STRATFORD—New Bunnell football coach Ty Jenkins was so excited in anticipation of his first game with the Bulldogs that he said he couldn’t eat or sleep for two days before Friday’s contest against Barlow.
He’ll have to wait another week for his first win as the Falcons gashed the Bulldogs with a punishing ground attack en route to a 42-20 victory.
Barlow spoiled Bunnell’s dedication as the school remained its field in honor of former coach Bob Mastroni, who led the program for 24 years from 1977-2000, posting a 152-90-3 record while winning four conference championships.
Mastroni, a beloved member of the Bunnell family, also conducted the pre-game coin toss.
On Friday, Jenkins saw his team give up 371 yards of total offense, all on the ground. The Falcons attempted only two passes and didn’t complete either of them.
Since Barlow was in control, there was no need for Falcons to throw more.
While the Falcons hurt Bunnell with sweeps to the right and also runs up the middle, the Bulldogs were severely short-handed.
During the week, they lost several players, including C.J. Newton, their 300-pound tackle, forcing Jenkins to start a number of sophomores. Newton is expected to return next week at New Milford.
Jenkins did not want to get into specifics as to why the players were missing, only saying there were “some unfortunate events that occurred.”
The Bulldogs already knew there were going to be without linebacker James Sakvo, their leading tackler a year ago, who is expected to be sidelined for another few weeks with a broken wrist.
”That’s not in my control and I refuse to let my team or my coaches and myself make any excuses for them,” Jenkins said of the absences.
On offense, the Bulldogs also suffered a blow as senior quarterback Brian Carrafiello, a two-year starter, was declared ineligible, according to athletic director Wayne Thrall.
Junior Dylan Vancho made his first career varsity start and generated two scores with a pair of electrifying plays, a 65-yard TD pass to Tyler Staggs in the first quarter and a 75-yard TD strike to Tyreek Smith in the third period.
After Bunnell opened the game with a three-and-out, the Bulldogs were in position to get a stop, but Barlow quarterback Brett Hugo ripped off a 45-yard TD run straight up the middle on fourth-and-3, a play that set the tone for the evening.
Vancho and Staggs hooked up on the next play, resulting in two touchdowns in 13 seconds.
However, the Falcons answered with a 12-play, 55-yard drive to take a 14-6 lead on Hugo’s 5-yard TD run with 57 seconds left in the first half.
”I believe in my heart of hearts that when we’re at full strength that doesn’t happen,” Jenkins said. of the Falcons’ dominant running game. “I believe we have one of the best defensive lineman in the state in C.J. Newton and when he’s with us we’re a different team. I have no concerns with myself or my staff to make sure that the run is taken care of.”
It appeared that the Falcons were going to make it three scores in as many possessions, but the Bulldogs got a break when Jovan Eggleston recovered a fumbled snap at the Bunnell 12.
However, in the final minute of the first half, Aldan Gale returned an interception to the Bunnell 3-yard line and James Porter scored on the next play to give the Falcons a 21-6 lead at the intermission.
Barlow continued to pound the ball after the break, scoring TDs on its first three possessions to break the game open, increasing its lead to 42-12 midway through the fourth quarter.
Hugo paced the Falcons’ ground attack with 117 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Gale added 68 yards on eight carries while Porter also scored three touchdowns.
Vancho showed promise for the Bulldogs, passing for 185 yards.
”I could not have asked any more from him,” Jenkins said. “He did what he needed to do. We missed some key throws but that comes with experience. We’re a young team. We had about five sophomores out there tonight and we’re going to grow from this, for sure.”
Backup Angelo Ferranti accounted for Bunnell’s last score with a 14-yard TD pass to Staggs in the final minute following a turnover.
Next Friday, Bunnell travels to North Haven. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.
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