WEST HAVEN >> Fourth down. One yard.
That’s what was going to separate Brookfield and New Fairfield in the Class M championship game.
New Fairfield coach Anthony Fata knew his team could get it early in the third quarter. Brookfield coach Rich Angarano said had “all the confidence in the world” that his team would stop it.
And so here it was: New Fairfield quarterback Mike Zanca tried to sneak it behind his big offensive line. But Brookfield’s big tackle Nick Acquanita went low, pierced the blockers and stopped Zanca cold as reinforcements arrived.
Brookfield took off from there, riding its newfound momentum to claim a 21-14 victory over their SWC rivals for the Class M championship at Ken Strong Stadium.
“Some of the coaches before the game said it was going to come down to a third-and-2 or fourth-and-1s because we both like to run the ball,” said senior all-state back Bobby Drysdale, who ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries to send his senior class out with a second-consecutive title. “So that was a huge momentum swing stopping them like that.”
Three plays later, Drysdale put Brookfield ahead for good on a 33-yard touchdown run. Harrison Manesis, who helped set it up, added a 9-yard score in the fourth quarter and recovered a critical onside kick to allow Brookfield to run out the clock on the school’s fourth title.
“I said it coming in to all of them: There’s no team that can run the football on us,” Angarano said. “…We are a good run defense. I’m concerned a little bit about the pass, I won’t lie to you. But the kids came through and did their job and I’m so proud of them.”
The victory snapped an 11-game win streak for New Fairfield, which started when it lost to Brookfield in the season opener. The Rebels finished 11-2 and with the school’s first SWC title. But, afterward, coach Anthony Fata felt he cost his team a chance at winning the school’s first state championship with the fourth-down call.
“I take the blame for this one, going for it on that fourth down,” he said. “I thought maybe we’d get a little momentum if we got it. And it just didn’t work out that. way.
“It’s one of those games where it’s going to eat at me for a while. But — you know what? — I’m proud of each and every one of my kids and what they accomplished this year.”
New Fairfield and its defense — which allowed just four first downs in two playoff games — set the tone early. The Rebels held Brookfield to just 60 yards rushing in the first half and didn’t allow a first down until 4 minutes before halftime.
The Rebels also struck first offensively, as Rudy Sarro caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Zanca on fourth down to give the Rebels a 7-0 lead.
“I personally thought I was held on that play,” Brookfield defensive lineman and receiver Nick Seis said, referring to New Fairfield’s first touchdown. “And when I get angry, I get angry and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going after this kid and I’m going to do something big.’”
He actually did something big twice. Seis stripped Sarro of the ball and Drysdale recovered at the New Fairfield 42 with 4:47 left before halftime.
“That was a great play,” Drysdale said. “He came in and stripped him, I don’t even think the kid even saw him. And the ball just fell to me.”
Just a few plays later Brookfield quarterback John Rosingno scrambled left and tossed 26-yard touchdown pass to Seis to tie the game 7-7.
“We just came into halftime, our line made some adjustments and we said it was 0-0 and just stepped up the intensity after that,” Drysdale said.
Brookfield’s fourth-down stop came with 7:05 remaining in the third, and Drysdale’s go-ahead touchdown run with 5:33 remaining.
Manesis capped a 4-minute drive in the fourth quarter to make it 21-7. Though New Fairfield got within 21-14 on Sarro’s 13-yard touchdown pass from Zanca, Manesis recovered the onside kick Drysdale pushed through the pile for the game-clinching first down.
Zach Tripodi, New Fairfield’s standout back, was held to 86 yards on 33 carries, forcing New Fairfield to go to the air, especially late. Greg Radovic caught four passes for 62 yards and Sarro had three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown
“I don’t know how many yards he had but we contained him a lot,” Angarano said of Tripodi. “They are a good football team. Somebody had to win and somebody had to lose. I’m just happy for this class. I’m very happy this group of young men did it. They’ve been very successful althroughout their life of playing football.”
As a group, this was Brookfield’s second state title in three tries to top off a Pop Warner national championship they won as kids.
“It means a lot,” Drysdale said of the title. “We always knew since we were little we wanted to come in and win state championships That’s what we’ve been saying and that’s what we did. It’s a good feeling.”
Brookfield 21, New Fairfield 14
BROOKFIELD 0 7 7 7 — 21
NEW FAIRFIELD 7 0 0 7 — 14
NF—Rudy Sarro 35 pass from Michael Zanca (Mike Handlmaier kick)
B—Nick Seis 26 pass from John Rosigno (Dane Borges kick)
B—Bobby Drysdale 33 run (Borges kick)
B—Harrison Manesis 9 run (Borges kick)
NF—Rudy Sarro 13 pass from Zanca (Handlmaier kick)
Team records: Brookfield 11-2, New Fairfield 11-2