The words ‘Barlow’ and ‘football’ typically don’t inspire fear across the SWC, not to Newtown or Masuk’s degree anyway.
But there the Falcons were a season ago, spreading fear and loathing across the league as it bludgeoned its way through the league with its triple option.
School spirit over football was at a frenzy in Redding. The Falcons were unbeaten through seven games.
Then quarterback Jack Shaban severely dislocated his shoulder in a massive Week 8 clash with Masuk and the wheels feel off the bandwagon.
Barlow lost that game, 47-23. But the biggest blow was a 21-14 loss to Weston in a winner-take-all Thanksgiving clash for a Class M playoff spot. Barlow’s offense struggled to move the ball without their junior star.
The Falcons finished 8-2. It was Barlow’s best record since the 1972-1976 era when the program amassed records of 10-0, 9-1, 8-1 and 8-1 in four of those five seasons.
But the Falcons didn’t feel like celebrating.
“It hurt,” Shaban said in an interview earlier this season. “I know we had the potential to be state championship team. I was really upset. We’re really hoping to regroup this year and have the season we know we can have this year.”
“Yeah, it’s not the way we wanted it to end,” said 20-year coach Rob Tynan, a Trumbull native and Jerry McDougall disciple whose success in Redding has been limited to five winning seasons. “We wanted to make the playoffs for the first time. But that’s football. That’s the way it goes.”
The good news was Shaban was only a junior. He rehabbed his shoulder in time for Barlow’s lacrosse season and led the Falcons to the state championship game, scoring the winning goal in a wild Class M overtime victory over powerhouse New Canaan.
As good a lacrosse player Shaban is, he was a first-team all-state Class M attackman, Tynan says his first love is football. And it shows.
A four-year varsity starter, Shaban has rushed for 2,533 yards (almost 10 yards per carry) and scored 27 touchdowns in his career heading into this Week’s unbeaten clash with Newtown. He’s run for over 1,000 yards in the past two seasons.
Shaban wants to play college football. But at the start of the season Tynan said recruiters were uneasy about his 5-foot-6, 160-pound stature. “All they look at is his size,” Tynan said in the preseason. “But I keep telling them, the kid’s a great athlete and he’s a winner.”
Through three games, Shaban has Barlow on the same course it was a season ago. The Falcons are 3-0 and he’s leads the team with 316 yards and seven touchdowns. It helps that Barlow’s found two new backs to compliment the team, captain Steve Miller, a 5-9, 175-pound fullback and linebacker, and halfback/safety Harry Wilson, who’s run for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior captain and tackle Alex Gallaer (6-1, 210) anchors a rushing attack that averages 349 rushing yards per game. Last season, the team’s 395 rushing yard average was second only to 1998 Bloomfield as the highest in state history.
But Shaban makes the team go, Tynan said. And the Falcons are anxious to claim the playoff berth that eluded them a season ago.
“Last year was pretty fun, school spirit got up, everyone was pumped, we had a people coming to games, we were getting talked to in school about it,” Shaban said. “Hopefully it continues this year, too.
“We’ll see what we can do to go 10-0 and makes states.”
Big D at Newtown
Though known for its cadre of offensive stars — Drew Tarantino, Cooper Gold and Julian Dunn — Newtown’s greatest strength this season has been on defense.
While the offense sputtered in the second half of games, the defense made big halftime leads stand. It shut out Pomperaug and made enough big plays to prevent Bethel from competing a comeback victory. Last week, the Hawks’ D held Brookfield under 60 yards of offense in the first half, stopped sophomore back Bobby Drysdale , picked off senior quarterback Brad Westmark twice and forced a fumble in a 35-7 victory last week.
“The defense played outstanding,” coach Steve George said. “It’s what we expected of them.”
Newtown’s defense has allowed a league-best 28 points, tied for Barlow, the team it faces Friday night.
Strange, because defense was George’s biggest concern to start the year. Newtown was hit hardest by graduation on the defensive side. Junior linebacker Tim Krapf, who has been making 11.3 tackles per game, and his brother, senior Josh Krapf, were the team’s only returning starters.
But the Hawks have found capable new starters, mostly from the underclassmen. Lineman Dom Scarangella (6-2, 250), linebacker Jack Lago and defensive back Jimmy Leidlein (5 tackles a game) are the four other senior starters.
Then there’s freshman 6-1, 200-pound freshman Ben Mason, who is second on the team with 5.7 tackles, sophomore linebacker Nick Samuelson and junior tackle Markus Elken. Junior Jaret DeVellis — the last of the line of four Devellis brothers who’ve been with the program over 10 years — has been a sparkplug at linebacker.
Though he didn’t play much defense a year ago, Dunn is now a regular starter at safety. He lead the team with three interceptions. Another DB George is high on is junior Nick Lotrecchiano, who had a key interception vs. Brookfield.
With losses to SWC contenders Barlow and Newtown to start the season, Bethel’s season was in critical condition. There were encouraging signs however, especially in the loss to Newtown. The Wildcats desperately needed to beat New Farifield to turn their season around.
Enter Zachery Farrell. The senior 6-foot, 190-pound back pounded the Rebels’ outsized line for 240 yards and three touchdowns to put Bethel in the win column.
Farrell scored three of Bethel’s first three touchdowns, including an 87-yard run to begin the game. It was 21-0 at halftime and 35-0 in the third quarter before New Fairfield scored. Quarterback Joe Piatnik ran for 175 yards and a touchdown.
“We played good games, but we made some mistakes. We made some mistakes tonight, too, but we were able to correct the majority of them,” coach Jason Gill told Rich Gregory of the Danbury News-Times. ”I’m hoping that this win makes us hungry as a team to keep working hard and keep doing what we’re doing,”
The Wildcats are not nearly in the clear. Their October schedule reads as a who’s who of SWC and local football: at Pomperaug (1-2) and then Bunnell (2-1), Derby (3-0) and Masuk (3-0). Luckily those last three games are at home.
And the beat goes on…
It didn’t feel like it at the time, but the Masuk freight train kept rolling last week.
Masuk sputtered offensively to start its clash with rival Bunnell. Quarterback Malik Cummings threw two picks on four attempts. But the Panthers’ defense was superb, and so was receiver P.J. Kokkoros.
Masuk’s D barely let Bunnell sniff the end zone. They sacked quarterback Nolan Aurelia four times. Defensive back Zach Kaufman picked him off twice. Bunnell’s only meaningful score was a 78-yard touchdown pass from Aurelia to Zhyaire Fernandes.
Kokkoros, meanwhile, amassed 305 yards of all-purpose offense. He caught seven passes for 196 yards, ran seven times for 91 yards and added a 15-yard kickoff return. Despite the rough start, Cummings finished 393 yards of total offense, 141 rushing and 252 passing.
Masuk faces 2-1 Oxford in the league’s second-most intriguing matchup of Week 4.
Behind Steve Persson‘s 151 rushing yards, Oxford rebounded from its loss to New Fairfield with a 47-7 rout of Notre Dame-Fairfield in its first game at its new field.
FRIDAY, Oct. 4
New.Fair. at Stratford, 7:00 p.m.
Bethel at Pomperaug, 7:00 p.m.
Masuk at Oxford, 7:00 p.m.
ND-Ffld at Bunnell, 7:00 p.m.
Newtown at Joel Barlow, 7:00 p.m
SATURDAY, Oct. 5
Brookfield at Immaculate, 3:00 p.m.
New Milford at Weston, 3:00 p.m.
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