WESTPORT >> Monday’s practice for the Staples football team was one head coach Marce Petroccio called, “probably one of the best practices of the year.”
And for the 5-1 Wreckers, that couldn’t have come at a better time.
After suffering a 31-27 loss to Ridgefield on Oct. 23, Staples entered the bye week with a laundry list of injuries, including starting quarterback Andrew Speed and star running back Ethan Burger.
Petroccio said the team took the week to refocus, get away and heal up. After a weekend off, Monday’s results were that of a re-energized group.
“We haven’t looked that sharp in a while,” Petroccio said. “On both sides of the ball.”
Staples isn’t 100 percent heading into Saturday afternoon’s huge road game against 5-1 St. Joseph (2 p.m. start) but do return many at key positions.
Speed, who missed the Ridgefield game due to a concussion, is back, as well as defensive back Colin Hoy and tackle Nick Roehm. Petroccio said running back Connor Adrian (389 yards) is out. Ben Thaw (DB) is a maybe and Burger, the team’s leading rusher (408, 5 TDs), who has only played in three games, is a game-day decision.
Injuries aside, Staples is ready for its biggest test to date. The Wreckers face a one-loss St. Joes team in what is perceived as a must-win in a limited nine game schedule.
“We have a three-game playoff series, basically what it comes down to for us,” Petroccio said. “So this is playoff game No. 1. With a great Darien team coming up and Greenwich, there’s really no room for error. The kids understand these are all playoff games.”
The Wreckers will find out just how good they are matching up against a balanced and skilled Cadets squad.
St. Joes is led offensively by junior quarterback Cory Babineau and senior back Christian Trefz, who in a win over Wilton this season, piled up 257 yards of rushing, 79 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
“I think offensively they are crisp, very sharp,” Petroccio said. “The quarterback can beat you with his feet or his arm, the kid Trefz is phenomenal. And on defense, Cam Ryan, he’s all over making plays.”
While Staples will have more weapons back against the Cadets, including Speed, a dual-threat, the injuries allowed for many players to take on new roles and shine.
“Everybody has really had to step up,” Speed said. “Dan Thompson, he came in and did a nice job for me at quarterback.”
“Quietly, it’s been kids like Nick (Roehm), Evan Gilland, Jack Griffin, they are taking on bigger roles…Ryan Fitton has stepped up,” added Petroccio.
Speed said to get the win and stay in the Class LL playoff race, it will take no mental mistakes and turnovers.
Petroccio said the kids are excited and ready to get going and play an important Saturday afternoon game.
“It’s two teams, with one loss, with a lot to lose,” Petroccio said. “And that’s what football at this time of year should be.”