WILTON, Conn -- The Wilton White 3rd grade football team entered the Fairfield County Football League playoffs with only two blemishes on its record a tie to Fairfield and a loss to New Canaan Black. They avenged one of them Saturday night with a 20-13 victory over Fairfield.
Wilton will meet New Canaan Black in Saturday's semifinals at Wilton High School at 5:30 p.m. NC Black won their regular-season meeting back on Sept. 4, 15-12.
Wiltons interior defensive players Matt Gulbin, Michael Coffey, Henry Sell and Blake Pagano-Walley set the tone early and stuffed the Fairfield ball carriers on successive plays. On the games first third down, defensive end Austin Cameron put a punishing hit on the Fairfield quarterback for a loss. The Wilton offense took the field next and tried to throw the Fairfield defense off their game with the speed running back combination of Sean Sullivan and Blake Pagano-Walley. Nice blocking by Henry Sell, Jason Bivona and Jack Fielden helped push the ball into Fairfield territory, but ultimately the drive stalled.
After the Wilton defense forced another three and out, the White offense started to assert itself. A nice series of runs by Pagano-Walley, behind the strong offensive line of Charlie Hastings, Jake Eagan, Austin Cameron, Joshua White, Matt Gulbin, Henry Sell and Michael Coffey, had the Wilton team down to the Fairfield four yard line. A quarterback sneak by Everett Andersen behind his hard-nosed center, Hastings, put the White team up 6 0.
With 7 minutes left in the second quarter, Wilton struck again. Running back Blake Pagano-Walley found a hole in the left side of the line. Lineman Henry Sell crushed his defender, freeing Pagano-Walley for a 16 yard touchdown (Click on this video weblink to see this play). Quarterback Andersen made the two point conversion successful on a nifty sweep to that same left side, making the score Wilton 14, Fairfield 0.
Fairfield did not fold, however, and opened up their offensive playbook with several successful pass plays. Ultimately scoring and converting the PAT to make the score 14-7 with just over one minute left in the first half. Wiltons offense turned the ball over on an interception. Fairfield barreled in for another score just before halftime. Wiltons vaunted defense was reeling for the first time in weeks.
With the score 14-13, Fairfield elected to go for a 2-point conversion. With lead blockers seemingly clearing a path to the end zone, Fairfields running back was about to cross the goal line when Wilton linebacker Davis Cote shot the gap and knocked the ball carrier out of bounds.
In the second half, Wiltons offense moved the ball down the field on several possessions only to be stymied by three uncharacteristic fumbles. The Wilton defense regained its composure and stuffed the Fairfield attack time after time. Linebacker Michael Gruseke made key plays as did cornerbacks Spencer Dean, Daniel Gruseke and Alex Smith. Several Wilton defenders made outstanding stops to squash Fairfield drives. One drive was stopped when defensive end Joshua White took down the running back for a loss on third down. Another drive was stopped when defensive guard Michael Coffey shed his blocker and sacked the Fairfield quarterback on a third down attempt. On the next Fairfield possession, cornerback Luke ONeill saved a touchdown with a huge hit as the running back broke into the Wilton secondary (Click on this video weblink to see this play).
With four minutes left in the game, Wilton running back Pagano-Walley followed a key block by Connor Healey and went for 45 yards, deep in Fairfield territory. On the next play, Pagano-Walley found a hole created by Jason Bivona for another touchdown. The PAT failed, leaving the score Wilton 20, Fairfield 13.
With 1:40 left, it was left to the Wilton defense to preserve the lead. After allowing a first down on a well-designed pass play by Fairfield, Wiltons defensive line stiffened. Michael Coffey and Sean Sullivan combined on a hit at the line of scrimmage. On second down, cornerback Daniel Gruseke and linebacker Logan Brady combined to break up a pass attempt. A third down sweep was shut down by almost the entire defensive line, led by end Joshua White. And on fourth down, with 43 seconds remaining in the game, defensive tackle Matt Gulbin broke through the Fairfield line and sealed the win with a crushing sack of the quarterback.
Wiltons victory gives it a chance to avenge its lone loss. The entire Fairfield County Football League playoff grid can be seen by clicking on this weblink.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.