The Ridgefield High football team was upset last Friday night by Brien McMahon, 22-14, in Norwalk.
The loss ended the Tigers’ five-game winning streak and dropped their record to 5-2. It also sank Ridgefield five places, from ninth to 14th, in the Class LL state playoff point rankings with only three games remaining in the regular season. The top-eight teams at the end of the season advance to the state playoffs.
Ridgefield was thoroughly outplayed in the first half. The Tigers failed to put any points on the scoreboard in the opening 24 minutes of a game for the first time since a 30-0 shutout loss to Staples in 2009, a string of 35 contests.
The offense abandoned the run way too early and let quarterback Connor Rowe throw 36 passes. Sam Gravitte ran only four times for 22 yards, while Will Bonaparte had just nine carries for 45 yards. Rowe himself had more carries (seven) than Gravitte (who is averaging seven yards per attempt). McMahon’s defensive game plan seemed keyed to challenge Rowe, who tucked and ran when his first-receiver option wasn’t available.
McMahon scored on its second possession of the game (after Gravitte missed a 35-yard field goal attempt), moving 80 yards in 11 plays. Trev Forney did most of the damage, breaking wide for runs of 18 and 15 yards, before running an inside counter to the right, swinging it back to the middle and sprinting past the Tiger backfield for a touchdown with 1:51 left in the opening quarter. Fortunately for Ridgefield, the extra point was missed.
The Senator defense stopped Rowe on a fourth-and-three keeper at the McMahon 37 with six minutes left in the second quarter. The off-tackle play didn’t work, and McMahon’s Kyle Jordan promptly ran for 33 yards down to the Ridgefield 28.
The Senators kept feeding Jordan, who carried four more times for 27 yards, moving the ball inside Ridgefield’s 10-yard line. Quarterback Matt Downey then rolled out right and hit Matt Hargrove for a seven-yard touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the half . The extra point gave McMahon a 13-0 advantage.
On Ridgefield’s next possession, Gravitte caught a 20-yard pass that put the visitors into field goal range, but a low snap with three seconds remaining resulted in his attempt being blocked.
Ridgefield was to receive the second-half kickoff, and down by 13 points with its offense sluggish, it might have been a moment for Ryan Dunn to come off the bench and light a spark. Yet, the sophomore quarterback, who had played well in two games as a starter when Rowe was suspended, remained seated. The Tigers went three and out quickly.
The teams exchanged possessions, and after Ridgefield’s Aidan Mauro intercepted his fifth pass of the season with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Rowe hit Andrew Chuma for 35 yards and Bonaparte scored his seventh touchdown of the season on a two-yard burst. But Gravitte shanked the extra point, leaving the score at 13-6.
The Tigers regained possession, but a botched hand-off between Rowe and Gravitte led to a fumble inside Ridgefield’s 20. McMahon added a field goal to make it 16-6 at the three-minute mark.
Again, both defenses held, until Rowe fumbled and Forney rambled 38 yards into the end zone to extend the Senators’ lead to 22-6 with just two minutes remaining in the game. Ridgefield lineman Tim Cozens deflected and then intercepted McMahon’s two-point attempt.
The Tiger offense, which was in a slumber, suddenly woke up with Gravitte scoring his 14th touchdown of the season on a one-yard run through the middle after Rowe connected on six passes, three apiece to Chuma and Timo Muro, covering 66 yards. Rowe’s two-point conversion run made it 22-14.
Remarkably, despite their woes, the Tigers had a chance for the tie when Gravitte’s onside kick was recovered by Muro at McMahon’s 39-yard line. Muro caught a short pass from Rowe, then Gravitte hauled in a 21-yard reception and stepped out of bounds with the ball inside McMahon’s 15.
But four pass attempts failed, the final one when Rowe’s slightly high pass into the end zone went off a leaping Chuma’s hands.