NEW BRITAIN — Spencer Lockwood, the Gatorade State Player of the Year, rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Luke Desaulnier ran for one and passed for one to Vasileios Politis as Killingly completed the school’s first unbeaten, CIAC championship season in school history with a 41-14 victory over Barlow in the Class M championship Monday night at Veterans’ Stadium in New Britain.
Teammates Zach Caffrey (187 rushing yards) and Zack Burgess (60 rushing yards) each ran for a score for the Redmen, who finish as the state’s only unbeaten team (13-0).
“It’s the most unbelievable feeling in the world for these kids,” Killingly coach Chad Neal said as he choked back tears. “These kids have been through so much, and what they’ve done for this community, for me and for each other is something to be so proud of.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids,” Neal added. “They are so unselfish, and they do everything you could possibly want. I’m so proud to be their football coach.”
Lockwood had rushed for 3,027 yards and 42 touchdowns in Killingly’s first 12 games this year. Barlow saw a steady diet of him early in the game, but a tweaked ankle forced the Redmen to alter their game plan a bit. Neal said he used the hobbled Lockwood as a decoy, while Caffrey proved more than capable of carrying the load.
“He’s a gladiator,” Neal said of Caffrey. “He’s unsung, he’s a football player.”
Politis, a senior who was given a waiver by the CIAC to compete this year after missing all of last year while he fought back against cancer, capped a 20-point second-quarter outburst by catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Desaulnier
Barlow, which was playing in its first state championship game in school history, lost for the first time in seven games. The Falcons went 3-7 last season and had last played in the state playoffs when they reached the Class M semifinals in 2013 — when this year’s seniors were eighth-graders.
“We’ve had this goal on our minds since our freshman year. We went from 3-7 to making the state final the following year, and if that doesn’t show hard work and dedication, I don’t know what does,” said Barlow senior running back, linebacker and co-captain Alex Stillman.
“I love all my seniors. We bought in and we did something special. Yeah, it wasn’t our night. And, yeah, we could have played them better. But you know what? At the end of the day, we worked so hard for this. The ball could’ve bounced our way, but it didn’t. Killingly is a great team, but I think we’re a great team, too.
Stillman (139 yards rushing) and Cal Peterson (111 yards rushing) each rushed for a first-quarter touchdown as Barlow took a 14-7 lead. Killingly scored 34 unanswered points after that.
It was a tough way to end what had been a magical run for Barlow, which will graduate 12 seniors.
“The problem is, when you have a game like this and it ends like this, you think about the negatives,” said Barlow coach Rob Tynan, who has been at the helm for 26 years. “It’ll take a day or two, and then we’ll get back to all the good things that did happen this year. I’m proud of them and what they did, and, hopefully, they set the bar high for the kids who are coming back next year. They know what these seniors did and the dedication it took to get here.”
FIRST TURNING POINT
Barlow led 14-7 after one quarter, and Stillman appeared to have added to that lead on the first play of the second quarter when he raced 23 yards into the end zone.
The play was called back on a chop-block penalty against the Falcons, however, and the drive later stalled at the Killingly 31 when Jacob Gauthier stopped Barlow quarterback Trevor Furrer on fourth down. The Redmen didn’t score on their ensuing possession, but having the touchdown pulled off the board proved costly for Barlow.
“I would have liked to have seen, if we could have gotten it to 21-7, for (Killingly) to have to play a little catch-up with their running game,” Tynan said. “It didn’t work out that way, and I thought that was really the turning point in the game.”
Later in the second quarter, Killingly’s Nsaiah Harriet recovered a Barlow fumble on the Falcon 16. Four plays later, Lockwood followed the block of Matthew Phelan into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run that put the Redmen ahead to stay. Killingly scored twice more in the second quarter and led 27-14 at halftime.
SECOND TURNING POINT
Barlow received the second-half kickoff but was forced to punt from its own 29. Three plays later, Burgess slipped through a couple tackles and streaked 26 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-14 Killingly. That was the second Killingly scoring drive which was aided by a 15-yard late-hit penalty against the Falcons.
Barlow’s ensuing drive ended at the Killingly 14, when Furrer was stopped on fourth down — inches short of a first down — by Derek Turner, who wrapped up Furrer’s ankles. On the very next play, Caffrey rumbled 86 yards for the final score.
1. Problem solved: Barlow’s triple-option offense — its bread-and-butter for years now — had the Killingly defense on its heels early on. Alex Stillman rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown and Cal Peterson added 111 yards and a score, but the Redmen made some adjustments and slammed the door. Barlow had scored 100 points combined in its two tournament wins. “It took us a while to figure out the speed of it,” Killingly coach Chad Neal said. “Our defense came up and did a great job.”
2. Been there before: This may have been Barlow’s first title-game appearance, but not coach Rob Tynan’s. Tynan was an offensive and defensive lineman on the 1985 Trumbull High School team which defeated Glastonbury 27-21 in overtime to win the Class L-I state crown.
3. Finally: Killingly reached the state final after falling in the Class M semifinals each of the previous two seasons. The Redmen lost to eventual-champ Hillhouse last year, and to eventual-champ Brookfield two years ago.
4. Run, run, run: As was to be expected with two run-oriented offenses, there wasn’t a whole lot of passing by either team. Barlow misfired on all six of its passing attempts, while Killingly completed its lone pass — an eight-yard scoring strike from Luke Desaulnier to Vasileios Politis.
5. Strike up the band: Killingly got a bit of a pregame boost when its marching band performed the National Anthem.
KILLINGLY 41, BARLOW 14
BARLOW 14 0 0 0 — 14
KILLINGLY 7 20 14 0 — 41
K—Spencer Lockwood 63 run (Luke Desaulnier kick).
Ba—Cal Peterson 43 run (Michael Puglio kick).
Ba—Alex Stillman 76 run (Puglio kick).
K—Lockwood 1 run (Desaulnier kick).
K—Desaulnier 3 run (Desaulnier kick).
K—Vasileios Politis 7 pass Desaulnier (kick blocked).
K—Zack Burgess 26 run (Desaulnier kick).
K—Zach Caffrey 86 run (Desaulnier kick).
Records: Barlow 9-4; Killingly 13-0.
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