Bunnell football coach Ty Jenkins hopes things will be looking up over the second half of the season. (File photo by John Nash)

H.S. FOOTBALL: Bunnell gives Jenkins his first varsity coaching victory

STRATFORD—Bunnell High football coach Ty Jenkins is a young man,​ just 26, and he figures he has a long career ahead that will ​include many victories.​

​But he always will remember his first one, and it finally​ came in his seventh try as the Bulldogs used an inspired​ defense to defeat Pomperaug 18-13 Friday at Mastroni Field.​

​Nick Ochoa’s 33-yard interception return for a touchdown​ with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter turned out to be the​difference, giving the Bulldogs (1-6) an 18-7 lead.​

​It marked the second time in as many weeks Bunnell’s defense​ produced a “pick six” as Tyreek Smith returned an ​interception 100 yards in last week’s 45-14 loss to Wilton.​

​”My eyes were welling up just a little bit and it’s something I ​ will remember for the rest of my life,” said Jenkins, who ​celebrated the win while holding 4-year-old nephew Jaiden on ​his shoulders.​

​”I’m a very young head coach and this is something I plan on ​doing for a very long time. This one always will be special to ​me.”​

​On the game’s opening possession, the Panthers (1-6) gave​ Bunnell problems by opening in the single wing.​

​Pomperaug actually made it look easy, marching 60 yards in​ eight plays—all on the ground—to take a 7-0 lead on ​ quarterback Connor Brown’s 3-yard TD run 4 1/2 minutes into​ the game.​

​According to Jenkins, it was just a question of the defense ​settling down and it dominated after the first possession, setting up all three Bunnell scores.​

The Bulldogs played without linebacker Nick Demanche, who​ was sidelined with a concussion, and lost outside linebacker​ Mario Solano on the first play of the game.​

​”It was a rough start (to the season),” Ochoa said. “We started​ off with our starting quarterback (out), our starting middle ​linebacker was injured, but we kept fighting, we kept ​ practicing, and getting this first W feels great.​ It’s not the same as last year when we were 9-1, but this one​ counts just as much as last year.” ​

 ​Jovan Eggleston’s 1-yard TD plunge got the Bulldogs on the​ board with 6:12 remaining in the second quarter following a ​fumble recovery at the Panthers’ 45.​

​On the ensuing possession, Pomperaug went for it on 4th-and-4​ from the Bulldogs’ 38, but a loss of 24 yards resulted in a​ turnover on downs and gave Bunnell excellent field position at ​Pomperaug’s 38.​​

Quarterback Brian Carrafiello, a two-year starter who missed​ the first half of this season, then put the Bulldogs ahead 12​-7 at the half with two huge plays.​

​He avoided a big loss by scrambling for 10 yards on 3rd-and-20​ at the 35, then fired a dart on 4th-and-10 over the middle for a 25-yard TD​ strike to Smith with 18 seconds left in the half.​​

Playing in his second game since returning to the lineup,​ Carrafiello sparked the offense, completing 10-of-16 passes​ for 95 yards.​

“We bonded as soon as a I got this job,” Jenkins said. “Not having​ him the first five games hurt him and it hurt me to watch him​ hurt, but he never left his team alone. He was with us every​ practice. He was around. ​

​”When he got the opportunity (to return), it was a no-brainer ​to put him in there,” Jenkins added. “He is a game changer. There is a reason ​he was all-SWC last year. He is a true general on the field.”​

​For the game, the Bulldogs forced three turnovers and allowed ​ only 132 yards—and that’s after surrendering 60 on the​ opening possession.​

​With 4:51 remaining in the game, Brown pulled the Panthers ​ within 18-13 when he tossed a 25-yard TD pass on 4th-and-18 to Jacob Hartman,​ who made the catch deep in the right corner of the end zone despite being well-covered.​

​Friday’s win did not come easily and at times the Bulldogs were​ their own worst enemies.​

​They committed some critical penalties, including a holding​ call that negated Jorydan Eggleston’s 87-yard return for a​ touchdown on the second half kickoff. ​

​Following Hartman’s score, the Bulldogs fumbled at mid-field,​ a turnover that could have been devastating as it appeared ​the Panthers were regaining some momentum.​

​But Bunnell’s ended Pomperaug final possession with a flourish​ as Cameron Junes and James Savko delivered consecutive sacks​ on third and fourth downs, respectively.​

​”It was spectacular,” Ochoa said. “Our D-line finally got some​ pressure and we were able to end the game.” ​​

Instead of keeping the ball on the ground, Carrafiello​ completed a 13-yard pass to Tyler Skaggs on third-and-5 for a ​first down at Pomperaug’s 19 that allowed the Bulldogs to run ​out the clock.​

​”Offensively, we made a lot of mistakes,” Jenkins said. “We put the ball on​ the ground, but I think we showed tonight that when we are​ clicking we can be a dangerous offense. Tyreek Smith is one​ of the best players in the state.”​

​The Bulldogs will not have much time to save the win as they​ play at Newtown, the fifth-ranked team in the state, next week.​

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