NORWALK— Throughout the entire high school football preseason, the coaching staffs at Wilton and Brien McMahon were touting their respective defenses.
Both units came as advertised on Friday at McMahon’s Casagrande Field as just three offensive points were scored all night.
In the end, though, Wilton’s Tyler Previte scooped up a fumble and returned it eight yards for a score, to go with Max Colburn’s 27-yard field goal, as the Warriors opened the season with a 9-0 win over the host Senators.
It was Wilton’s second consecutive shutout, following last year’s 42-0 victory over Trinity Catholic on Thanksgiving Day.
“Let me tell you something,” first-year Wilton coach EJ DiNunzio said. “I have to give all the credit to my coaching staff. They had us prepared. It’s a bunch of seniors out there who didn’t allow them to get first downs, or even let them get to the 50. They did a great job.”
In fact, Wilton held McMahon to just two first downs in the entire game — one of which came on an offsides penalty on fourth down.
— John Nash (@NikonNash) September 7, 2018
The Warriors held the Senators to just 38 total yards — 21 through the air and just 17 on the ground. Only once did McMahon get the ball into Wilton territory, advancing it to the Warriors’ 48.
“The defensive unit has been playing together since the third grade,” Wilton senior captain and defensive back Dean DiNanno said. “Every single one of us, we’re a band or brothers and family. We just took it to them. We may not be the biggest, or the fastest, but we’ve got the biggest heart.”
It was Previte who came up with the biggest play of the game for Wilton’s defense, too.
On a second-and-six from the McMahon 14-yard line, Senators quarterback Jeff Coulter rolled out on a shovel pass that was broken due to an unblocked defender.
While being brought down by a pair of Wilton defenders, Coulter fumbled and the ball was scooped up by Previte who raced in for the score.
“I saw two of our guys flying off the ball and they grabbed the quarterback and the ball was on the ground,” Previte said. “I scooped it up and ran it in. I just wanted to get it into the end zone. Our defense kept us in the game, so it’s only right we scored the only touchdown, too.”
McMahon’ Mike Macari blocked the PAT, leaving the score at 9-0 with a little more than a quarter to play.
In the first half, it was Previte coming up with a big play on offense, too, to get Wilton on the board. Late in the first half, Previte broke off a 32-yard run to get the ball down to the McMahon 6-yard line.
The Warriors weren’t able to punch the ball in, but Max Colburn kicked a 27-yard field goal from the right hash to give Wilton a 3-0 lead at halftime.
The Warriors were held to 145 total yards by McMahon. Previte (7 carries) and Kyle Phillips (11 carries) each had 50 yards rushing.
Those numbers left McMahon coach Jeff Queiroga pleased with his defense.
“It’s tough to give up just three points on a broken plan and lose the game,” Queiroga said. “Defensively, I’m very proud. We had a great game plan. We have eight returning starters on defense and I knew they’d keep us in the game.”
An unlucky break cost McMahon on the opening play. After Wilton received the opening kickoff, the Warriors looked to throw the ball deep.
As Warriors quarterback Drew Philips reared back to throw, he was hit from behind by a Senators defender and the ball fell to the earth.
Another McMahon player scooped the ball and was ready to race toward the end zone until a whistle blew the play dead.
“Listen, obviously, that’s a big play. It would have given us some huge momentum,” Queiroga said. “They didn’t make the call. What can you do? I asked (the referee) about it at halftime and he said he thought he was throwing. We’ll watch the film and see if he was right.”
Following the last play of the game, Wilton’s Kyle Phillips gave the game ball to DiNunzio, for his first varsity win in more than 20 years.
“I told the kids, you know what, you deserve to go out there and get the win for yourselves,” DiNunzio said. “They put in a lot of effort and it’s not about me, it’s about these kids and how hard they work. I wouldn’t trade this team for anybody out there.”
Wilton plays at Staples next Friday while McMahon hosts Darien.
WILTON 9, McMAHON 0
WILTON 0 3 6 0—9
McMAHON 0 0 0 0—0
W—Max Colburn 27 field goal
W—Tyler Previte 8 yard fumble return (kick blocked)