The Falcons are the 5th seed in the state football tournament. Source: CIAC website.

Welcome to the big dance Joel Barlow!

The Falcons have qualified to play in the Class SS state football tournament after a dominating 56-20 win in the over their rivals Weston on Wednesday night.

The early part of the 2022 Turkey Bowl was a little helter-skelter as teams traded touchdowns early on making the score an even 14-14. After that, though, Barlow exerted its dominance and started to pull away from the Trojans. Danny Shaban had an unbelievable night with 320 yards rushing and five touchdowns, including one passing TD.

The Falcons will now turn their attention to Granby/Canton for their first round payoff matchup. Granby/Canton is coming into the game as the four seed with a record of 8-2.

Barlow’s 56-20 victory over Weston in the Turkey Bowl on Nov. 23 punched their ticket to the state playoffs.

The Bears finished tied with Barlow on points, but owned the tie-breaker and will host the game. Being the fifth seed means Barlow will need to take a long bus trip up to the game. Granby/Canton is riding a 5-game win streak after routing the Coventry Co-op team in its last contest. The only blemishes on their record are losses to SMSA in the first week of the season and to the #1 seed Cromwell/Portland. The Bears will look to avenge that loss by earning a rematch with Cromwell/Portland if they can get past Barlow.

Offensively, Barlow has seen the Bears play a 4-3 defense (four defensive linemen and three linebacker) in the games they have on film. They have occasionally rotated one of their safeties down into a linebacker type role against teams that are run heavy, making it look like a 4-4. The Bears have some decent size up front and are very aggressive to the line of scrimmage with their linebackers. They are not afraid to blitz a linebacker to try to create havoc by having more players at the line of scrimmage. They flow very well to the ball and gang tackle.

Barlow is going to have to spread the ball around and make the Bears’s defense cover all aspects of the triple option. If the Falcons maintain blocks and hold onto the ball, it should be a fun match-up to watch.

Defensively, the Falcons will be dealing with an offense that throws the ball very well. Their quarterback is tall and throws a nice ball. They also have several talented players, including one big threat who is used in multiple positions throughout the game. If Barlow covers like they did early against Weston, they could be in for a long night. Barlow will need their front four to put pressure on the quarterback and force him to make errant throws. Barlow can hopefully execute their bend-but-don’t-break strategy and keep the Bears contained.

Now that the Falcons are in the big dance it is win or go home time. Tournament mentality is always “survive and advance.” The first round is an interesting matchup between two teams that never see each other.

Game time is 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov, 29 at Granby Memorial High School. Get on the road early as it is quite a trip up there!

Photos by Mike Mitchell

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