DANBURY >> It was way back in a September Week 3, after a disheartening loss to Newtown, that Brookfield coach Rich Angarano saw a bright future for his young team.
“We’ll be back,” he said at the time. “You’ll see.”
Two months later, Brookfield and its collection of sophomore stars made good on his promise.
Brookfield sophomore Bobby Drysdale batted away Jack Shaban’s attempt at a 2-point pass and Brookfield held on to defeat Barlow 28-26 in a wild game in front of a packed house at Western Connecticut State’s Athletic Complex.
“I told you guys,” Angarano told his delirious team afterward. “I knew you would.”
Brookfield, winners of seven straight since its loss to the Hawks, has now clinched a berth in the Class M playoffs and — more importantly in the short term — a shot at redemption in the SWC championship game vs. Newtown. Brookfield lost the regular season meeting 35-7.
“It feels great, I know a lot of people doubled us after we lost to Newtown,” Drysdale said. “I know the whole town of Brookfield and our coaches and players knew we could come back. So far we’re doing a great job. Hopefully we can keep it up.”
Dan Jackson, a junior, ran a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and gave Brookfield the lead for good on his 73-yard touchdown run on Brookfield’s first play of the second half.
Austin Reich’s 1-yard plunge made it a 28-20 game with 5:01 remaining.
It looked like a death knell for Barlow, whose option offense isn’t designed for late-game comebacks. But Shaban found Ian Cameran for a long pass into Brookfield territory to put Barlow in business with just over 3 minutes remaining.
It was the first completed pass of the game. And it set up Harry Wilson’s 6-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left.
Barlow called pass for the tying 2-point conversion. But Drysdale sniffed it out and batted away Shaban’s low throw intended for Cameran in the end zone.
“I knew they were eventually going to call that play, with the wing back leaking out,” Drysdale said. “The coaches were yelling pass. I just looked and I saw him and went and made the play.”
There was no second-guessing on Barlow’s sideline.
“That’s what we’ve been practicing since August, It’s our 2-point play,” said Barlow coach Rob Tynan, whose team is still in good shape to qualify for the Class M playoffs with a victory over Weston on Thanksgiving. “Doing what we do, most teams put nine, 10 guys in the box.
“If that pass is a foot higher, it’s in our receiver’s hands. But that’s football. It’s a game of inches. …We still have a chance for the state playoffs. So we’ll rest up this weekend, and Monday we get right back to work.”
The teams combined for nearly 700 total yards. All but 38 were on the ground. Only two passes were completed, both by Barlow.
Brian Gallaer scored on a 44-yard touchdown run and Shaban added a 60-yard touchdown run for Barlow and Drysdale scored on a 60-yard run in a wild first quarter that ended 14-14.
Juan Gomez added a pair of field goals for Barlow, which struggled to finish off drives all night.
“This is the start of the state tournament,” said Angarano, whose team will play Newtown on its home field for the league title on Thursday. “Barlow will be in Class M, there’s no question about it. They’re a good football team. that was a good football game. It was a shame somebody had to lose. But I’m glad we won.”
BROOKFIELD 14 0 7 7–28
BARLOW 14 3 3 6 — 26
Barlow — Brian Gallaer 44 run (Juan Gomez kick)
Brookfield — Dan Jackson 99 kickoff return (Dan Borges kick)
Barlow — Jack Shaban 60 run (Gomez kick)
Brookfield — Bobby Drysdale 60 run (Borges kick)
Barlow — Gomez 37 field goal
Brookfield — Dan Jackson 73 run (Borges kick)
Barlow — Gomez 34 field goal
Brookfield — Reich 1 run (Borges kick)
Barlow — Harry Wilson 6 run (pass failed)
Team records: Brookfield 9-1, Barlow 8-2.