The Joel Barlow football team will be home again on Friday night to take on the impressive Rebels of New Fairfield. Both teams will be coming into the contest with unblemished 5-0 records and looking to make a big statement about their state playoff chances.
The Falcons left nothing to chance last Friday night when they dismantled the Bobcats of Brookfield 49-8. The 35 points Barlow scored in the first quarter secured a lead that was never in doubt.
As has been the case for much of the season, Barlow received contributions from many different players. Danny Shaban had three touchdowns, Dylan Taylor had two and Scott Romano and Evan Corazelli added one each. Cooper Zuccerella and the rest of the extra point team also went a perfect seven-for-seven, having made the necessary adjustments to fix occasional problems from earlier in the season.
Barlow’s stout defense held Brookfield to under a hundred yards rushing and less than a hundred yards passing. Much of the yardage was allowed later in the game when the Falcons subbed in some of its younger players, but the defense still held its own against Brookfield’s starters.
This victory sets up a classic fall showdown between the two overall undefeated South-West Conference teams this week. Like Barlow, the Rebels have dominated opponents through five games this season, but someone has to take their first loss on Friday.
New Fairfield is coming off of a 26-20 victory over Weston, and have also beaten Sheehan, Plainville, Bethel and Pomperaug. The Rebels will present Barlow with a three-headed offensive monster to contend with. They have an agile quarterback with a strong arm, a tough running back, and a talented outside wide receiver with great hands.
The Rebels have some size on the defensive side of the ball, but are also known for being an extremely scrappy defense. Barlow has not faced New Fairfield since 2018 and have limited film on the Rebels, which means the coaching staff will need to make in-game adjustments on the fly. The Falcons can expect to see a 3-5 defense from the Rebels – which uses more linebackers and defensive backs to maximize speed and flexibility – because New Fairfield has consistently used this game plan on defense all season.
On the defensive side of the ball for Barlow, the Falcons will be looking slow down a Rebel offense that likes to spread the defense out. New Fairfield will likely throw the ball more than most of Barlow’s previous opponents have this season, and the Rebels will use the pass to help set up their running game.
Barlow’s defense will need to come up big against the Rebels balanced approach, and must avoid giving up big plays like they did in their win over Notre Dame. As always, controlling the line of scrimmage will be a big key to the game, something that Barlow has done effectively all season.
Above all else, the Barlow players will need to take a deep breath and avoid letting the moment overwhelm them.
As head coach T.J. Cavaliere has put it, “We need to maintain focus as the back of the schedule is tougher than the front . . .and set our sites on playing one solid game at a time.”
If Barlow can stick to that approach and come ready to play a complete all-around game, the Falcons are poised to take another big step towards achieving their goal of returning to the state playoffs by notching another win against a very good New Fairfield team.
Kickoff is 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21 at Joel Barlow High School, 100 Black Rock Turnpike in Redding.
Photos by Mike Mitchell