The Wilton High football team has a chance for a first in this year’s Thanksgiving rivalry game with Trinity Catholic.
If the Warriors can beat Trinity in the final game of the season Thursday morning (10 a.m. at Wilton’s Memorial Stadium), it will mark the first time that either team has won three straight games in the annual series.
A victory would also give the Warriors (5-4) their third consecutive winning season, a notable achievement under first-year head coach EJ DiNunzio as he fashions his own legacy by building on that of his predecessor, Bruce Cunningham.
Based on records, Wilton should be favored. Trinity comes into the game with only one win in its first nine games. But the Crusaders (1-8) have beaten Westhill, a team Wilton narrowly defeated in its most recent outing. Furthermore, Trinity scored 32 points against Norwalk in its most recent game. Also, few Wilton players were starters when the teams met a year ago.
And that may be the real story of the 2018 Warrior football team.
DiNunzio began his initial campaign with no proven starters on the offensive line, an injured quarterback, just two full-fledged running backs, and a group of talented but untested wide receivers. On defense, he inherited one lineman, two linebackers, and a safety. He also had to put together a kicking game that needed to replace a premier punter and placekicker.
On top of that, the injury bug has bitten his squad mercilessly. Unavailable for Thursday’s finale are two-way starters Kyle Hyzy and Drew Phillips, as well as Connor Wyman, Mike Coffey and Mike Angerame. Several other key starters — a group that includes Kyle Phillips, Dean DiNanno, Dylan Kennedy, and Tyler Previte — have missed time earlier this year.
The Warriors will go into the game with a cohesive offensive line of center Chris Ferguson, guards Matt Gulbin and Steve Kendra, and tackles Matt DiCostanzo, Matt Graham, and Griffin Morris.
Quarterback Jimmy O’Brien will have running backs Drew Herlyn, Kyle Phillips, Dean DiNanno and Previte to assist him, particularly in the ground game. Reilly Bingaman has proven himself not only a favorite at wide receiver, but also as an exceptional punt and kickoff return threat.
Defensively, Andrew Luciano has led fellow linemen Will Lundquist, Dylan Kennedy, Matt Gulbin, and DiCostanzo in stout opposition, especially against the run.
Herlyn, Previte, Graham, and Hyzy have provided a strong linebacking corps, although DiNunzio has had to make adjustments due to Hyzy’s injury. Cornerbacks Dean DiNanno and Tom Costello join Bingaman (safety) to round out what has become a solid secondary.
“Trinity is very young and very athletic,” DiNunzio said. “On offense, they like to take advantage of their speed. They like to get to the outside. Their number three (Tahjee Morgan) runs hard and runs tough out of the backfield. They have a lefty quarterback who likes to throw rolling out.
“We’ll have our hands full because they can change their offense from a spread formation to a running formation,” DiNunzio continued. “They had to make that adjustment over the season and they’ve been able to put up points with it.”