Fitch continues to trick defenses with triple option
Dave Ruden, the affable proprietor of The Ruden Report down yon Fairfield County way, passed along a story of interest last week about high school offenses.
Samantha Pell of the Washington Post wrote about high school teams across the country that have ditched the spread offense in favor of run-heavy offenses of the past that defenses don’t see much anymore, such as the wing-T.
“You got kids that played coverage all year round and now you have to (defend the run) and so it kind of ... changes what they are doing,” Oak Hills High (Calif.) head coach Robert Kistner told Pell. “And now it’s, ‘We’re coming at you. How are you going to react?'”
Bobby Carpenter, an ESPN analyst and former NFL linebacker, told Pell, “You want to be the anomaly that no one is built to stop.”
Around these here parts, Fitch is an anomaly. Head coach Mike Ellis decided a few seasons ago he wanted to run the triple option and switched over to the flexbone offense.
The flexbone helped the Falcons go a combined 17-3 the past two seasons, including a 2017 CIAC Class L playoff berth.
The option helped Fitch keep Xavier guessing in Saturday’s 49-20 win. Five players combined to run 42 times for 377 yards and seven touchdowns.
“It tricks teams,” Fitch junior fullback James Deichler said. “For the first two seconds of the plays, the defenses are usually confused as to where the ball is. We like to take advantage of that.”
Deichler was the main beneficiary of the option on Saturday as he ran 15 times for 132 yards and four touchdowns. Like any good back, he was quick to thank his linemen — seniors Vinny Trento (left tackle) and Cameron Aldinger (right tackle), juniors Trae Johnson (left guard), Landon Huffstickler (center) and Brian Toussaint (right guard), and sophomore John Luethy (right tackle).
“They’re the guys who let me do what I do,” Deichler smiled. “I can’t thank them enough.”
The Falcons played much better offensively in Saturday’s win than they did during a 31-14 loss at Wilton (Sept. 13).
“What happened is you have the offensive line with another week under their belts really improving,” Ellis said. “And I think you have to give a lot of credit to (junior quarterback Luke) Letellier, Deichler, (senior Steve) Cantres, (senior) Lonnie (Howard), (junior) Ethan Mojica, the backfield. The timing of (the offense) was much better. We were able to get the ball on the perimeter with the pitches, and Ethan was able to break one (42-yard touchdown run). Lonnie was able to break one (an 81-yard touchdown run). That’s what breaks a team’s back.”
Deichler had touchdown runs of 35 and 59 yards.
Ellis was concerned about Xavier after watching it play Norwich Free Academy on Sept. 14. Xavier lost, 37-27, but it led with three minutes left.
“What we needed to do was try to control the clock with (long) drives and keep their defense on the field,” Ellis said. “We were able to put together some long drives that did that; ate time off the clock. And what happens is that can be frustrating to a defense if we’re running it well. We just had a good day today.”
Deichler said, “I think it genuinely does trick teams. It’s a pain in their butts, but we like being pain in the butts.”
• • • •
Norwich Free Academy coach Jason Bakoulis looked as though he’d just run a marathon after Saturday’s 41-30 win over Glastonbury. He was perspiring profusely, after running up and down the sidelines for nearly three hours in Saturday’s sunshine.
And he’d have looked considerably worse if his defense got shredded the way Glastonbury’s did at the hands of the NFA offense.
“I’m a defense guy first,” Bakoulis said with a grin.
And yet his offense earns a straight ‘A’ through two games this season. Not only has NFA eclipsed 30 points twice, but the Wildcats have done so with virtually no running game. Injuries and other factors have led to virtually no running backs available with varsity experience.
So they’ve thrown. And thrown. And thrown more.
“It’s really fun,” quarterback Austin Richards said, following his NFA-record 482 passing yards. He has more than 700 already this season.
NFA will find out more about itself Friday with a showdown at No. 7 Shelton.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Bakoulis said. “Shelton is a powerhouse program.”
• • • •
East Lyme has been carried by its defense through two weeks. That group hasn’t allowed any points yet.
The offense is more a work in progress. They had multiple opportunities to score but could only convert on three drives during Saturday night’s 17-0 win over RHAM.
“I was talking to my AD, Steve Hargis, and I was asking him if he had any more guns because we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos quipped. “We’d do some (bad) things and they would just kill us. A bad snap, or a bad pass, or a missed block.
“When we watch the film, we’re just one block away (from success). And once we get it, we’re going to be okay.”
The Vikings (2-0) drove down to the RHAM 8-yard line over 14 plays to start the game. They had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by JoJo Higgins with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
East Lyme managed just four first downs on its next four drives.
The first of two interceptions by sophomore Will Anglin gave the Vikings the ball at the Sachems’ 26 with over a minute left in the first half.
Noah Perry threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Scott Galbo to push East Lyme ahead, 10-0, with 53 seconds left in the first half.
The Vikings put together another long drive in the fourth quarter. They ran 12 plays and went 72 yards, ending in Aidan Cary’s 3-yard touchdown run with 5:05 remaining.
“We’ve got to get those penalties out of there,” senior two-way lineman Josh Morton said. “Then we just got to really work on the fundamentals of our plays and really get those blocks down and hold them to the whistle.”
• • • •
It wasn’t long after Friday’s win that Waterford coach John Strecker told reporters that scoring a decent number of points isn’t exactly new to his program.
“(Quarterback) Ryan (Bakken) threw for 15 yards shy of 2,000 last year,” he said, “it’s just that nobody noticed because we were 3-7.”
Bakken is surely getting more notice now, what with his 10 touchdown passes and 469 passing yards in two games.
Strecker also made it a point Friday to talk about the improvements on the other side of the ball as well.
Their defense made several big plays in Friday’s 62-20 win over Montville, including two sacks from Matt Sanford and another from Jackson Harshberger.
Strecker also noted, as he watched receiver Payton Sutman get interviewed on theday.com, that another member of Sutman’s family — his brother, sophomore Will Sutman — played very well on the offensive and defensive lines for the Lancers.
The 2-0 Lancers play at home Friday against Stonington.
• • • •
The last two seasons, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Cromwell/Portland, Pequot Football League rivals, have gone into overtime against each other.
In 2017, Valley won the game 34-28 to provide Cromwell its first loss of the season.
Last year, a year Valley missed the Class S playoffs by percentage points, Cromwell won 21-14, forcing five Valley turnovers. In each case it was the losing team’s first defeat of the season.
Valley (2-0) won this year’s matchup 21-0 Friday night before a packed house at Pierson Park in Cromwell.
“They beat us in overtime last year; we had played them in back-to-back overtime games,” Valley coach Tim King said. “We were pretty fired up for this.”
Valley didn't score until the final play of the first half, although the Warriors moved the ball without much of a problem up and down the field, including a 54-yard pass from Jack Cox to DiAngelo Jean-Pierre on their first play from scrimmage.
Cox was 10-for-20 for 113 yards and a TD in the first half and Anthony Rosario carried 10 times for 51 yards in the half.
"We're a work in progress on the offensive side, but we're getting better," King said. "I haven't seen our stats, but we had to have a boatload. We were moving the ball from 20 to 20."
Valley's James Marsden, who later caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Cox, got some time at quarterback in the first quarter with the Warriors on the goal line. Valley was stopped on three straight runs from the 1-yard line. Marsden also threw an option pass in the first quarter that fell incomplete.
• • • •
Stonington coach A.J. Massengale saw a few positives in a 35-7 loss to Bacon Academy on Friday.
Game experience for some of his underclassmen — 22 players on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores — made the list.
“We played a bunch of young kids,” Massengale said. “We had three freshmen playing significant time. A lot of young kids. They’re doing awesome. We’re playing them because they’re good football players.”
Massengale also liked the way junior quarterback Drew Champagne threw the ball. Champagne completed 11 of 17 passes for 102 yards. He also had an interception.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Bears (0-2), who visit Waterford (2-0) on Friday.
Their goal is to keep making progress as a team.
“I told the kids that we’ve got a lot of season left to keep improving,” Massengale said. “It’s coming.”
• • • •
Ledyard has a lot of two-way players and that doesn’t leave much time to work on things during games.
“You’re trying to scream at them as they’re getting on offense about something they did on defense,’’ Ledyard coach Clay Killingsworth said after Friday's 35-12 loss to Griswold/Wheeler.
“They’ve already forgotten about it. When you have a small team like this that’s part of it. Some of the guys never leave the field.’’
Ledyard honored the five newest members to its football hall of fame at halftime of Friday's game. Randy Atkins (Class of 1974), John Sean Patrick Lowe (1994), D.J. Berry (2004), Sam Saccomano (2009) and Jordan Kowalski (2014) were honored at Bill Mignault Field.
• • • •
The Warriors had five interceptions in Friday's win, including two by freshman DiAngelo Jean-Pierre (and one other potential pick that went just out of reach prior to his first interception).
Jean-Pierre, Jeffy Joshy and Arick Outama had first-half interceptions and Ben Conrad and Jean-Pierre added one each in the second half. Valley also recovered a fumble, accounting for six turnovers.
The Warriors play the Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton co-op this Saturday on the grass at Old Lyme High School, Valley/Old Lyme's annual game at the second of the two partner schools. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m.
• • • •
Thanks to Dave Davidson Davis (Ledyard-Griswold/Wheeler), Vickie Fulkerson (Valley Regional/Old Lyme-Cromwell/Portland), Gavin Keefe (Stonington-Bacon) and Mike DiMauro (Waterford-Montville and NFA-Glastonbury) for their contributions to this here blog.
• • • •
That's all for now. Thanks for reading. More soon.
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