Jesuits embrace state playoff challenge

The Fairfield Prep football team has taken it one game at a time to advance to the Class LL state semifinals, where on Saturday coach Tom Shea’s No 7 seeded Jesuits (10-2) will have the task of defeating No. 5 West Haven (10-2) for the second time this season.
Prep defeated West Haven, 29-20, on Thanksgiving Day to earn a berth in the playoffs. The SCC rivals will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday at Trumbull High with a spot in the finals on the line.
To gain the semis, Colton Smith ran for 266 yards on 22 carries and four touchdowns to lead Prep to a 33-23 road victory over No. 2 Glastonbury High in a state quarterfinal round on Dec. 3.
West Haven was a 51-26 winner over No. 3 Hall of West Hartford.
Brett Stevenson gave Prep a 6-0 lead when he intercepted a pass from Glastonbury quarterback Jalen Ollie and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown on the Tomahawks’ second play from scrimmage.
Henry Healy hit the PAT to make it 7-0 just 11:07 into the game, played in front of a packed house.
Things didn’t get any better for Glastonbury (10-2), winners of 10 straight games, when Anthony Palazzolo stripped Ollie of the ball and Nick Crowle recovered on the Hawks’ 46.
Crowle, who had 78 yards on 18 carries, ran multiple times to the 21 before Smith went the distance for a 13-0 lead with 7:27 still to play in the first period.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole and we were trying to dig out of it the entire game,” Glastonbury head coach Scott Daniels said. “Hats off to them, they made the plays.”
Glastonbury put up a 33-yard field goal by Nick Hobart to make it 13-3 at the 4:32 mark of the opening stanza.
After Tim Falvey ran 11 yards to move the chains, Smith ran a quarterback draw to the middle. He cut outside to the left to set wide receiver Brendan Beiser up for a stalk block, and then sailed 47 yards for a 19-3 lead after one.
Ollie, who completed 23-of-42 passes for 376 yards to finish with 2,977 on the season, hit Ethan Ericson with a four-yard scoring pass, and the PAT made it a 19-10 game with 4:42 remaining in the first half.
The score stood up, and Prep took possession to start the third quarter.
Smith ran for 50 yards, Crowle for six, and then Smith kept the ball for a 7-yard score.
Healy’s conversion kick boosted the lead to 26-10 only 1:30 into the second half.
Ollie hooked up with Ericson for a 61-yard touchdown, and after a Prep punt, the Tomahawks went 80 yards in seven plays to pull within 26-22 on Ollie’s one-yard toss to Anthony Anismov with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
Smith came to the rescue here, with a dazzling 77-yard run to pay dirt on the Jesuits’ next play from scrimmage.
“When Colton makes plays like that he turns games around,” Shea said. “He’s a magician. He keeps plays alive with his feet and when he extends plays he’s dangerous.”
Daniels agreed:
“We knew what Smith had done and we looked to stop him. He’s a dynamic kid and makes plays with his legs like our guy (Ollie) makes with his arm.”
The 33-23 lead with 3:15 still to play in the third quarter held up.
Tony Fox, a two-way standout, said the o-line knows what is expected of them.
“If we can give them an opening, our backs are fast and strong enough to make plays,” said the 6-2, 254-pound senior guard. “Their defense was great, and they sent their backers on blitzes.
“That’s a gamble. You can win big or if you bet wrong, you can lose big.”
Fox was joined up front at guard by Palazzolo, A.J. Mansolillo and Will Lasher, with Brendan Sullivan at center and Michael Ruther, Connor Roche and Stephen Kormutik at tackle.
“Defensively (at nose guard), we did a better job holding our lanes and not giving Ollie as much room to hurt us,” Fox said.

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