Football: 'Trench Boys', Litton set the tone in 31-0 win over Guilford

Everything the Wilton High football team couldn’t do against Darien the previous week, the Warriors did against Guilford last Friday night.

Using an overpowering rushing attack complemented by a stifling defense, Wilton smothered the Indians 31-0 in a non-conference game held at the Warriors’ Tom Fujitani Field.

“We got after them today,” said a highly-animated Wilton head coach Bruce Cunningham. “We had to stop their power run. If we stopped it right away, it made them one dimensional. It made them more predictable, especially when they were using #14 (Jack Strand) at quarterback.”

The two-tiered Indian offensive attack — one QB primarily for the running game, another for the passing — presented a different challenge for Wilton. But at the base, it was Guilford’s power running formation that would set the tone for its scoring. And Wilton took it away.

And it showed early. Guilford received the opening kickoff but had trouble moving the ball, with Strand barely avoiding a third-down sack deep in his own territory. After an Ethan Vashel punt put the ball at the Warrior 44, Will Litton burst through a gaping hole courtesy of Jack DiNanno, Steffen Nobles and AJ Pykosz. Litton never stopped until, untouched, he reached the end zone for a 56-yard TD romp. Will Sullivan’s extra point made it 7-0 Wilton with just 1:43 gone into the game.

The spectacular touchdown set the tone for both Litton personally and for his team, as the Warriors (5-3) assured themselves of a .500 season.

“He had one heckuva game,” said Cunningham, referring to Litton’s 125-yard rushing yards on offense and to his interception plus fumble recovery on defense. He also caught a third-down pass to set up another touchdown.

After trading punts, the Warriors embarked on a 57-yard drive covering in fourteen plays what Litton, on Wilton’s initial possession, had managed in one. QB Matt D’Elisa directed the march with nary a hint of a pass. Fourteen plays, 14 rushes with at least three of the pile-pushing variety, wherein the running back appeared stopped after a two- or three-yard gain but then a whole mass of humanity-the pile-surges forward for an extra four to eight yards, sometimes even more.

Harvey Alexander smashed over from the two-yard line and Wilton moved ahead 14-0 at 10:49 of the second quarter.

The Warrior offense went back at it after the defense pitched a three-and-out. Starting at its own 36, Wilton advanced to the Guilford eight, fueled by D’Elisa completions, on fine catches, to Robbie Hermann and Joe Pozzi. A nine-yard sack by Carter Cox blunted the Warrior momentum and after Hermann just missed making a circus catch in the end zone, Sullivan booted a 35-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 4:40 left in the half.

The Indians (3-5) made a desperate attempt to respond, moving from their 26 to the Wilton 16 in eight plays. But the D-line deflected Aaron Korik’s first-down pass and Litton picked it to end the threat with under a minute left.

Within the first four minutes of the third quarter, the teams exchanged fumbles, with Wilton finally getting on track after a pass interference call on Guilford put the ball at the Indian 27. Litton then carried twice and caught a 10-yard pass to set up Alexander's two-yard TD plunge at 5:08 of the third. The Warriors held onto their 24-0 lead as both teams battled into the fourth quarter.

With Brian Calabrese at the controls, running backs Joe McFadden and Jake Savvaides continued to pound away on the ground. A seven-play, 63-yard drive capped off Warrior scoring. Savvaides sliced through and then pulled away from tacklers as he slashed his way for 37 yards and Wilton’s final touchdown with 4:47 left in the game.

Guilford fought to get on the scoreboard, moving 76 yards (53 via penalties) to the Warrior four-yard line. But again, the defensive line literally rose up as DT Marty Zoruba batted away a fourth-down pass to preserve the shutout.

There is no doubt that Will Litton, Alexander and D’Elisa had big days. The wide receivers have their names crop up pretty regularly as do the defensive backs, though you don't hear Chris Hyzy’s name that much — the price he pays as an efficient and accomplished corner.

What you rarely hear are the names of defensive and offensive linemen — the ‘Trench Boys’ who slug it out up close and personal, spending as much time on the ground, usually buried under other bodies, as they do upright.

You could start with the offensive line and Aj Pykosz, who plays as a third tackle or tight end.

“I won't forget that first play (the 56-yard TD run). I blocked with Steffen Nobles on a double team and saw that huge hole just open up.”

“The big push we got set the tone for the game,” added Nobles, who spent two years as a starting linebacker exclusively on defense but now starts at OT and DE. “I saw Litton going down the field and knew if we continued to play that way for the rest of the game, we would be OK.”

“We’re not the biggest line,” said guard Jack DiNanno, “but we stick together at all times. We do what we have to do and move on to the next assignment.”

“The coaches emphasize how important it is to be physical, how the more physical team even if it’s stopped can find a way to keep going and make a play,” said TE Kyle Schifrin.

“They were a good opponent,” center Anthony Sanzaro said, “but we were the more physical team and that’s why we won."

“The line doesn't get glory, but you get satisfaction out of making really good blocks, of pancaking the other guy and knowing that the O-line is the foundation of the play,” said TE Jack Dooley.

Tackle John Amato knows being physical isn’t limited to games.

“The coaches make it a huge point to be physical in drills, too; to get off the ball as fast as we can.”

“We’re taught to get push, to keep our pad level down and to get that fast first step so we can get the defensive linemen on their heels,” said center Mike Wehrli. “That happened today.”

“There was some history to this game,” said Colin Carroll. “There was some scuffling at a camp this summer so we wanted to win this game. We were able to push our running backs forward a lot today.”

On defense, many of the names remain but their roles change. You have Pykosz and Nobles at DE, Carroll and Zoruba at DT, and TJ Kedzierski and Schifrin as inside linebackers.

The Front Six as Carroll calls them, “puts us in a position to win.”

This is no disrespect meant to Alexander and Litton, who at times act as linebackers but also have to act as safeties.

“Darien woke us up,” Kedzierski said. “We figured out our keys and came off the ball better. Our chemistry on defense has just grown so much.”

“We were locked in all week. We were prepared for this game. It really came down to the week in practice,” said Shifrin.

Summed up Zoruba: “The D-line put pressure on them all day. For me, the best part came at the end of the game, looking up at the score.”

Note: Wilton will try to continue its winning ways on Friday night, as it takes on the Danbury Hatters at Tom Fujitani Field. Game time is scheduled for 7.