WINSTED — Gilbert/Northwestern earned its first win of the season in a 20-0 complete game over Haddam-Killingworth Saturday afternoon at Van Why Field.
“We moved the ball against a defense designed to stop the run and had our best passing game in a long time,” said Gilbert coach Scott Salius. “Our defense has been playing well all year.”
After two opening losses, second-year quarterback Anthony Carfiro is finally playing with the kids he grew up with on Winsted’s Wolverine youth team.
“We haven’t played together in years and it took us a while to get back in sync,” Carfiro said, while talking about his own efforts toward that.
“I’ve been waiting too long to get rid of the ball (on passes),” he said. “Today, I just took three steps back and counted on our players to move underneath the pass.”
That ploy worked for a pair of textbook scoring passes Saturday while the Yellowjacket running backs chewed up the yardage, led by Marco Follino’s 64 yards and the game’s first touchdown.
But while Gilbert/Northwestern gained traction for the season, Haddam-Killingworth coach Mike Baklik’s dream season last year has turned into a nightmare a year later.
The Cougars (0-4) ran for more than 4,000 yards last year behind Pequot Player of the Year Tobey Calendar and Dalton Modehn on their way to the Class S tournament final. Calendar graduated and Modehn is out with a broken collarbone.
“Our running backs are banged up, so we’ve been trying some new kids,” Baklik said. “For four games now we’ve been killing ourselves with penalties and the need for one more block.”
Despite a Cougar size advantage up front, “our line took really good care of them,” Carfiro said.
That led to a first-quarter standoff on the ground and an interception by G/N’s Clay Maloney in the air.
By the second quarter, the Yellowjacket ground game was ready to roll. Twelve plays ticked off bits and pieces of the field until Carfiro hit sophomore Ian Thompson (4 catches/39 yards) with a 10-yard pass to the Cougar 5-yard line.
Chase Sanden ((52 yards) and Folino took care of the final steps.
Gilbert’s defense dispensed the Cougars on their next possession and the Yellowjackets were ready to fly. On first down from the H-K 44-yard line, Carfiro arced a perfect rainbow for freshman Fred Calder-Camp to run under — 56 yards for the score.
While the struggles persisted on the ground, it happened again early in the final period. On third down from the Gilbert 36, Carfiro launched another highlight-reel throw.
“I didn’t think I was going to catch it because the sun was in my eyes,” Chase Sanden told his teammates.
Nevertheless, the pass landed in his hands in mid-stride on the way to the game’s final 64-yard touchdown.
Is the one-game turnaround the start of bigger things for the Yellowjackets?
“That story needs to be told next week against (Old Saybrook/Westbrook),’ said Salius, looking forward to next Saturday’s 1 p.m start at Gilbert.
The Cougars try to end their misery Friday afternoon against Canton/Granby.