Down early, Ridgefield adjusts to beat Warde, 21-7

Gianni Gorham runs with the ball after making a catch in Ridgefield's 21-7 win over Fairfield Warde.

Gianni Gorham runs with the ball after making a catch in Ridgefield's 21-7 win over Fairfield Warde.

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Displaying faith in its defense, the Ridgefield football team chose to kick-off after winning the opening coin toss in Friday night’s season opener against Fairfield Warde at Tiger Hollow.

That decision quickly backfired. Warde’s Ryan Janz returned the opening kickoff to Ridgefield’s 35-yard line, and six plays later the Mustangs had a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

From there, though, the Ridgefield defense redeemed itself.

Warde was held scoreless the rest of the way as the Tigers recovered for a 21-7 victory.

“I think we kind of settled down and said, ‘oh, OK, that’s what we saw on film, that’s what they do, this is how good they are in person ... let’s make the adjustment and get up to speed,’ ” Ridgefield head coach Kevin Callahan said about his defense’s response.

The Tigers tied the game on Kai Prohaszka’s one-yard touchdown run and Adam Biernat’s extra point with 49.3 seconds left in the opening quarter, and went ahead 13-7 when Owen Matthews threw a 17-yard TD pass to Owen Gaydos early in the second quarter.

Ridgefield added the only points of the second half on Gianni Gorham’s catch and run down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter. Gaydos caught a pass in the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 21-7 lead.

“I think we left some points off the scoreboard tonight,” Callahan said. “We were a step away on a lot of run plays ... and you see the timing was off on some of our pass plays. We had people running open and we couldn’t connect. Hopefully that’s something we can get better just with repetition.”

Warde’s start was promising. After Janz’s long return on the opening kickoff, quarterback Joey Gulbin connected with Jack McKenna for a 28-yard gain down to the Ridgefield 18 on a third-and-21 play. Three plays later, Gulbin hit Brett Lauterbach on a 13-yard touchdown pass, with Lauterbach making a great catch in the corner of the end zone.

Jessica Pitaniello’s extra point put the Mustangs ahead 7-0 with 9:32 left in the first quarter.

Warde moved the ball after that but couldn’t add any points. The Mustangs got down to the Ridgefield 26-yard line late in the second quarter, but Gulbin’s fourth-down pass for McKenna was broken up by cornerback Alex Hanna.

Midway through the fourth quarter, a 15-yard pass from Gulbin to McKenna gave Warde a first down at its own 45. But the Tigers forced a fumble on the next play that Daniel Furneri recovered for the hosts.

Another fumble on the kickoff return following Ridgefield’s final touchdown doomed any chance of a comeback for Warde.

Ridgefield 21, Fairfield Warde 7

Warde 7 0 0 0 - 7

Ridgefield 7 6 0 8 - 21

1st quarter:

W - Lauterbach 13-yard pass from Gulbin (Pitaniello kick)

R - Prohaszka 1-yard run (Biernat kick)

2nd quarter:

R- Gaydos 17-yard pass from Matthews (kick blocked)

3rd quarter:

No scoring

4th quarter:

R - Gorham 26-yard pass from Matthews (Gaydos pass)