RIDGEFIELD — Gianni Gorham had just turned a routine pass into a 61-yard gain, breaking three tackles and following two great blocks downfield. The Ridgefield football team was now just a yard away from overcoming a sudden 14-0 deficit to Staples and tying the game.
The Tigers never got those three feet. The Wreckers’ defense, led all night by Cole Brockwell and Blake Runkle, stopped a run for no gain. The next went for a four-yard loss. Then came a sack and a missed field goal.
The first two of Tim Luciano’s three touchdowns gave the Wreckers a 28-10 halftime lead and they held serve for a 35-17 win.
“There’s definitely room for improvement on our team but overall I thought our pass rush was strong and our defensive run game was strong,” Wreckers coach Phil Treglia said. “That’s what we were working on this week.”
Staples improved to 4-0 and made next Saturday’s game against Darien, the three-time defending Class LL champion, a little more interesting.
“I think we just came out strong, we had a lot of energy, we had a chip on our shoulder,” said Staples quarterback Jake Thaw, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another. “The O-Line was fantastic, Tim was able to get six, eight yards every time, holes were wide open for myself and the receivers did a good job blocking downfield.”
Thaw was asked about where the chip came from.
“A lot of people can agree we haven’t had our strongest years in recent years and we wanted to come out and prove ourselves,” Thaw said. “This is a new era, this is Staples football, this is what we do. We weren’t projected to be in that top five.”
The Wreckers certainly look like the fifth-best team in the league right now and they will have their chance to bolster those credentials next week.
For now, they were able to come to Tiger Hollow, perhaps the most difficult stadium for opposing teams in the FCIAC, and come out with an impressive win against the rebuilding Tigers.
“Our defense was strong, our front seven is strong, led by the seniors,” Treglia said. “They were really physical today trying to take away their run game and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage, which was our game plan today.
“The offense had a nice running game to it. We had some good passes as well. We were just mixing it up a little today. Our offensive line did a nice job of opening up holes for our running backs and quarterback. That made it easy for us today to run the ball.”
Treglia came to Staples after serving as the offensive coordinator at Archbishop Stepinac, the New York state champion. The Wreckers move at a quick pace when it proves beneficial, slow it down a bit at times, like a pitcher mixing up his pitches.
“This is the offense that we ran at my past places, at Stepinanc, so the boys have taken the vocabulary, the terminology and the tempo,” Treglia said. “We’re just taking what the defense is giving us. Our quarterback is playing well and he makes it easy for us to do things well because he has a lot of ability.”
Ridgefield (2-2) has been competing for state tournament berths and even titles in recent seasons, so coach Kevin Callahan can be excused if he needed a refresher course in rebuilding.
“It was such typical growing pains,” Callahan said. “I told the kids I’m not going to go stop at Home Depot on the way home and go up aisle five for a linebacker or aisle 12 for a d-back. I’ve got the right guys. They have to do a lot of growing up in a short period of time. They are going through the tough part of it.”
Owen Mathews had a nice 37-yard touchdown pass to Brian Showstead for one score and a second to star receiver Jackson Mitchell, who had another dominant game on defense.
“We are not a bad football team we just have to keep working hard to get better,” Callahan said. “Tonight they were better than us. You could see where we had the potential to make this a much more interesting game. We have to beat the teams we are better then and keep up with the teams that are better than us. We have to keep doing that right now and hopefully we will continue to mature and have a better season.”