Junior quarterback Luke Shannon is pursued by East Hartford’s Jamyron McCray Santana as he runs for a first down in the second quarter at GHS last Thursday. Shannon ran for a team-high 124 yards as the Guardians won 26-8.
Sometimes football is a simple game that is decided by the team that can control the ball and tackle better.
And, of course, it helps if you can outscore your opponent.
Glastonbury High School’s football team checked off all of those boxes in the team’s home opener, using a methodical offense and a smothering defense to deal neighboring East Hartford a 26-8 defeat last Thursday.
Playing on a picturesque night at GHS, Glastonbury dominated time of possession and forced four turnovers against a Hornets team that was averaging 45 points per game over the first three weeks.
Head coach Eric Hennessy was impressed with his team’s ability to tackle, particularly in the open field.
“That’s been an emphasis since game one,” said Hennessy, whose team improved to 2-2 this fall. “We’ve been focused on that all year — we’re so young and tackling is something that you need to get reps in.”
Making his home debut behind center, junior quarterback Luke Shannon powered a potent rushing attack that amassed 228 yards on the ground and used lengthy, sustained drives to keep East Hartford’s quick strike offense on the sidelines.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Shannon, who ran for a team-high 124 yards on 15 carries. “They couldn't stop us and we figured that out early.”
East Hartford delivered the first blow when quarterback Drayvn Roberts extended a play, scrambling around for nearly eight seconds before connecting with Isaiah Tripp for a 46-yard touchdown. Roberts ran in the two-point conversion, giving
the Hornets an 8-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
Then, for the final three and a half quarters, the Guardians completely dominated all three phases of the game.
Mason Damato’s 20-yard kick return setup Glastonbury at midfield before Shannon and sophomore running back Josh Smith went to work, trading runs on an eight-play drive that culminated with a six-yard touchdown blast from Smith.
On the ensuing possession Cam Combs broke up a third down pass, which Luke Lavery intercepted off the deflection.
Two plays later, Shannon scored on a 50-yard quarterback keeper through the heart of the Hornets defense, giving the Guardians the lead for good at 14-8 with 11:06 to play in the first half.
After throwing only one interception in three games, Roberts was picked three times by the Guardians — two courtesy of Lavery and the other from Combs.
Sophomore middle linebacker Nick Filiault said that the team aimed to be more physical than the Hornets, who had scored 19 touchdowns over their first three games of the season.
“Our inside blitzes were working,” added Filiault. “We beat them with speed on the inside and got them to bounce out a lot, which was one of our goals.”
Shannon, a team captain that also play defensive back, said the Guardians spent extra time in the film room in preparation for East Hartford’s wide-open offense.
“We knew they were a big play team, but we took them out of their game,” added Shannon.
Following Lavery’s second interception, Smith took it across the goal line from four yards out to give the home team a comfortable 23-8 lead with 4:36 to play in the third quarter.
Along with winning the battle offensively and defensively, the Guardians also had a significant edge on special teams.
On the first drive of the second half, Hennessy reached into his bag of tricks and faked a punt as Shannon, who also serves as the team’s punter, took the snap and rolled to his right before connecting with Lavery for a 27-yard gain to extend the drive.
Shannon then had a 12-yard run to set up a 29-yard field goal from senior kicker Anthony Lacaprucia, providing the Guardians a two-score advantage.
The Guardians also forced a fumble on a kickoff, which junior Tanner Thomas recovered to set up a 26-yard field goal from Lacaprucia. Lacaprucia connected on both of field goals attempts and nailed two extra-points, also showcasing a booming leg on kickoffs.
A 13-play drive, which milked nearly eight minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter, iced the game.
Hennessy compared the contract in offensive style between the two teams to “fois gras” and “boiled meat.”
“We are boiled meat,” Hennessy clarified. “We want to put our hand in the dirt and eat the clock up and lean on people.”
Since losing the season opener to Danbury, the win over the East Hartford was the Guardians second victory in three games.
“We’re 100% different,” Hennessy said of the team now compared to early last month. “We’re not making nearly as many mistakes, they are playing more physical, and they are seeing the game a lot faster.”
Hennessy added that it was nice to play a home game after starting with three straight on the road. The early-season road trip included a miraculous 14-13 win over Middletown in week two when Combs stripped and returned a fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, setting up a game-winning two-point conversion run from Shannon.
Filiault, who was a freshman a season ago when the team won nine games (including a win over West Haven in the playoffs), said the team has been forced to grow up quickly after losing over two dozen seniors to graduation.
“Practice by practice we’ve gotten 1% better and every game we get better,” added Filiault. “We can’t use having no experience as excuse anymore because we’ve all been playing.”
Shannon added, “We had huge shoes to fill and I think we’ve finally grown into those shoes.”
The Guardians face another tough test on Friday, Oct. 6 when they welcome conference powerhouse Maloney to GHS for a 6 p.m. kick.
A year ago, the Guardians knocked the Spartans from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 28-21 overtime victory in Meriden.
Hennessy said he wants to continue to see “growth” out of his team, adding, “I want to see us compete against another great football team.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin