WESTPORT -- The two aspects of the game that will carry the Staples High football team are running the ball and playing defense.
They were on display against Westhill as the Wreckers racked up 210 yards rushing -- with Ethan Burger accounting for 168 on 17 carries with two touchdowns -- and the defense pitched another shutout while holding the Vikings to 100 yards of total offense en route to a 34-0 victory on a picturesque Saturday afternoon on Homecoming at Staples Stadium.
"We really want to pound it down other team's throats and play old-school football," said Burger, a sophomore who was making his first start.
That's what the Wreckers did on Saturday and they took the opening kickoff and drove 56 yards on six plays, capped by a seven-yard burst into the end zone by Burger with 10:03 on the clock. Kicker Paul Tricarico, who booted 24 and 37-yard field goals, kicked the first of his four extra points to give the home team a quick 7-0 lead.
Burger had 49 yards rushing on the drive, including a 20-yard scamper on the team's first play.
"He's got an explosiveness that I can't coach," Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said of the sophomore. "He had a great day and we're happy that he's able to run behind a pretty good offensive line so he's doing very well."
Westhill, meanwhile, had slim pickings against Staples' vaunted defense that has not allowed a touchdown in 13 straight quarters (12 this year). The Vikings were forced to punt on their first five possessions.
"Their defense is unbelievable," Westhill head coach Frank Marcucio said. "We knew we would have our work cut out for us today and we weren't able to move the ball very much. I was worried about blocking up front all week and they're legit and I told the kids that to begin with."
A key sack from Ryan Connors (two sacks on the day) on third down and a false start penalty pushed the Vikings back to their 9 and the ensuing punt set up the Wreckers on the Westhill 45. Staples only need three plays from there to hit paydirt again, thanks to two runs by Burger totaling 30 yards and capped by a 15-yard TD run by Owen Burke into the middle of the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
Things didn't get off to a good start for the Wreckers on their next possession with holding and illegal motion penalties that pushed them back to their 26. Quarterback Teddy Coogan, who missed last week's game due to injury but saw some action on Saturday in place of Trevor Shearer, answered the call when he connected with Jake Melnick on a 74-yard TD strike down the middle of the field for a 21-0 lead as the quarter came to an end.
"The concern with Teddy was his shoulder," Petroccio said. "He threw a beautiful ball (to Melnick) and he said he feels great so we'll have to evaluate it and take it from there."
Tricarico connected on his first field goal from 24 yards out to increase the Wreckers' lead to 24-0 with 1:45 remaining until halftime but a nice return by Carl Gedeon, plus a late hit penalty by Staples, set the Vikings up at the Staples 27. Two straight plays yielded no yards and on third down, quarterback Frankie Marcucio Jr. was flagged for intentional grounding.
On fourth down, Marcucio's pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs (38.1) and Staples went into the locker room with a 24-0 lead.
Westhill's offensive struggles continued in the second half. The Vikings managed to string a few first downs together thanks to the rushing of Josh Exantus (22 carries, 58 yards) but they eventually were forced to punt four more times and on their fifth possession, ran out of time.
"They're lights out," Petroccio said of his defense. "They're playing so hard, that when Westhill comes out in the second half and gets a couple first downs, we're like 'what's going on?' but that's going to happen in a course of a game. They've done a tremendous job and all of the guys on the staff have made a total commitment to stopping people and we're seeing the fruits of our labor."
Petroccio praised his defensive ends, Evan Gilland (three sacks) and Will Newman, as they are match-up nightmares for offensive linemen and they put pressure on Marcucio, who finished 1 of 10 passes for five yards, thereby forcing the Vikings to run the ball.
The Wreckers effectively put the game away on their second possession of the second half when Burger burst through the line and sprinted down the left sideline for a 52-yard TD run on fourth-and-two for a 31-0 lead with 25.2 left in the third quarter.
"The line did a great job out there," Burger said. "It's great to get an explosive play like that."
Tricarico, who Petroccio called "the real deal," added a 37-yard field goal with 3:49 on the clock in the fourth to complete the scoring.