WALLINGFORD – The pain was obvious on the faces of the Sheehan Titans as they walked away from the postgame huddle at Riccitelli Field on Tuesday night following their 47-34 loss to No. 6 Joel Barlow.
The Titans entered the Class M quarterfinal at 9-1 and were making their first postseason appearance in 22 years behind contributions from a strong collection of underclassmen. Against Barlow, the Titans ran into a senior-laden squad that ran the triple-option to perfection. Sheehan had no answer for quarterback Trevor Ferrer, who ran for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s always heartbreaking,” Sheehan senior Evan Mansfield said. “To this day, I don’t think there’s a team in the state that works harder than we do. Just to come up a tad short, it’s heartbreaking. You dream your whole life about doing this. Just to see it fade away is just hard. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have been prouder of the way my guys fought until the end. I love these guys. They are awesome and I’m going to miss them.”
The Titans entered the game with the confidence of a six-game winning streak, and they were winning in dominant fashion. So when the clock displayed all zeroes, the reality of the season ending hit home.
“Look at them now,” Ferrazzi said while pointing to his players consoling each other. “Look what it means to them. It was almost the same thing after Fairfield Prep. These kids have gotten to the point to where they believe in themselves and are confident in themselves and they expect to win. We’re a young team, but this is a different group of kids now. I can’t say how proud of them that I am and how they fought all season.”
The Titans showed composure beyond their years in erasing a 14-0 first-quarter deficit. Barlow’s game plan was evident: to take away 1,000-yard rusher Terrance Bogan and wide receiver/running back threat Jordan Davis, Sheehan’s leading TD man. With the box loaded up with Falcons, Sheehan turned to the spread and Wes Terzi brought the Titans back with three first-half touchdown passes, one more impressive than the next. He finished with four TD passes on the game.
“We have things in our offense if you take one thing away, we can go to something else,” Ferrazzi said. “They did a good job defending our run game. I think some of our athletes in space were able to make some plays. I’m not surprised by (Terzi’s performance) at all. It’s what we work on and I’m glad Wes was able to lead the offense the way he did.”
Down 14-0 late in the first quarter, Sheehan was desperate for points and Terzi responded by completing four of five passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Mansfield who collected three passes on that drive, including two big ones on third down: an 8-yard gain on third-and-7 and then a 31-yard TD on third-and-11.
“Wes makes it easy for me,” Mansfield said. “He’s one heck of a quarterback. The offensive line protected extremely well. I just have the easiest job to come down with the ball. It’s just great quarterback play and great O-Line play.
“Our run game has been the staple of our offense all year and to see the way they shut that down, we knew we had to step up and we stepped up,” Mansfield added. “But in the end it wasn’t enough,”
Terzi, who finished the game 13-for-19 for 252 yards, added touchdown passes to Jake Smith and Aaron Simmons in the second quarter. The 29-yard pass to Smith came on fourth-and-13 and put the Titans up 21-20.
Barlow took back the lead 27-21 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. That score sapped much of Sheehan’s momentum and the home team would not lead again.
Ferrazzi said his team just needed a few more stops. The Falcons didn’t fumble or throw an interception. They turned the ball over on downs twice and punted just twice.
“I knew it was going to come down to who was going to make the other team punt or who was going to make the big stop and, on the flip side, just keep the ball and keep scoring on offense," Ferrazzi said. “We had that one 3-and-out that really hurt. We were able to get the ball from them twice in the second half and once in the first half. We needed two or three more of those and there were a couple of possessions we didn’t score on, and that was the difference.”
Barlow scored on its first two drives of the second half and it was too much for the Titans to overcome. But with a young nucleus of player returning, Sheehan expects to be back in the postseason next year.
“Once we get over this grieving process — because this was a tough one to swallow — the future looks bright,” Ferrazzi said. “It’s hard to replace those guys with the productivity of our three senior starters. The future looks very bright. A lot of sophomores served valuable roles. The expectation is to get back to the state playoffs and use this loss for fuel for offseason and work a little harder to in the goal to advance to a state championship.”
The Titans return all of their offensive skill players save Mansfield.
Wes Terzi will step into his senior year as a three-year starter with 21 starts in the books. Davis and Bogan will return for their junior years as two of the most dangerous threats in the division.
Smith, Simmons and tight end Braedon McCarthy will highlight the receiving corps. Ferrazzi added Tre Childers will be back after missing his sophomore campaign with an ankle injury. He will compete for snaps along with Ryan Paul, Caden Cloutier and Tyler Ekstrom.
On defense, Sheehan will return McCarthy and Jake Smith, two of the most consistent defenders. Luke Willette, a captain this year as a junior, will anchor the defensive line. Also returning up front is Mickey Deming, who started every game at defensive end as a sophomore.
Simmons, Ekstrom, Paul and Davis will all return to the defensive backfield.
In total, the Titans graduate only seven seniors: Anthony Mazzucco, Christopher Lombardo, Milton Dash, Stephen Zenisky, Nathan Zona, Mansfield and fellow captain William Terzi, the team’s leading tackler at linebacker.
“This senior class has meant a lot to the program,” Ferrazzi said. “It shows how they can persevere. As a freshman class, they didn’t win a lot of football games and they never complained and they continued to work. Those kids had some good leaders and mentors and carried that on. Evan Mansfield, Will Terzi and Steve Zenisky were the heart and soul of the team. They set the example every day at practice and showed the importance of working hard.”
Willette, Bogan, Davis, Zenisky, Mansfield and both Terzis made All-SCC Tier 3. Zenisky was named SCC Tier 3 Player of the Year.