Members of the Wethersfield football team, headed by #52 senior captain Nick Guglielmo, during the National Anthem prior to the team’s home opener against Joel Barlow on Sept. 23. The Eagles fell to the visiting Falcons 34-21.
Playing at home for the first time this fall, Wethersfield High School football lost to Joel Barlow 34-21 on Sept. 23.
Both teams entered Cottone Field with identical 2-0 records, but it was the well-traveled Falcons from Redding that remained undefeated by using a finely tuned triple option to deal the Eagles their first loss of the season.
The visitors ran the ball 49 times for 349 yards and five touchdowns, winning the time of possession battle and ultimately the game.
“Give Joel Barlow a lot of credit. We kept switching up our assignments and they kept switching up what they were doing. They earned it,” said Wethersfield head coach Matt McKinnon. “We’ll use this as a wake-up call and we’ll learn from this one. I can't wait to get back at it.”
McKinnon squad looked sharp to open the game, driving nine-plays on the game’s opening possession to take a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run from quarterback Cam Righi.
All nine plays came on the ground with running back Jova’n Hill carrying the ball five times and Righi the final four.
After the initial drive, the Eagles struggled to maintain that rhythm offensively and didn't have a scoring drive over three plays the rest of the night.
“They loaded the box with eight guys and we tried throwing the ball, but it didn’t go our way. They just outplayed us,” added McKinnon
Joel Barlow used a variety of runs out of the option offense, grinding our lengthy drives and breaking the occasional long run.
The Falcons struck quickly on their first possession when quarterback Danny Shaban darted around the Eagles defense before scampered 53 yards to pay dirt.
Following a Wethersfield punt, Scott Romano scored the first of three touchdowns to provide the Falcons a lead they would not relinquish.
After falling behind 21-7 on a Mason Leavitt touchdown run, Wethersfield got back into the game by scoring 14 second half points off three Joel Barlow fumbles.
Justin Nadella recovered a fumbled late in the third quarter to temporarily swing momentum back to the home team. On the ensuing play following Nadella’s recovery fumble recovery, Righi threw a flanker screen to Hill, who jetted up the right sidelines for a 44-yard score.
Christin Morales, who forced the first fumble, then recovered one of his own before filling in at quarterback and throwing a touchdown to Righi.
Righi, who is the been the team’s starter for the first three games, shifted out to wide receiver and made an acrobatic, sliding catch in the back of the end zone.
Trailing 28-21, Luke Whitaker recovered the third fumble at Wethersfield’s two yard line midway through the final quarter.
With 98 yards to go, the Eagles were not able to capitalize and were forced to punt before Romano scored the game-clincher from 40 yards out with 1:35 to play in regulation.
Romano finished with 124 rushing yards on eight carries, while Shaban churned out a game-high 132 yards on 19 carries.
Despite the loss, McKinnon likes where his team is at. The Eagles opened the season with a 21-20 win over Windsor––who entered the season as a top-ten team in the preseason polls––and then chalked up a convincing 35-0 victory at Manchester in week two.
Next up is another home game against the Golden Hurricanes (1-2) from The Hardware City this Friday Sept. 30. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“It’s just one loss, we’ll regroup,” said McKinnon. “We’ll be ready for New Britain.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin