The Joel Barlow Falcons football team has won its first four games to open up the 2022 season, led by senior quarterback Danny Shaban and bolstered by stellar performances on both sides of the ball from several players.
Shaban, who leads the team in total yards (786) and touchdowns (10), is ranked sixth in the state in total touchdowns and eleventh in total yards through four games. The Falcons QB was recognized earlier in the season as the South-West Conference‘s offensive player of the week on the strength of his performance in a dominant 44-6 win over Stratford. Shaban is also among the team’s top performers on defense, leading the team in sacks with four.
Shaban credits his teammates for his and the Falcons’ successful start. “Our line blocks fabulously, our backs run hard, and our defense plays great,” he said.
Shaban also emphasizes the importance of playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, describing the support from Barlow students, their families and other Easton and Redding fans as “electric” and says it helps the team to stay “fired up.”
According to high school sports website maxpreps.com, Barlow is outpacing the state and national high school averages by a significant margin in several offensive categories.
Like Shaban, Barlow Head Coach T.J. Cavaliere credits the players up front for much of the team’s success. “Our line has been the strength of our offense thus far,” he said.
At the same time, Cavaliere also notes that the Falcons’ 4-0 start has been the result of a team effort. “Our offense has been clicking in all cylinders and the best part about it is that we are getting contributions from many different people like Danny Shaban, Evan Corazelli, Mason Leavitt, Dylan Taylor, Cole Peterson and Scott Romano.”
Alongside Shaban, juniors Taylor and Peterson, senior Leavitt and the sophomore sensation Romano have combined for over 740 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, including Romano’a 124-yard, three-touchdown performance in Barlow’s 34-21 victory over Wethersfield.
Senior wide receiver Evan Corazzelli has also averaged more than 50 yards receiving per game and hauled in four touchdowns. Corazzelli adds a significant passing threat to Shaban’s offensive arsenal, which is built around a triple-option ground game that has defined the Falcons’ offense for several years.
Like the Falcons’ offense, Coach Cavaliere says Barlow’s success on the defensive side of the ball is the result of a strong all-around team effort, especially against opponents’ ground game.
“Defensively we have done well against the run with players like Tristan Counter, Kyler Cartmel, Andrew Zaia and Aidan Skidmore helping to control the line of scrimmage,” Cavaliere said.
In addition to his three touchdowns and 131 yards of offense this season, senior Mason Leavitt also earned SWC defense player of the week honors for his 17 tackles against Notre Dame, adding to his team-leading 45 tackles for the season.
The last time Barlow football started the season 4-0 was in 2012 when they finished with an 8-2 record and made the state playoffs. The Falcons felt short of making the state tournament last year despite an impressive 7-3 record, which makes the current squad even more determined to earn a playoff berth for the first time since reaching the Class M finals in 2017.
Coach Cavaliere is pleased that “the team is off to a great start,” but he also points out the “need to maintain focus as the back of the schedule is tougher than the front,” including SWC matchups against Class L Newtown and the also undefeated New Fairfield Rebels.
“We are hoping to get healthy during our bye week this week and set our sites on playing one solid game at a time,” Cavaliere said.
The Falcons look to continue their success at home on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. when they take on Brookfield.
Photos by Mike Mitchell