Ridgefield rolls over Central, 46-8

Last fall, the Ridgefield High football team went 10-3 and reached the state finals. Meanwhile, Bridgeport Central won just two of 10 games and didn't come close to a playoff berth.

On Friday night at Tiger Hollow, David had no chance against Goliath.

Dominating all facets, Ridgefield walloped Central, 46-8, for its second consecutive blowout victory. A week ago, the Tigers routed host Stamford, 49-0.

Ridgefield is now 2-1 heading into its bye week. The Tigers return to play unbeaten Staples on Oct. 6 in Westport.

After tying a school record with six touchdown passes against Stamford, Ridgefield senior quarterback Greg Gatto added four more scoring tosses in Friday night's game.

For a few minutes, Central looked competitive. The Hilltoppers received the opening kickoff and were able to get two first downs, mainly by running the ball. But Central’s rushing attack was eventually stopped by the swarming Tigers defense, and a Jason Donovan sack on third and eight led to the first of Central’s many punts.

Following a short kick, Ridgefield started on the 50-yard line and moved to the Central 36 after two penalties on the visitors. From there, Gatto found senior wideout Jimmy Kulik with a slick pass on a crossing route up the middle for a 14-yard gain.

On the next play, Gatto hit a wide-open Kulik with a perfect over-the-shoulder pass to the right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. Harry Woodger's extra point gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 6:18 left in the first quarter.

The Ridgefield defense, which welcomed the return of shutdown cornerback Luke Gaydos (a senior captain), held Central to a three-and-out on its next possession. "It felt great to be out there with my teammates today," said Gaydos, who had been sidelined with a back injury. "Right now, we have a very talented and experienced defense that I'm excited to be a part of again."

Another short punt had Ridgefield starting on Central’s 34-yard line. But after two nice runs by Ben Seward for a first down, Gatto was sacked on third down and the Tigers settled for Woodger's 25-yard field goal and a 10-0 advantage.

The ensuing Central drive lasted for only three plays and ended with an interception by sophomore Alex Hanna, who deftly held onto a low pass for his second pick in two games.

Starting again with excellent field position at the Central 32-yard line, Ridgefield was unable to get into the end zone, and Woodger added a 35-yard field goal with 15.3 seconds left in the first quarter to make the score 13-0.

Central’s next possession was over early, as Donovan, a senior defensive end, jumped, tipped, and then intercepted a pass on the 13-yard line and returned it to the Central three-yard line. “We're always looking for turnovers on defense, so being able to get my hands on the ball was a great feeling,” said Donovan.

But on a second and goal from the Central two-yard line, the Tigers fumbled and Central recovered on its own 14. The defense maintained its intensity, though, and a punishing sack by linebacker Alex Cali pushed Central back to the nine-yard line. Heavy pressure on second and 15 by linebacker Connor Goff led Central to elect to punt on third down.

The Tigers started on Central’s 45-yard line, and after a run by sophomore Max Bornstein and a tactful Gatto pass to Jackson Mitchell for 12 yards, Gatto fired a bullet to wideout Matt Lombardo, who took it to the house for a 34-yard touchdown. With 8:44 left in the second quarter, the Tigers were up 20-0.

Led by linebackers Noah Isaacson, Goff, and Cali, Ridgefield forced another three-and-out by placing tremendous pressure on the embattled Central quarterback.

After a second Ridgefield fumble, Central was stopped once again and forced to punt. A high snap caused the punter to bobble the ball and he was tackled on his own 10-yard line. Seward ran for five yards before Gatto threw a tight spiral on a play-action pass to Mitchell to give Ridgefield a 26-0 lead with 2:28 left in the half.

On the ensuing kickoff, a Central player bobbled the pickup and Kurt Monahan recovered for Ridgefield at the Hilltoppers' 18-yard line. Gatto promptly hit Kulik with a high pass on the edge of the end zone for another Tiger touchdown.

“The connection that Gatto and I have was displayed today," said Kulik. "There’s definitely more to come.”

Woodger's extra point was good, and the Tigers had a 33-0 halftime lead.

Ridgefield didn’t skip a beat in the second half, driving drove down the field on its first possession and getting a four-yard touchdown run by Cali that expanded the lead to 40-0. While primarily a linebacker, Cali has been taking reps in the goal-line package during practices. "It was definitely a good feeling," said Cali. "I've always wanted to run the ball and I'm just happy the coaches gave me the opportunity."

With the Tigers ahead by 40 points, the game went to a running clock. Seward's touchdown run with 10.6 seconds left in the third quarter made it 46-0 and ended Ridgefield’s scoring for the day.

Against Ridgefield's reserves, Central scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion with 30.9 seconds left in the game.

"Defense was definitely a strength tonight," said Isaacson. "Obviously giving up [only eight] points was really good, and forcing turnovers is something we're really happy about. Loved how aggressive and fast we were, and we know we're gonna continue being one of the top defenses in the state."

Gatto, meanwhile, was already onto the next challenge. “Good to get another win and keep building our momentum as a team," he said after the game. "Right now, we're turning all our attention to preparing for Staples."