the Wreckers were a week ago. Ridgefield has much to prepare for, including how to stop All-State receiver Jared Mallozzi, who already has seven touchdown catches this season. Teammates Jesse Bike and Will Diamantis — a 6-foot-2 sophomore — have had the opportunity to win one-on-one matchups with the attention paid to Mallozzi, and have enjoyed success, Della Vecchia said.
The architect of passing game is quarterback David Summers, who transferred from Fairfield Warde. The only learning curve came in the offseason when he had to learn the playbook; since then it’s been smooth sailing. Summers has thrown for 991 yards and 13 touchdowns against just one interception.
Ridgefield had little trouble moving the ball between the 20s against Staples, meaning a shootout in Trumbull could occur. The schedule lightens up considerably for St. Joseph after Saturday’s showdown.
“There are no breathers in this league,” Della Vecchia said. “This will be the third time in five weeks that we played a team that made the state championship (last year). It’s a difficult task to be emotionally focused on a high level, but we are fighting through it.”