The Bunnell football team celebrates its 43-0 Thanksgiving Day win over Stratford on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Photo by John Nash)

H.S. FOOTBALL: Bunnell blanks Stratford for Thanksgiving Day win

STRATFORD — While Ty Jenkins’ first season as Bunnell football​ coach got off to a rocky start, it certainly ended on a high ​note. ​

​The Bulldogs used a big-play offense—four touchdowns of at​ least 45 yards—and a dominating defense to blank ​winless Stratford 43-0 on Thursday morning at Penders Field in the 62nd meeting ​between the town rivals. ​

​Bunnell continued its recent success against the Red Devils​ (0-10), winning for the 12th time in the last 13 meetings to ​increase its lead to 41-21 in a series that dates in 1960.​

​Tyreek Smith set the tone on Bunnell’s third possession when​ he appeared to be trapped in the backfield on a screen pass,​ but he broke several tackles and raced 54 yards down the left ​side to make it 7-0 with 11:36 left in the first half.​​

The Bulldogs never looked back, building a 21-0 lead at the​ half before breaking open the game after intermission with​ three more scores. ​

​Bunnell won three of its last four games after starting 0-6​ to finish 3-7.​

​”I’m very happy the way we ended the season,” Smith said.​ “Winning on Thanksgiving means everything.” ​

​Jenkins believes his seniors have laid the foundation for ​ future success.

He also beat his former teammate as he and ​Stratford coach Jack Petion played together at Southern ​Connecticut.​

Bunnell’s James Savko, left, looks to avoid the tackle of Stratford’s Kaleb Lafontant during Thursday’s game at Penders FIeld. (Photo by John Nash)

​”We knew playing nine sophomores early on in the season that ​we were building for the future,” Jenkins said, “and I told the ​seniors week five this is not going the way we planned but it ​ will be built off your backs.​

​”A year (with the young players) in the weight room with me​ I think will bring us to the next level. It’s not going to ​happen overnight, but it’s something we will continue to ​ build on and I’m glad we’re in this situation because it will ​give me a chance to build what we want to build here.”​

​Bunnell’s second-half season success coincided with the return​ of quarterback Brian Carrafiello, who had a strong performance in the blustery conditions, completing 14-of-18 passes for 219​ yards and two touchdowns in his final game.​

​He also rushed for a TD, capping Bunnell’s only long scoring​ drive—63 yards on 10 plays—on a 1-yard keeper with 2:05 ​left in the second quarter.​

​While Carrafiello accounted for three TDs, James Savko scored​ two TDs, one rushing, one receiving.​

Bunnell quarterback Brian Carrafiello looks to get away from Stratford’s Aiden Petrashka during Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game at Penders Field in Stratford. (Photo by John Nash)

​Before the intermission, the defense got into the act as Nick​ Ochoa hit Stratford quarterback Michael Koda, jarring the​ ball loose. Lineman C.J. Newton, named the game’s MVP, returned​ the fumble two yards for a score at the 1:37 mark.​

​All season, the Red Devils struggled with poor numbers as they​ only had about 30 players in uniform Thursday and that included​ a number of freshmen.​

​Stratford couldn’t get anything going on​ offense, managing just 79 yards and four first downs, including​ only one until late in the third quarter.​

​The Red Devils also were hurt by poor tackling.

In the​ fourth quarter, Jovan Eggleston somehow broke free of four​ tacklers and scampered 63 yards for a TD.​​

Throughout the season, the Red Devils got worn down in the​ second half because of their limited numbers and it happened​ again Thursday.​

​”We try to put guys in the best position to make a play, but ​ obviously a lot of those big plays were tackling,” Petion said.​ “It comes down to technique, little things that we don’t do ​over the week as far as being accountable. It shows up in a ​game.”​

​The Bulldogs, who amassed 359 yards of total offense, put​ away the contest away on Savko’s 50-yard TD burst and ​Eggleston’s conversion run that made it 29-0 with 8:41 left​ in the third quarter​. ​

Bunnell two-way lineman CJ Newton, left, poses for the MVP Trophy alongside school athletic director Wayne Thrall following Thursday’s 43-0 win over Stratford. (Photo by John Nash)

“We know we missed the opportunity to make the big play​ this year, a couple steps short or an overthrown ball,”​ Jenkins said. “Today what I told them is we have nothing ​to lose. ​Let’s make the big plays and the small plays by ​individual effort and that’s what you saw. There were ​individual efforts today and that is what I’m most​ proud of.”​

​After Eggleston’s long run, Bunnell capped the scoring on ​Savko’s 45-yard TD reception from Carrafiello with three ​minutes remaining.​

​”They (Bunnell players) were okay with spreading the wealth,” ​ Jenkins added. “We talked about being selfless and with being ​selfless, everybody has to eat. Everyone needs to have a piece ​of the piece.”​

​As Stratford heads into the offseason, it seems that Petion’s​ most important mission is finding more players willing to commit ​to the program.​

​”If they’re serious about football they need to prepare,” he​ said. “There’s a lot of things involved in football. It​ doesn’t just happen from August to November or December. It’s​ a year-round thing. Accountability has been an issue​ and we hope we can get more guys to be accountable.”​

​Bunnell posted its second most-lopsided win in the series,​ topped only by a 51-0 win three years ago.​

THE PHOTO ALBUM

Bunnell at Stratford Thanksgiving Football

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