Pictured: Old Saybrook/Westbrook coach Mike Marone spends the break revving up the Rams for the second half.
By Marc Silvestrini
OLD SAYBROOK — At its core, football is really a simple game.
The Rams of Old Saybrook/Westbrook were having all sorts of trouble running the ball throughout a scoreless opening quarter Saturday against Haddam-Killingworth’s stout interior defense.
So, Rams coach Mike Marone changed things up at the start of the second quarter by employing an assortment of sweeps and pitches designed to attack the Cougars’ outer flanks. He also asked senior quarterback Jack McDowell to throw the ball a bit more often.
Thanks to their new approach on offense and a pair of Cougar mistakes in the punting game, the Rams proceeded to score three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-0 halftime lead on the way to a 27-6 Pequot Conference win.
“H-K has a pretty good defense and we had trouble running the ball between the tackles on them,” Marone admitted after the final whistle. “But fortunately, we were able to get out on the corners.
“We were also able to catch the football today,” he added. “We have a saying around here that I’ve been using as long as I’ve been coaching: ‘The difference between catching the football and dropping it is the same as the difference between winning and losing.'”
The win ups OSW’s record to 1-2 on the year while the young and banged-up Cougars, who lost their top five running backs and were forced to give two freshman ballcarriers extensive playing time Saturday, fell to 0-3.
“We still think we’re a good football team,” H-K coach Mike Baklik said. “We’re 0-3 now, but our kids still think we’re every bit as good as the three teams who beat us. We just haven’t proved it yet.
“It’s not enough to just think you’re as good as the other team. You actually have to prove it by going out and winning the game.”
The Rams took advantage of an H-K mistake late in the opening quarter to break the scoreless tie. Punter Trey Callender dropped a snap from punt formation, picked up the ball and was immediately tackled by McDowell and Cooper Pavlovich, giving the Rams the ball at the H-K 23.
Two plays later McDowell hit Anthony Glorioso on a short screen pass that Glorioso promptly turned into a 24-yard scamper down the left sideline to the Cougars’ 1. McDowell concluded the drive by sneaking into the end zone and Pavlovich added the extra point to give the Rams a 7-0 lead one minute into the second quarter.
Following a short H-K series and punt, the Rams engineered the longest drive of the half, a 63-yard, nine-play march that culminated in another 1-yard sneak by McDowell, followed by another Pavlovich conversion to make it 14-0, Rams, with five minutes to play in the half.
The drive featured two big plays by running back Edward Fernandes, a 22-yard sweep and an 18-yard reception from McDowell.
After helping the Rams’ defense force another punt on H-K’s ensuing possession, Pavlovich – an interior lineman and co-captain who had an enormous day on defense with a boatload of tackles and a hand in four sacks of Cougars quarterback Alex Riccitelli – blocked Callender’s punt, giving OSW the ball at the H-K 13 with 2 minutes to play in the half.
Two plays later, a McDowell completion to Glorioso brought the ball to the Cougars’ 2, from where Will Bergeron powered into the end zone. Pavlovich’s extra point gave OSW a 21-0 lead at the half.
The Rams took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 64 yards in six plays to increase their lead to 27-0 early in the third quarter. The touchdown came on a 23-yard option pass from Fernandes to Bergeron.
H-K’s lone scoring drive of the day came late in the fourth quarter when Riccitelli led a 10-play, 62-yard march that resulted in a 1-yard scoring plunge by Andrew Inkel.
Riccitelli saved the drive by throwing a 16-yard strike to Jared Frith to convert a fourth-and-16 from the OSW 42, and then set up the touchdown by hitting Matteo Piacenti on successive nine- and eight-yard completions that moved the ball to the Rams’ 1.
Riccitelli had 55 yards passing and 28 rushing on the day, while Inkel led all Cougar runners with 31 yards on seven carries. Piacenti caught three passes for 32 yards.
Fernandes had 44 yards on seven carries for the Rams while Glorioso caught four passes for 83 yards. McDowell hit on five of his 10 passes for 121 yards and rushed for an additional 28 yards. He and Bergeron each scored a pair of touchdowns for the Rams.
Old Saybrook/Westbrook will travel to Windsor Locks for a game against Locks/Suffield/East Granby next Saturday. The Cougars travel to Winsted to play Gilbert/Northwestern next Saturday.