When the members of the Staples High School football team entered the locker room at halftime Saturday, the initial mood was one of anger. The Wreckers trailed Darien, 17-7. They had run just 12 plays, as the Blue Wave were proving the best defense is a good ball-control offense. Then, following a blocked Blue Wave field goal attempt, the ball rolled off a Staples player. Darien recovered and soon scored.
It was the kind of mental mistake that make coaches livid. And that was the sentiment of Marce Petroccio, who started to rip into his players with choice words. Soon, Petroccio’s voice was drowned out by defensive coordinator Lou Socci, who erupted.
Petroccio quickly calmed the room down, and the knee-jerk reaction of anger and frustration was replaced by calm, rational thinking. Petroccio met with his offensive line and altered the blocking schemes. Then he reminded the Wreckers that despite what had happened, they were down by just 10 points.
“I tried to pick up the kids,” Petroccio said. “I told them there was still plenty of time.”
What followed was one of the most impressive outbursts in FCIAC history. Hyperbole? Consider the Wreckers scored five touchdowns in just over 13 minutes and rolled to a 42-23 victory. They did it against an unbeaten opponent, and in a snowstorm that covered the field and buried the yard markers. During that stretch, Darien did not have a first down.
Petroccio was still at a loss for words this morning, in part because he said he had still not watched the game film.
“It was exciting,” he said. “The way it happened was extremely impressive.”
There are still two weeks to go, but the way the schedule is shaping up, barring a surprise the FCIAC championship game will pit unbeaten Staples and New Canaan teams, and provide one of the most intriguing matchups in recent history.
No defense has been able to pressure New Canaan quarterback Matt Milano or slow the passing attack. Can the Wreckers?
No defense has been able to contend with the Wreckers’ speed in the backfield. Can the Rams, who have had trouble with quick teams?
Staples has Fairfield Warde and New Canaan has Stamford this week, two solid opponents they should be able to handle but cannot take for granted.
Before we start looking forward, we should take one more look in the rear-view mirror. There have been better Staples teams, but likely none that accomplished what this one did in the third quarter Saturday.
The Fab 5
1. NEW CANAAN (7-0): New Canaan continued with business-like wins, this time a 28-14 decision over Wilton. The Rams committed eight more penalties and had a pair of touchdowns called back. Will this eventually catch up with them?
2. STAPLES (6-0): Overlooked on Saturday was the Wreckers’ continued exceptional special teams play. Jon Heil blocked a kick for the second straight week. Heil, who would start for most teams but is the third back behind Joey Zelkowitz and Nick Kelly, ignited the comeback by returning the opening second-half kickoff 34 yards.
3. GREENWICH (6-1): Just wondering: if the season ends with three teams unbeaten in league play, and the Cardinals are squeezed out because of a lack of bonus points, is there going to be an outcry for a different system to determine the two conference finalists?
4. NORWALK (6-1): The Bears have a bye, then will improve to 7-1 against Fairfield Ludlowe heading into what should be a great Thanksgiving game with Brien McMahon. Win or lose, Sean Ireland gets my vote for Coach of the Year.
5. DARIEN (6-1): The Blue Wave have to be shell-shocked. They will be heavily favored against Trinity Catholic and Bassick, and then will likely be playing for a state tournament berth against New Canaan.
“86 the 50″
As first reported by the New London Day’s Ned Griffen, the CIAC is going to look at modifying or doing away with its controversial 50-point rule, which has been mocked nation-wide and is a favorite target of state sportswriters and most fans.
The football committee was supposed to meet this afternoon, and discussing changes was on the agenda. The meeting was postponed because of Saturday’s storm. No new date has been scheduled yet.
There has been discussion of using a running clock, as many states do, once a team gets ahead by a certain margin. A straw poll of several FCIAC coaches revealed mixed feelings.
Certainly that would be preferable to the current format. I’m sticking to my contention that the rule should just be repealed. You cannot legislate class, 98 percent of the coaches don’t run up scores and JV players deserve the chance to impress coaches when they get playing time late in blowouts.
You can win a game 60-0 and show proper decorum by substituting early and just running the ball. You can also win 20-0 and be unsportsmanlike, by throwing a bomb for a touchdown in the closing seconds, which I have seen happened.
This was all a really bad idea designed to hamstring former coach Jack Cochran from trying to put up 100 points on opponents.
The world is full of Cochrans. You learn to live with them. What is more embarrassing: losing 70-0 playing against subs, or watching opponents try not to score?
Just get rid of the rule.