By Dave Ruden
RIDGEFIELD — It will come as humbling news to us scribes that Will Bonaparte does not pay much attention to what we write about him, or the Ridgefield High School football team.
Blogs don’t interest him. Carrying the football? That gets his heart racing.
“Every game is just another day at the office,” the Tigers’ senior running back said.
Bonaparte earned his keep Friday night, in his first extended outing since sustaining a hip pointer in the first quarter against Darien two weeks ago. Bonaparte carried the ball 26 times for 165 yards and two scores, and caught a pair of passes for another 91 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown on a well-executed screen pass, as Ridgefield celebrated senior night with a decisive 44-7 win over previously unbeaten Brien McMahon.
“Every time we play is going to be the biggest game of the year, and this was an especially big game because we needed this to get into states,” Bonaparte said. “When an undefeated team comes down to the Hollow on the last Friday night game here, we want to show everyone what we can do, and we did that.”
The Tigers did so in resounding fashion. Ryan Dunn threw five touchdown passes, and the defense shut down the Senators’ ground game, save for Timmy Hinton’s 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
“This was a big win for us. Thirty-four is a special kid,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said, referring to Bonaparte by his uniform number. “Dunn went through his checkdowns. He’s not a big guy out there, but he plays like a big guy.”
Ridgefield was pretty much left out of the narrative of what was the most important FCIAC football game of the weekend. It was playing the part of measuring stick for the Senators (7-1), whose perfect record, according to the critics, was more the product of a weak schedule than their own talents.
But as Callahan said, “They don’t make the schedule. They went out and won seven.”
After having to listen to the negativity prior to Friday night, the Senators are going to have to turn deaf ears on what will no doubt be a higher decibel level in the days ahead.
“We got our butts whipped, no doubt about it,” McMahon coach A.J. Albano said. “We knew we had to play A-plus ball to beat them, and we did not play A-plus ball. I said to the kids if we’re lucky, maybe we get another shot at them.”
The Senators are going to have to regroup quickly, with St. Joseph, looking to earn its first trip to the FCIAC championship game, coming to town next Friday night.
This was a statement game for the Tigers, a quality win after losses to St. Joseph and Darien.
No one was looking forward to it more than Bonaparte, who was writhing in pain on the sideline in Darien after his injury.
Bonaparte wanted his normal workload in last week’s win over Norwalk, but Callahan refused to acquiesce.
“He was mad at me last week,” Callahan said with a smile. “I didn’t want him 80 percent for two weeks. I wanted him 85 percent last week and 100 percent this week.”
Bonaparte has a nasty duality about him. He can slither like a snake, creating running room when none is apparent, or he can bull over defenders. He spent a lot of time doing both against the Senators.
Bonaparte would be content getting the ball on every play, not because he is selfish, but because that is what every good running back wants.
Bonaparte was not complaining Friday night. The Tigers were back to being a major player in the state playoff race, and he was a big reason why.
The newspapers and blogs will be filled with his exploits this weekend, but don’t expect him to read any of them.
Bonaparte has a game against Wilton to get ready for Friday night.