FCIAC football beat: Seniors holding Wilton together; Good times at Ludlowe

Wilton's Brett Phillips passes during the Warriors' 21-20 victory over Guilford. (Photo by Dave Phillips.)

Wilton’s Brett Phillips passes during the Warriors’ 21-20 victory over Guilford. (Photo by Dave Phillips.)

Wilton coach Bruce Cunningham didn’t know what kind of team he was going to have this season. He was still uncertain all the way up until the season-opener vs. Guilford.

His relatively small roster got smaller in the offseason when a three projected starters transferred to prep schools. “It was a little bizarre around here during the preseason let me tell you,” he said. “We didn’t even have a kicker until 10 days before the season. I thought we’d have to go for 2 every single time we scored. I was ready to call (Naugatuck coach) Craig Bruno up to see if he could lend us some plays.”

What Wilton did have was an abundance of seniors — 17 in all. So far, they’ve made it work. Wilton is 3-1 and feeling good about itself as it heads into a home clash with No. 4 St. Joseph Friday night.

Cunningham, who is now in his fifth season as coach, couldn’t love this group enough. “I don’t have a ton of guys, but these kids will give you everything they have,” he said. “They’ll fight you. That’s a credit to them and the senior leadership.”

Most prominent among those seniors is quarterback Brett Phillips. Though merely labeling Phillips as the team’s QB is selling the senior short.

“His words, not mine: He doesn’t consider himself a quarterback,” Cunningham said. “He considers himself a football player. He does it all. He plays quarterback, he plays DB, he intercepts passes, returns punts. He doesn’t ever want to come off the field. I’ll tell you, he even gets aggravated when I try to pull him aside to talk to him for a bit.”

Phillips, the son of baseball analyst and former Mets GM Steve Phillips, has compiled over 800 yards of total offense. His playmaking on defense against Bassick and special teams against Branford helped propel the Warriors to relatively easy victories over the past two weeks.

FB/LB John D’Elisa has been a strong ground option and is third on the team in tackles. Offensive tackles Chris Sanzaro (6-0, 230) and Joe Fraccaroli (6-3, 295) anchor the Warrior’s typically strong offensive line.

Kicker E.J. Sassani joined when Cunningham got wind that the senior had been cut from the soccer team. Though he missed his first field goal attempt vs. Staples, he drilled a 27-yarder against Bassick. He’s also 14-for-14 on PATs.

“That’s what I love about this senior class,” Cunningham said. “Their leadership comes in when things like that happen. They just say, ‘Let’s find a way.’ My seniors have held everything together.”

Wilton had plenty of juniors chipping in, too. Lineman Dan Holland linebackers T.J. Savvaides and Jack Dexter are among the team leaders in tackles. Back Pat Ryan is the Warriors’ second-leading rusher.

Wilton defeated Guilford by a point and then hung with two-time defending FCIAC champion Staples in Week 2. Down 14-0, the Warriors rallied to within a touchdown but just couldn’t complete the comeback. Their final bid to tie the game ended with an interception in the end zone.

“Give Staples credit, they make plays. We battled with them,” Cunningham said. “I told the kids, if we want to get to the next level, we have to make big plays in certain situations, and we have to do that every week.

The Warriors will need to make plenty of big plays on Friday night.

“We’ll see what this journey will bring,” Cunningham said. “But I’ll tell you, this has been one of my most favorite teams to coach. We tend to handle things. We’ll see where it goes.”

 Good times at Ludlowe

It’s been quite a week for Fairfield Ludlowe. Mike Arman‘s winning, three-times tipped 66-yard touchdown grab which propelled the Falcons to a 35-31 victory over Harding on Saturday has gone national, getting picked up by national websites like ESPN and Deadspin.

And, oh by the way, the Falcons are 3-1 as they prepare to face Staples.

Not bad considering at this time last year, Ludlowe had just snapped a 16-game losing streak. The program finished the season with four straight victories under former coach Matt McCloskey and have now won seven of its last eight games. Ludlowe’s only loss was to Ridgefield, 41-20.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” first-year coach Vin Camera said. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s exactly what I expected, both teaching and coaching, almost to a T.

“There’s been a huge buzz in the community, between school, the administration, the parents and the players. That’s a local buzz, I don’t know how big FCIAC-wise. But there’s been a very positive energy.”

Camera, who arrived after six years at Platt Tech, has attributed the early success to teamwork. Ludlowe uses two platoons and spreads the ball around with a hybrid offense that’s based on the spread. Eleven of 14 seniors are starters, as are 11 of 19 juniors.

“I don’t think we have any true stars on the team,” he said. “We don’t have that D-1 kid. We’re pretty balanced.”

Senior, 5-11, 185-pound quarterback Matt White, Camera said, has done a good job learning the offense Camera brought over from Platt Tech. “He’s not the tallest guy in the world, but he throws a good ball,” Camera said. “I was afraid he wasn’t going to pick up the offense. He’s at the point now where he’s finishing my sentences.”

Arman, Pat O’LearyWarren Davis have been White’s go-to guys. Junior linebacker Cole Gottlieb has been a standout on defense.

The Falcoms have had trouble with turnovers, which nearly cost Ludlowe the Harding game before Arman’s late heroics.

Heading into a three-game road swing vs. Staples, Norwalk and Westhill, Camera does’t kid himself. “We knew the schedule was favorable early,” he said. “But I think we’re good enough to compete in the league. There’s always room for improvement. The bottom line is, when we play the big teams, we can’t put ourselves in a hole. We can’t make mistakes.”

Hello, goodbye

St. Joseph celebrated homecoming with a 28-14 victory over Darien. But, in reality, the Hogs are going away for a while.

A long while.

St. Joseph hits the road for six consecutive games beginning Friday night at Wilton. The Hogs, who played three of four games at home to start the season, won’t return until hosting Trumbull on Thanksgiving morning. Included in their long road trip is a date with No. 2 New Canaan on Nov. 1.

Cochran update 

[UPDATE, Thursday, Oct. 9]:  Citing a ‘reliable source,’ Dave Ruden of the ‘Ruden Report’ reports that Cochran is close to resigning. Cochran told Ruden “there’s no story.’

Later, Bridgeport superintendent of schools Paul Vallas told the Connecticut Post Cochran was dealing with heart issues.

Harding coach Jack Cochran told the New Haven Register on Saturday it was a ‘personal health issues’ which forced him to miss his team’s 35-31 loss to Ludlowe on Saturday. “It was something I’d been putting off and had to take care of,” he said. Cochran added that was hoping to return this week and coach Saturday’s home game vs. unbeaten McMahon.

However, Harding athletic director Chris Johnson told Connecticut Post’s Doug Bonjour on Monday that he didn’t know when Cochran would return. Johnson had yet to return a call from the New Haven Register on Tuesday afternoon.

Odds and ends

Cochran wasn’t the only coach missing from his team’s sideline. Norwalk’s Sean Ireland missed his team’s 28-6 loss to Trumbull due to the death of his mother-in-law. …Trumbull has won three straight since getting blasted 52-20 vs. Shelton in Week 1. Senior quarterback Nick Roberts has had three consecutive 200-yard passing days and has thrown for 11 touchdowns. Trumbull plays at Westhill (1-3) on Saturday. … Greenwich has officially switched quarterbacks. Junior Matt Marzulla, who replaced senior Jose Melo in the second half of Greenwich’s 66-20 loss to New Canaan, was 10-of-13 for 145 yards in a 42-14 victory over Trinity Catholic. “It was always been dream of mine to play quarterback for the varsity team.” he told the Greenwich Time. The Cardinals, however, used a 294-yard rushing day to overwhelm the Crusaders.  …The FCIAC has five unbeaten teams in the league, New Canaan (4-0, 3-0 FCIAC), McMahon (4-0, 3-0), Trumbull (3-1, 3-0), St. Joseph (4-0, 2-0) and Staples (3-1, 3-0). …Ridgefield’s overtime victory over Notre Dame-West Haven made the Tigers 2-0 vs. the SCC. Overall, the FCIAC is now 12-8 vs the SCC. …

MSG Varsity’s Mike Quick does a weekly wrap up show online for Connecticut with co-host Jimmy Cavallo. They talk St. Joseph-Darien; Staples-Norwalk; And other FCIAC happenings. Check it out. Every week.

This Week

Friday, Oct. 11
Ridgefield at Stamford, 7:00 p.m.
Darien at Ffld.Warde, 7:00 p.m.
St. Joseph at Wilton, 7:00 p.m.
Ffld.Ludlowe at Staples, 7:00 p.m.
Norwalk at Greenwich, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, Oct 12
McMahon at Harding, 1:30 p.m.
Trumbull at Westhill, 1:30 p.m.
Danbury at New Canaan, 2:00 p.m.

Last Week

Wilton 38, Bassick 14
New Canaan 45, Ffld.Warde 21
Danbury 13, Bridg.Central 6
Staples 41, Stamford 14
Ffld.Ludlowe 35, Harding 31
St. Joseph 28, Darien 14
Greenwich 42, Trinity Cath. 14
McMahon 21, Westhill 15
Trumbull 28, Norwalk 6

Further Reading

Comments

    • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

      @really? – Between the play getting national attention and that they’re 3-1, they deserved a note, for sure.

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