Fairfield Ludlowe’s defense did an admirable job in limiting the damage inflicted by Bridgeport Central’s speedy skill players Friday night in the Falcons’ 46-20 victory in Fairfield. Sophomore running back Marcal Loyd did not score for Central, but he outfoxed Ludlowe defenders several times with his speed and finesse. Yet Loyd was only able to bust a handful of big gainers. The Falcons’ emphasis on containment during practice made an impression, for their defense showed the tricky balance of needing to be aware of the outside threats while not over-committing or over-pursuing. When defenses jump out to contain, if they do so with abandon, the dangerous and swift receivers and rushers can read those moves, react and dart away for big gainers. That rarely happened to Ludlowe’s D. They understood their assignments and executed it as drawn up by coach Vinnie Camera and his assistants.
Handling those responsibilities well was a step in growing as a unit. Ludlowe’s defense is young and has a few two-way starters and players who rotate in on both sides of the ball, so it can be a daunting task for them to grow together. On Friday night, it was a lesson learned for the Falcons’ defense.
The Falcons were less successful stopping junior quarterback Mykel Morris. Morris eluded Ludlowe’s pass rush enough times to find senior Dominique Hancock for a pair of touchdowns. One was a 46-yarder, a catch-and-run, though the chase lasted fewer than 40 yards. The other was for 15 yards.
Hilltoppers’ coach Brian Gordon never lost faith, though his team trailed throughout, twice cutting their deficit to within a touchdown before Ludlowe’s ground-and-pound rushing attack wore down Central’s defense for more scores. A sideline pass late in the first quarter was intercepted for a Pick-6 by Cole Fetcho. That helped give Ludlowe a 7-0 lead. Morris’s 46 yard pass to Hancock was a deep pass, so Gordon and his offense were not afraid to attack.
Penalties along with turnovers — two leading to touchdowns by Ludlowe — made Central’s attempts to rally even that more difficult.
“Our biggest opponent on the field is ourselves,” Gordon said. “We’re hurting ourselves right now. We’re taking one step forward and two steps back a lot of the time.”
Twice Central was called for back-to-back penalties. In one stretch, there were three straight flags, but the third went the Hilltoppers’ way when the officials marched off yards on Ludlowe. After a Central fumble recovery in midfield, the Hilltoppers’ first play from scrimmage after the turnover was a fumble that was recovered by Ludlowe. Ouch!
“Right now we have to learn how to win,” Gordon said.
When Gordon decided to turn Morris, a running back in 2012, into a quarterback for this year, he knew the learning curve would not be seamless or without bumps. Morris offers big-strike capability, and he certainly stung the Falcons’ defense on two TDs, but there is an inexperience that can only be overcome at this pivotal position through game action and repetitions in practice.
“We’re going to live and die with Mykel as our quarterback,” Gordon said. “There are going to be some growing pains with him. But I think we have him in the right place.”