Behind Shaban's 5 TDs, Barlow cruises to Class SS championship victory over Valley Regional/Old Lyme, first state title

NEW BRITAIN – On its second try, Joel Barlow finally has its first state football championship.

The Falcons (11-2) rushed for 372 yards and allowed just 33 yards on the ground en route to a dominating 61-6 victory over Valley/Old Lyme Saturday night in the Class SS football championship game at Central Connecticut's Arute Field.

“It’s a complete team and coaching staff victory,” Barlow coach T.J. Cavaliere. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. I knew we had a special team and a lot of talent, but you have to be lucky and stay healthy.”

It was just the second time that Barlow has played in a state title game. The Falcons lost to Killingly, 41-14, in the 2017 Class M championship game.

And it turned into the Danny Shaban show.Shaban, who went over the 2,000-yard mark in rushing yards for the season in the third quarter, ran for 175 yards and scored five touchdowns.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Shaban said. “Hopefully, it will hit me when we get on the bus together. I think this is the best team in Barlow history. We came out, we wanted it and we executed.”

After being stopped on their first possession when a Shaban pitch to Cole Peterson was fumbled, it was all Barlow in the first half. The Falcons held Valley/Old Lyme to 88 yards of offense in the first half, including just 17 yards rushing. Meanwhile, Barlow, which averaged 365 yards rushing per game during the regular season, racked up 227 yards before intermission.

Shaban got the scoring going for Barlow with a five-yard run with just 12 seconds left in the first quarter.

Barlow made it 14-0 in the second quarter when Peterson blocked a punt and Liam Kiernan pounced on it in the end zone for the scoop and score.

“We thought Valley was a really good team with some really good skills guys,” Cavaliere said. “We got a lot of momentum with the blocked punt for the touchdown and it started to snowball from there.”

Shaban took over from there, scoring the next four touchdowns, including from 12 and five yards out before halftime as the Falcons took a 28-0 edge at the break.

Shaban added runs of 20 and two yards in the third quarter as Barlow went ahead 42-0 with 5:50 to play in the third quarter as Valley/OL was continuing to be confused defensively while looking for the fullback dive.

“That’s the triple option,” Shaban said. “One week, it’s a big fullback week and today it was a quarterback week. If we had a game next week, it could be a big pitch week.”

Scott Romano added a 22-yard run late in the third quarter as Barlow took a 48-0 lead going to the fourth quarter.

A 68-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charlie Basta and a 29-yard run by Dylan Taylor closed out the scoring for the Falcons, who finished 11-2.

Valley/Old Lyme finally got on the board with 1:52 left in the game when quarterback Grady Lacourciere (13-for-20 for 126 yards) connected with Nicholas Cox for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

The Warriors also finished at 11-2.

“They were very aggressive and dominated on the line of scrimmage, both on offense and defense,” Valley Old Lyme coach Hill Gbunblee said. “I have to give them credit for playing a heck of a game. They were the better team tonight.”

Gbunblee said the Warriors’ running game never got going.

“We never got our running game established,” Gbunblee said. “We really feed off it and our play action passing, but we tip our hats tonight to Barlow.”

Barlow 61, Valley Regional/Old Lyme 6

VALLEY REG/OL      0   0     0   6 — 6
BARLOW                    7  21  20  13 — 61
B – Danny Shaban 5 run (Cooper Zuccerella kick), 0:12
B – Liam Kiernan fumble recovery (Zuccerella kick), 11:00
B – Shaban 12 run (Zuccerella kick), 3:53
B – Shaban 5 run (Zuccerella kick), 0:48
B – Shaban 20 run (Zuccerella kick), 10:36
B – Shaban 2 run (Zuccerella kick), 5:50
B – Scott Romano 22 run (kick blocked), 3:58
B – Charlie Basta 68 interception return (kick failed), 10:30
B – Dylan Taylor 29 run (Zuccerella kick), 7:12
V – Nicholas Cox 20 pass from Grady Lacourciere (kick blocked), 1:52
Records: Barlow, 11-2; Valley/OL, 11-2.