The Wilbur Cross football team hasn’t had much luck on opening day, but the Governors were finally able to celebrate in Week 1 after earning a 29-14 victory over McMahon on Thursday.
The Governors last won their season opener in 2010, a 33-21 decision over Shelton.
“For any team, it’s a great confidence boost,” Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said. “For an inner-city team, its a huge confidence boost because today (Saturday) we had 65 guys in the weight room. That doesn’t happen a lot on a Saturday. It’s big.”
Things didn’t start so smoothly, though. The Governors trailed 8-6 at halftime before they picked off three consecutive passes in the second half and turned them into touchdowns.
Wilbur Cross scored 23 straight points to knock off the Senators as part of the SCC-FCIAC Challenge. In the process, the Governors avenged a 34-12 McMahon victory last season.
“We felt we could be pretty good,” Acquavita said. “We are not deep at all and we had three starters out (with injury), so that’s something to look forward to when and if these guys come back.”
Kolbe Hartman (65 yards) and Zion Setal (45 yards) returned interceptions for touchdowns in the third quarter. Stevie Swinson scored on a 6-yard touchdown run following an interception of his own. Also contributing on defense for Wilbur Cross were Tavon Bradley (sack) and Sidney Rogers (fumble recovery).
“The D, it’s probably our most athletic D that we’ve had here — overall — since 2008,” Acquavita said. “I compare them to 2008. We might have been a little bit bigger in ’08, but this is probably the best group of athletes that we’ve had on defense since I’ve been here.”
Offensively, the Governors are still a work in progress, mainly due to a young and inexperience line.
“We have not one kid that played varsity offensive line ever,” Acquavita said, “and a couple have never even been linemen.”
Senior center Gabe Stiles is still recovering from an MCL injury he suffered during the wrestling season. Acquavita said Stiles is going to the doctor on Wednesday and Acquavita is hoping Stiles can be cleared to return to action.
“He looks like a million bucks,” Acquavita said. “He may be a little out of football shape, but he’s going to help us when he returns.”
Senior quarterback A.J. Consiglio completed 10 of 16 passes for 131 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown to Swinson. Swinson carried 23 times for 66 yards.
Bradley and fellow senior Wali McKelvey each caught three passes.
The Governors visit Law on Friday. The Lawmen lost to Harding 38-10 in their opener.
“Law, we watched them live and on film,” Acquavita said. “Yes, they lost the game. But after watching the film for a second time, they’re actually doing some good stuff. We’re not going to go up there and waltz through this thing. We’re going to have to play some football.
“Would I love to be 2-0 with the (Hand) Tigers coming here in another two weeks? Yes, that’s the ultimate goal. That was the preseason plan.”
X and Os
Xavier is 1-0 but has yet to reach the end zone.
The victory came courtesy of Andrew Verre’s 19-yard field goal with 6.8 seconds remaining to lift the Falcons to a 3-0 win over Staples Friday in Westport as part of the SCC-FCIAC Challenge.
With a rebuilt offensive line and a first-year starter at quarterback in senior Michael Scherer, Xavier coach Sean Marinan said he wasn’t entirely surprised by his team’s lack of offensive prowess.
“It’s not unexpected from how we were in scrimmages,” Marinan said. “We’re improving, but we have a long way to go.”
Earlier in the second half the Falcons set up for a field goal, but a high snap forced Scherer, the holder, to throw to the end zone instead and was picked off.
“We’re going through some growing pains,” Marinan said. “It seems like a lot of teams graduated a lot of seniors. It always seems to take longer getting going on offense than on defense.”
Senior Ted Duarte, in his first year as the team’s featured running back, carried 25 times for 105 yards, while Scherer gained 51 yards on eight carries.
Scherer, who attempted just three passes last season as the backup to Joe Carbone, is still developing but has potential according to Marinan.
“He did some good things with his feet,” Marinan said. “There were some first game jitters; he struggled seeing things. Typical, he held onto the ball too long when he was throwing, but this is his first year being the quarterback. We’ve seen him do good stuff in practice.”
Marinan said he was pleased with how the defense performed, and added that the Falcons played physical throughout and did not get frustrated.
“Defensively, I was happy for the most part,” Marinan said. “Staples is tough to prepare for, but we were in the right places. The kids did a nice job with that. There were a lot of positives. We just have to clean things up.”
New Canaan junior quarterback Michael Collins has the difficult task of replacing Nick Cascione at quarterback. Cascione passed for 2,740 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for 699 yards and 12 scores while leading the Rams to the Class L state title last season.
But if one game is any indication, New Canaan is in good hands with Collins as its starter. Collins completed 23 of 42 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception in the Rams’ season-opening 21-14 victory over Hand.
“You see signs of some unbelievable things,” New Canaan senior wide receiver Alex LaPolice said. “He throws great balls. I am so excited to get the season going with him. We’ve been building chemistry all summer.”
LaPolice caught touchdown passes of 11 and 14 yards from Collins, while Collins and Michael Krauss connected on a 22-yard touchdown strike.
“There were times where you could tell that he was young and inexperienced,” LaPolice said, “but there’s no question that he’s ready to go, and help us make a run at something.”
Mike Pucci’s Game Balls
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- Capital Prep/Achievement First’s Rayshawn Phillips: Completed 22 of 27 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-15 win over Quinebaug Valley.
- Gilbert/NW Regional’s Paxton Franklin: Ran for 312 yards and scored twice in a 34-13 victory over Enfield.
- Hyde’s Ronnie Freeman: Ran for five touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass in a 54-22 victory over Lewis Mills.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- Cheshire’s Nate Hillburn: Made two interceptions in a 41-14 victory over Ridegfield.
- Hartford Public’s Tyereque Rodriguez: Returned a fumble 76 yards for a touchdown in a 28-27 victory over South Windsor.
- West Haven’s Zatrell Lyons: Intercepted two passes in a 35-22 win over Greenwich (also caught a 61-yard TD to start the game)
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- Brookfield’s Matt Melby: Blocked a punt in a 52-21 victory over Masuk. Melby also scored on a fumble recovery and on an 8-yard run.
- Westhill’s Frankie Marcucio: Kicked field goals of 41, 36 and 28 yards in a 36-21 victory over Norwalk. Marcucio is now tied with 21 other players for second place in state history by kicking three field goals in a single game. Marcucio tallied 12 points, which is tied for third all-time for points kicking in a single game.
- Xavier’s Andrew Verre: Kicked the game-winning field goal with 6.8 seconds left to give the Falcons a 3-0 win over Staples.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
- Danbury: Defeated Hamden 35-15. Hatters coach Mark Ecke earned his first victory at the school.
- Ellington/Somers: Defeated Avon 28-14. The Knights earned just their second victory over Avon in nine meetings.
- Kennedy: Defeated Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech 49-6. The Eagles won their season opener for the first time since 1995.
ON THE AIR
- West Haven at Foran, Friday, 7 p.m.: WELI 960-AM (960Weli.com)
- Darien at Greenwich, Friday, 7 p.m.: WGCH 1490-AM (wgch.com); IvyRadio; MSGVarsity
- North Haven at Xavier, Friday, 7 p.m.: CPTVSports; WCNX online
- Holy Cross at Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech, Friday, 7 p.m.: WATR 1320-AM (watr.com)
GET OUT AND GO
- Hall (0-0) at Glastonbury (0-1), Friday, 6:30 p.m.: After losing a heartbreaker to Southington, 41-38 last week, Glastonbury cannot afford to start 0-2 if it expects to make Class LL playoffs.
- Darien (1-0) at Greenwich (0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: Ditto for Greenwich.
- Derby (1-0) at Ansonia (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.: Valley rivals clash for 92nd time. Derby hasn’t tasted victory in the series since 2001.
- North Haven (1-0) at Xavier (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.: North Haven stunned the Falcons, then ranked No. 2 in the state, 42-28 last season in North Haven.
- Fairfield Prep (1-0) at St. Joseph (1-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.: Can this year’s contest top last year’s game, when St. Joe’s won on a Hail Mary touchdown in the closing seconds?