WESTPORT — Two teams looking for growth on different levels of the football chain met tonight in Westport.
Staples, looking to make the move to an elite team and possibly skate into the state playoffs in the process, got its lesson two weeks ago, pre-bye, with a 24-0 loss to Darien, which is trying to finish as the No. 1 team in the state for the fourth straight year.
“The kids were disappointed that they didn’t win but they were proud how they played,” Staples coach Phil Treglia said. “I think Darien is a great team and we played well that day. There’s just some execution that we have to work on. We did in practice and today was another example of things we have to work on and get better.”
Treglia was referring to the Wreckers’ 40-20 win over Norwalk. Quarterback Jake Thaw ran for four touchdowns and threw for another, while running back Tim Luciano rushed for 150 yards and a score.
The Bears, meanwhile, are looking to get to where the Wreckers currently sit. They broke some big plays and kept coming back when it looked like they were on the verge of a humbling loss. They were unable to match Staples’ physicality for four quarters, but it was not for lack of effort.
“I hope these are the type of games our kids during the offseason just say I am sick of this,” Norwalk coach Sean Ireland said. “They’re in the weight room and they’re not worried about anything but getting better for football. Hopefully that’s the case.”
The Wreckers are the FCIAC’s wildcard team. They started the night in the eighth and final spot for the Class LL Tournament.
They had their chance to make a statement against the Blue Wave, and played them tough for a half. But much like what happened to Norwalk tonight, the Wreckers got worn down in the second half.
“We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted,” said Dean Gendels, the Wreckers’ outstanding two-way lineman. “They’re the defending state champions and we’re just looking to get better every day. We were disappointed with the loss. It is just executing. Work on the penalties, the turnovers. Just play smarter football.”
Save for yielding several big plays, the Wreckers got back on track tonight to improve to 5-1. Thaw and Luciano did a good job with their lightning and thunder approach. Thaw scored to put Staples up 13-0 late in the first quarter.
After Khalil Eason’s short scoring run for Norwalk closed the gap to 13-6, Thaw answered with two more touchdowns, the second an athletic bob and weave from 40 yards out.
“He’s a dual threat quarterback and they’re the hardest to prepare for,” Ireland said.
Treglia gave the same analysis of his team’s offense as he has following many of their wins.
“They played well tonight and left some points on the board as well so we have to get better in practice and refine it as we move forward into the colder months and when different challenges arise,” Treglia said. “We ran the ball pretty well. We did what we’re supposed to do.”
Thaw’s touchdown pass sailed 28 yards to Kevin Rabacs, who was all by himself in the left corner of the end zone.
“Jake played unreal, our O-Line played really well,” Gendels said. “Our running game, our passing game, it all came together.”
Norwalk is now 3-3. Ireland has very few seniors on his roster. Most of his important players are coming back. Ireland hopes they will be in a situation to compete and beat the heavyweights.
Eason had a long kickoff return for a touchdown after Staples went ahead 33-6 and were on the precipice of getting a running clock for the remainder of the second half.
After the Bears recovered a fumble, Kyle Gordon threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Jake Elliott. They would not go away quietly.
“They played hard,” Ireland said. “That’s a good football team over there. They are 5-1 for a reason. They beat very good teams and they hung in with the No. 1 team in the state. We didn’t give up.”
The one game before Thanksgiving that could flip some dominoes comes in two weeks. The Wreckers, after facing Fairfield Warde, will host St. Joseph, with a chance to prove they are indeed one of the power brokers or a rung below.
“St. Joe’s is a big game but we’re just trying to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead,” Gendels said. “We definitely can compete at that level. This bye week showed tonight we’re a little bit rusty. It was nice to have a little bit of a break. We’re just looking to come back against Warde next week.”