HS Football Week 2: Encore! The best Week 1 stars who shined in Week 2

If Week 1 serves as a player’s introduction to the state, then Week 2 becomes “The Encore.” What do you do for a followup?

There were a bunch of players who followed up great Week 1 performances with equally great encores in Week 2. Here were six that really stood out from the crowd. Four of these guys weren’t even listed on our 25 players to watch, either.

Christian Garcia, Hartford Public — The Debut: In his first game since transferring from Bloomfield, he accounted for four touchdowns — two on fumble recoveries and one on an interception return — in Hartford Public’s 43-7 victory over Northwest Catholic. The Encore: He had an interception and returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown with 5:56 remaining, setting up Tasane Roach’s winning 2-point conversion run in the Owls’ 14-13 victory over Lewis Mills. The Owls are 2-0 for the first time in nine years.

Nick Saccu, Masuk — The Debut: Masuk’s “quarterback” (he’s more of a Swiss Army knife) ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns in Masuk’s 37-15 win at Bunnell (now 1-1) in Week 1. The Encore: Masuk defeated Stratford 58-14 with Saccu rushing for 239 yards and five touchdowns, and throwing for another two.

Leo Perreira, Hall — The Debut: The senior broke a single-game school record with six touchdowns and also ran for 171 yards on 27 carries in a 46-42 Monday night victory over East Hartford. The Encore: He followed with a 34 carry, 208-yard, four touchdown performance in a 43-27 victory over Simsbury, including the eventual winner late in the third quarter.

Soren Reif, Killingly — The Debut: With the focus all on headlining senior Jack Sharpe, Reif ran for a team-best 170 yards, had two TDs and two interceptions in a 42-14 victory over Waterford. The Encore: Wasn’t the leading rusher (Sharpe had 123), but followed with 102 yards and two scores to help Killingly beat East Lyme, 42-14.

Cam Edwards, Norwalk — The Debut: Ran for 211 yards and three touchdowns in Norwalk’s 28-20 win over Ludlowe. The Encore: Ran for 5-touchdowns (four rushing, one from 82 yards out; and one receiving) in a 46-13 victory over Warde.

Austyn Howe, Newington — The Debut: Returned a kickoff for a TD, caught two more TDs, had an an interception and three 2-point conversions as Newington outlasted Enfield, 34-24. The Encore: Followed it up by catching three TDs, running for another and converting five 2-pointers — tied  for second-best all-time for a game — in a 52-42 victory over Manchester.

Anthony Caswell, New Fairfield — The Debut: Ripped through Weston for 306 yards and five touchdowns in the Rebels’ 42-14 victory Week 1. The Encore: Brookfield had him marked, but he still managed to run for 128 yards and one touchdown, a 75-yarder. The rest of the team took advantage in a 36-10 victory.

BEST OFFENSE IS A GREAT DST

Who had and played Stafford/Somers/East Windsor or Fairfield Prep defense/special teams in their Connecticut HS football fantasy leagues? Both teams turned in two of the craziest stat lines of Week 2. But only one team managed to win.

Fairfield Prep, No. 7-ranked thanks to its victory over Hand the week before, rallied to a 20-13 victory over Hillhouse thanks to three blocked punts. Two of them produced back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter to give Fairfield Prep its first lead before the offense finally came through with the winning 47-yard TD catch by Tim Pearson in the fourth quarter.

Stafford/Somers/East Windsor had an equally ridiculous statline at home vs. Granby/Canton, but wasn’t as fortunate in a 20-19 loss at home. The Bulldogs returned three Granby/Canton turnovers for touchdowns — two by Logan Briggs, who had an interception return TD and a fumble-recovery TD. 

In fact, this game featured three-consecutive interception return touchdowns: Luke Maher’s 12-yard pick-6 for Granby/Canton; Briggs’ 20-yard pick-6 for SSEW and, finally, Timmy Dickinson’s 50-yard interception TD to end the first half with Granby up 14-13.

Briggs’ 45-yard fumble return pulled Stafford within 20-19 in the fourth, but the Bulldogs’ try at a winning 2-point conversion run failed.

Killingly racked up the DST points in its 42-14 victory over East Lyme with Ben Jax’s 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. Noah Colangelo recovered a muffed punt attempt. Terrance Allen blocked a field goal that Trevin Russ ran 74 yards back for a touchdown.

Finally, Camryan Winder could have been his own personal DST.  The Senior had a pair of blocked punts, an 81-yard interception return and even broke up West Haven’s last-ditch 4th-down pass in overtime to win it, 13-6. It was Hamden’s first victory over West Haven since 2009, and the first under coach and athletic director Tom Dyer.

GAME OF INCHES

Woodstock Academy has been an ECC punchline throughout its 15 years as a football program. Despite being among the largest three or four schools in the conference, the Class L Centaurs came into the 2021 season having won just five of 71 games all-time against ECC schools.

But maybe this year is different. The Centaurs took out Windham 40-27 in the season opener and followed that up with an excruciating, 21-20 loss to Norwich Free Academy on Saturday, 21-20. 

Senior quarterback Ethan Davis threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another as Woodstock led the entire game. But NFA rallied from a 14-0 deficit. Gage Hinckeley stopped Davis’ 2-point conversion run that would have put Woodstock up a point with 46 seconds left. After Woodstock recovered the onside kick, Jordan Ribeiro blocked a last-ditch 42-yard field goal attempt to win it for NFA.

The night before, Guilford was down 13-6 to New London, but had fourth-and-goal at the 3 with seconds remaining. Quarterback Nico Messina, who’d come in for injured Tyler Higert just moments before, hit Brady Hallihan at the goal line, but he was just short of the touchdown.

On Saturday night, Ludlowe rallied from a 14-0 deficit to tie its game vs. Wilton with just minutes remaining. But the Warriors won it, 21-14, on a 2-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Grant Masterson with 10 seconds remaining.

Finally, Bristol Eastern survived RHAM, 13-7, when referees nullified an apparent RHAM touchdown as time expired. The Raptors had apparently completed a pass down to the 1-yard line with four seconds left, giving them fourth-and-goal. 

According to the Bristol Press, the home clock stopped as RHAM set up for Max Nylen to run in. While conferring on if Nylen managed to score, referees ultimately ruled the clock should have run out. Bristol Central is 2-0 for the first time since 2003.

“The referee ruled a complete pass in bounds with four seconds left, it’s impossible to clock the ball, it’s impossible,” Eastern head coach Anthony Julius told the Bristol Press. “I am fortunate that the referees got together and made the right decision. I know RHAM doesn’t feel that way and if I was on their side, I’d feel the same exact way. 

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

The balance of power in the Connecticut Technical Conference appears to have tilted strongly eastward. After years of Bullard-Havens and Abbott Tech/Immaculate dominating the scene, both programs got hammered in their first opening games of 2021.

Despite adding Kolbe Cathedral as a co-op partner, Bullard-Havens’ program saw a co-op saw its 36-game win streak against tech-school programs end with a 40-8 loss to Cheney Tech, Paul Constantini’s first game a head coach. Bullard/Kolbe fell to 0-2 with a 32-6 loss to Thames River (2-0) on Saturday. 

Former Bullard-Havens coach Chris Pace didn’t fare so great, either, in his first game as ATI coach. The Wolverines lost 42-15 to Quinebaug Valley (Ellis Tech-Putnam), which is now 2-0.

In fact, Cheney Tech, Quinebaug, Thames River (Norwich) — the three CTC programs east of the Connecticut River — and Prince Tech were a combined 8-0 against the other seven teams west of the river.

2 AND OH?

Wethersfield has started the season with wins over Platt (20-0) and Berlin (21-18). We’ll learn a lot more about the Eagles over the next four weeks: at Bristol Central, vs. Windsor, vs. Conard, at Glastonbury.
Torrington knocked off Naugatuck for the second-straight season to improve to 2-0 for the first time since starting the 2015 season with six straight wins. This is the first time Torrington has defeated Naugy in back-to-back years since winning three straight over the Greyhounds from 1982-84, according to WATR’s Christopher Saunders.
Law defeated Bassick to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2008. The Lawmen topped Guilford 34-7 in Week 1.

OH? AND 2

Middletown starting 0-2 with losses to Berlin and Platt is a little surprising. How the Blue Dragons have lost is very surprising. Coach Sal Morello had high hopes going into this season, but Middletown has been outscored 76-7, falling to Platt 43-7. Middletown, a team we’re used to seeing in the CIAC playoff discussion annually, has not started 0-2 since an 0-8 start in 2009.

ALLIANCE WEEK AHEAD

Week 3 marks the first major week of the Connecticut High School Football Alliance with 30 crossover games between the SCC, SWC, ECC, FCIAC and the CCC scheduled. 

Among the more intriguing matchups are: No. 6 New Canaan (2-0) at No 9 Hand (1-1); Windsor (2-0) at No. 2 St. Joseph; No. 3 Greenwich (2-0) at Shelton (2-0); No. 8 Xavier (2-0) at Ridgefield (0-1); Staples (1-1) at Cheshire (2-0); and, of course No. 4 Newtown at No. 1 Darien, a rematch of the 2019 Class LL championship game, won by Newtown on a walk-off touchdown pass. All games are Friday night.

QUOTABLE

"Every team in the state and the ECC looks down on Woodstock football. We just gave the ECC's biggest school a great run for its money. I would hope we'd earn respect." -- Woodstock senior quarterback Ethan Davis after his team's 21-20 loss to NFA.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

1,058 — Days since Stonington’s last victory before Friday’s 60-0 victory over Griswold/Wheeler, which snapped a 14-game losing streak dating back to Oct. 26, 2018 — a 42-28 win over Waterford.

 -60 — Offensive yards by McMahon in New Canaan’s 50-0 victory on Friday night, according to New Canaan’s statistics on Digital Scout. Adding the 31 yards allowed vs. Bridgeport Central the week before, New Canaan has allowed negative-29 yards and 0 points heading into Friday’s game at Hand.