The annual Thanksgiving Day game has traditionally marked the end of the season for both the Joel Barlow and Weston High football teams as well as bragging rights between the two South-West Conference rivals. Something else was also at stake in this year’s contest.
The winner would clinch a spot in the state Class M playoffs. But with the host Falcons turning the ball over on several occasions and giving their opponent good field position they did not help their chances. Weston capitalized on one and created a few of its own for a 21-14 win on Thursday, Nov. 22, and a trip to the playoffs.
Both Barlow and Weston finished with 8-2 regular-season records but Weston took the sixth seed in the eight-team playoffs with 113 power points. Barlow finished with ninth 109, two points behind eighth-seeded Montivlle.
Barlow was again without injured starting quarterback Jack Shaban who was a 1,100 rusher with 14 touchdowns on the season, which coach Rob Tynan said was a factor in this game. He did add that backup quarterback Cooper Brown did what he had to do.
The Falcons went three and out their first two possessions and Weston on its first before the first score of the game. A 13-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Hassett to Justin Schaffer made it 7-0 after the extra point with 5:06 left in the first quarter. The touchdown capped off a drive of only 24 yards due to a short punt by Barlow that went out of bounds.
Barlow answered back on its next drive as it drove 65 yards for the tying score. Runs by Billy Wilson converted a couple of third downs and moved the Falcons into the red zone, where the score came off of halfback pass. Brown pitched the ball to Alex Lockwood, who then threw to John O’Connell for the touchdown. Kicker Scott Colby added the extra point to make it 7-7 just seven seconds into the second quarter.
Ian Carman broke up a pass on third down to stop the Trojans on their next possession but Barlow netted only one yard on its next series.
Weston scored its second touchdown after starting in Joel Barlow territory again, this time from the 35. The drive ended with Schaffer scoring from three yards out on a run to make it 13-7 with 5:52 left in the first half.
“Field position really hurt us in the first half,” said Tynan. “We were stuck down our own end and we gave them a short field that was by our own doing.”
The Falcons were driving after stopping Weston at the start of the second half before fumbling. Weston then turned the ball back over when a Hassett pass was picked off by Andrew Bindelglass in the end zone. Alex Gallaer sacked Hassett twice on that drive as well. The Falcons then fumbled again.
Weston took advantage of its starting point on the Falcon 20 scored its third and final touchdown when Hassett completed a 12-yard pass to Schaffer in the back left corner of the end zone and with the two-point conversion led 21-7 with 3:01 left in the third quarter.
Starting on their own 38, the Falcons got a break with a personal foul call on Weston on a fourth and one. Brown was a help as well as he gained first downs on the ground. He found Carman for a five-yard touchdown pass with 8:28 left in the game and Colby added the extra point to make it 21-14.
The Falcons then recovered an onside kick, but were unable to move the ball and had to punt. Later it appeared that the Falcons had a chance to tie the game up when Lockwood returned a Weston punt for a touchdown, but it was nullified on a block in the back call. They failed on a fourth and 10 and then came up short on another fourth down with less than two minutes left in the game.
“I’m proud of what the kids did,” said Tynan. “It’s still a great year, they wanted to make the state playoffs, and they wanted to be the first ones to do it. You got to look at the body of work, we played hard all year, I am proud of them, if you are 8-2 you got hold your head high I think.”
It was Barlow’s best record since 1987 when it reached the championship game of the former Western Connecticut Conference. The team also set many team records for a single season, including in rushing yards (3,864), yards per game (386.4), total touchdowns (54), total points (375), points per game (37.5), point after touchdown kicks (41), punting average yards (42), punt return yards (131), single kick return yards (87) and sacks (17).