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.
”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.
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.
“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.
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