Murph's Turf: Wilton looks to end streak that Ridgefield hopes to extend
How long has it been since the Wilton football team last defeated archrival Ridgefield? Put it this way: Unless the Warriors are harboring an illegal overage player, none of the current team members was even alive the last time such a thing happened.
That was back in 1993, a hefty 20 years ago. The teams didn’t play in the following two seasons, and since then Ridgefield has gone undefeated against Wilton, posting 17 wins and one tie over the last 18 years. At this point, comets and eclipses seem to have more frequency than Wilton wins.
This Friday night, the Warriors will get another chance to end their drought when they host Ridgefield at Tom Fujitani Field. Wilton will be well advised not to view the game solely on paper — there, it doesn’t look too promising.
Ridgefield comes in with a 7-2 record and off a 44-7 dismantling of previously unbeaten Brien McMahon last weekend. Wilton enters with a 3-6 mark and has lost five straight games.
With two regular-season games remaining, Ridgefield is ninth in the latest Class LL point rankings and looking to break into the top eight in order to earn a state playoff spot. Wilton is 24th in the latest Class L rankings and has no chance at a post-season.
Mismatch might seem to be the operative word with which to describe Friday’s game — unless you believe in the venerable sports chestnut that advises throwing out records when rivals meet.
Still, while the one-sidedness has taken some of the punch out of the rivalry — these games are always better when the teams have been taking turns beating each other — Friday’s meeting is anything but a gimme for Ridgefield. The Wilton players may have just two games left before they turn in their uniforms, but it’s hard to imagine them not getting pumped to play the Tigers. A Wilton victory would not only derail Ridgefield’s state playoff chances, but it would also have a tinge of the epic, considering how long it has been since the last triumph.
Of course Ridgefield head coach Kevin Callahan and his players realize that, and so there will be little chance of overconfidence creeping into the Tigers’ game plan. Wilton may have five straight losses, but four of those were to teams with a combined 32-4 record. Against unbeaten New Canaan last Friday, Wilton forged a 7-7 halftime tie before the Rams scored three touchdowns in the final quarter of what became a 35-7 victory.
At a micro level, Friday’s game will include a get-together between two of the FCIAC’s top players: Wilton quarterback Brett Phillips and Ridgefield running back Will Bonaparte. Both have been putting up video-game numbers this season. Phillips has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and run for 866 more, while Bonaparte has rushed for 1,121 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging nearly seven yards per carry.
Wilton will try to keep the game close and rely on Phillips to reach into his bag of magic tricks and make Ridgefield’s lengthy dominance disappear; Ridgefield will hope that its depth advantage wears down the Warriors and allows Bonaparte to run roughshod.
But while Wilton relies heavily on Phillips, the Tigers have other difference makers, such as tight end/linebacker Andrew Chuma, defensive backs Aidan Mauro and Micky Carbone, receiver Erik Weber, and junior quarterback Ryan Dunn, who has thrown for 1,743 yards and 23 touchdowns. And while rivalry games might involve discounting records, they don’t include ignoring weapons. More often than not, those are what win football games.