Slow start no problem as Ridgefield crushes Central, 51-0

As the Ridgefield High football team struggled during its initial possession Saturday afternoon — quarterback Owen Matthews was sacked on first down and had to evade the same fate on third and eight — offensive coordinator Jamie Reed shouted the word "execute" in frustration from the sidelines.

His message got through.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Ridgefield erupted for seven touchdowns and a field goal in a 51-0 devouring of Bridgeport Central at Tiger Hollow.

The victory was the second straight for Ridgefield, which is now 2-1 heading into Friday night's showdown with unbeaten Staples at Tiger Hollow.

Matthews threw for two touchdowns and was aided by a lethal run game led by Ben Seward, Jack Englert and Dan Moroney.

With one of Matthews' top targets, senior receiver Evan Wein, out with an injury, the Ridgefield offense started slowly. But the Tigers were able to move the ball near the end of the opening 12 minutes, leading to Sebastian Gasparo's 32-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.

On Central's ensuing drive, Moroney sacked Central quarterback Devin Allen and forced a fumble. Defensive end Jackson Mitchell scooped up the ball and ran roughly 20 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Tigers' lead to 10-0.

From that point on, the Ridgefield fans were treated to the same offense-by-committee style featured in last week's 42-12 win over Stamford.

Following a quick three-and-out by the Hilltoppers, Ridgefield took over just outside the Central red zone. Matthews promptly connected with wide receiver Gianni Gorham on a 24-yard touchdown pass, and Gasparo added the extra point to make it 17-0.

The defense then set up another score, as linebacker Kurt Monahan forced a fumble that Seward recovered at Central's eight-yard line. On the next play, Seward ran for a touchdown, increasing Ridgefield's lead to 24-0 just five minutes into the second quarter.

The Tigers' fourth and final touchdown of the half came on a drive that began at Ridgefield's own 25-yard line with about two and a half minutes left. Seward accounted for 35 yards on four carries, leading to Matthews' 11-yard touchdown pass to Brian Showstead with under 25 seconds before halftime. Gasparo's fourth extra point put the Tigers ahead 31-0 at the break.

“Coming into his junior year, to be the starting quarterback is a big responsibility," said Ridgefield head coach Kevin Callahan about Matthews. "He’s worked very hard. I really feel he is in a good direction — he’s just getting better week to week.”

Ridgefield's three second-half touchdowns came on the ground. Three minutes into the third quarter, a 41-yard pass from Matthews to Connor Riebling set up Moroney's two-yard touchdown run.

Central's best scoring chance came near the end of the third quarter when it reached the Ridgefield 30-yard line. But on a fourth-and-two play, the Ridgefield defense collectively forced a fumble that Monahan recovered and returned 55 yards.

On first down from the Central 13-yard line, Seward took a handoff and ran for his second touchdown of the game.

The Tigers' final score came from sophomore running back Jack Englert, who sprinted 39 yards for a touchdown with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Following two straight routs, Ridgefield will get an uptick in competition in Friday night's game against Staples (3-0) at Tiger Hollow. Having Wein back in the lineup at receiver and defensive back would be a help.

"He’s a playmaker," said Callahan about Wein. "Staples is a big game, so now for me it’s the judgement [of] is he healthy enough to come back and be productive.”