WESTPORT — Staples entered Friday eighth in the CIAC Class LL playoff point rankings, slotted for the final postseason berth with two games remaining.
Pounding fellow Class LL school Stamford on Friday night, 37-0, was important and necessary, but the Wreckers know playoff qualification will come down to their regular-season finale on Thanksgiving against Greenwich, which is unbeaten and ranked second in the latest GameTimeCT poll.
Win and Staples gets in. Lose and they’re all but certain to miss the playoffs.
The team’s chant all season long has been to yell “December” on three, and the players are acutely aware of what will be required to get there.
“It never changed — that’s what they say every practice,” first-year Wreckers coach Phil Treglia said. “We just gotta take care of our business and let the other stuff play out.”
All Staples could do Friday was handle Stamford on Senior Night. Dual-threat junior quarterback Jake Thaw got the night off while senior Jack Saltus started, but the offense still appeared to be in great hands.
Saltus threw four touchdowns through a driving rainstorm in the first half and ran for another while displaying good anticipation and touch on his passes.
“He played great,” Treglia said. “In the rain, it didn’t matter to him. He’s throwing the ball perfectly and going through his reads. I’m really proud of him, happy for him. He’s a great teammate and tonight was his night to shine.”
Saltus said he’d been waiting for this opportunity since third grade. It was his first start at the high school level.
“This has been the dream,” he said. “Growing up, watching the other Staples guys, the 2009 team, the 2012 team, all the state championship teams, this has been the dream. It was a good night.”
Stamford looked disinterested on what was admittedly a miserable night to be outdoors. The Knights’ first offensive play was a snap over the quarterback’s head that resulted in a turnover. They went three-and-out on their second drive, were intercepted on the third drive and had another snap go over the quarterback’s head for a safety on the fourth drive.
Staples led 37-0 at halftime and coasted through a second half that featured a running clock. Stamford’s best chance to score came late in the game when defensive lineman Axel Aguilar Rodriguez stripped the Staples running back near the goal line and nearly returned the ball the length of the field but ran out of gas. Staples’ Ryan Thompson came up with an interception on the ensuing drive.
Adam Petro hauled in the first two touchdowns from Saltus while Mark Didio and Dylan Ward had the others.
Staples (7-2) received votes in the latest state poll. It doesn’t have the resume of Greenwich (8-0), but its only losses are to No. 1 Darien and No. 5 St. Joseph.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jack Saltus. Staples’ offense has great depth at the quarterback position.
“Obviously Greenwich is one of the best teams in the state. We have our hands full,” Treglia said. “We just gotta worry about ourselves getting better. We know it’s going to be a great football game and we’re excited to play on Thanksgiving.”
Stamford closes out the season by hosting crosstown rival Westhill at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21. Staples finishes the regular season the following day with a 10 a.m. Thanksgiving game against Greenwich.
STAPLES 37, STAMFORD 0
STAMFORD 0 0 0 0 — 0
STAPLES 16 21 0 0 — 37
STAP — Adam Petro 38 pass from Jack Saltus (Bradley Cox kick)
STAP — Petro 6 pass from Saltus (Cox kick)
STAP — Tackle in end zone
STAP — Mark Didio 6 pass from Saltus (Cox kick)
STAP — Dylan Ward 4 pass from Saltus (Cox kick)
STAP — Saltus 1 run (Cox kick)