WALLINGFORD – The 2017 Carini Bowl will showcase a pair of squads with winning records for the first time in a while and should provide a Turkey Day treat for those planning to attend at Sheehan’s Riccitelli Field on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Lyman Hall has matched its win total of the last five years combined with a 5-4 mark heading into Thanksgiving under first-year head coach Bill Weyrauch. Across town, Sheehan has churned out a 8-1 season and has a playoff berth, its first since 1995, already clinched.
A victory over Lyman Hall on Thursday will seal a home playoff game at Riccitelli Field for the Titans, who currently rank No. 3 in the Class M playoff points. Lyman Hall hasn’t been eliminated from the Class M picture, but even with a win, a handful of scenerios would keep the Trojans out of the playoffs.
The Titans, who are going for their sixth straight Thanksgiving victory, have had great success on both sides of the ball. On offense, they are led by junior signal caller Wes Terzi, who has thrown for 1,371 yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions.
“Wes brought a year of experience after starting as a sophomore,” Sheehan coach John Ferrazzi said. “He got off to a great start and then he started putting pressure on himself. He’s gained more confidence. Wes is a leader and is phenomenal to coach.”
On Thursday, Sheehan will welcome back leading rusher Terrance Bogan (840 yards, 9 TDs). The sophomore missed the last two games after sustaining an injury in Plainfield.
“We have a little more running back depth this year with Terrance leading the way,” Ferrazzi said. “But Jordan Davis is a threat at both wide receiver and running back and is leading the team in touchdowns. Russell Rutkowski has also had carries and has gotten the tough hard-nosed yards.”
Davis, a sophomore, is the younger brother of record-breaking running back Zach Davis. Jordan Davis has averaged 8.1 yards a carry in rushing for 719 yards. He’s got eight rushing touchdowns and four receiving scores.
As for receiving, senior Evan Mansfield has paced the Titans in receptions (39), yards (520) and touchdowns (7). Sheehan has also used the tight end more this year with the emergence of sophomore Braedon McCarthy, who has four touchdown catches.
“It’s amazing to be 8-1 to this point of the season,” Mansfield said. “We just want to keep it going.”
Aaron Simmons and Jake Smith have also emerged as threats in the receiving game.
“All players have the capabilities of making a play,” Ferrazzi said.
The Titans are also backed by a strong defense. Their most recent win was a 41-0 shutout of East Haven.
Sheehan’s leading tacklers are Will Terzi with 97 (31 solo) and Jake Smith and McCarthy with 67 apiece. Tyler Eckstrom (61), Mansfield (60), Steve Zeniski (57) and Ryan Paul (56) round out Sheehan’s top tacklers.
“We made history this year by making the playoffs,” Terzi said. “It’s the first time in 22 years. It’s been a great season and we are looking forward to playing on Thanksgiving.”
Mickey Deming leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Overall, the sophomore has 12 tackles for a loss. Junior captain Luke Willette checks in with three sacks and is the team leader with 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Davis leads the Titans with two picks. Seven other players have one. Rutkowski and Thomas DiPasquale have recovered two fumbles apiece.
“This has been one of best years stopping the run,” Ferrazzi said. “Physically, no one pushes us around like they have done in the past. This team hustles and competes and has a lot of pride in what they do.”
The run-stop will be tested against the ground-orientated Trojans, who are showcased by Randy McFarline (735 yards, 6 TDs) and Austin Ruiz (402 yards, 3 TDs).
“Randy McFarline has had some breakout games for us,” Weyrauch said. “That game against Branford he played incredible and, without him, it would not have been the same outcome. He gave it everything he had from start to finish.”
Matt Verlardi took over at quarterback for Lyman Hall last game. He took the reins from incumbent Nick Santello.
“Nick did everything for us,” Weyrauch said. “He punted the ball, threw the ball and ran the ball. He had a great year. Right now, I think its doubtful that Nick will be playing [Thursday].
"It’s nothing he did bad,” Weyrauch added. “We are going to play with who we have. He’s a great player. Any time he’s not available it’s going to hurt the team. No doubt about that. But you have to move forward and we have great players and they have to go out and play on Thanksgiving.”
Santello was a dual-threat QB. The senior captain rushed for 282 yards on 76 attempts and threw for 685 yards with six TDs. Verlardi has thrown two interceptions in his only pass attempts this season.
“His experience at quarterback is limited,” Weyrauch said. “But Matt is a tremendous athlete and is picking up on it really well. Every snap he takes at practice he gets more and more comfortable. There are things he does with his feet that others can’t to. That’s what he brings to the table.”
Velardi has 19 carries in parts of three games for 80 yards and a touchdown. Before switching to quarterback, Velardi was tops in receiving touchdowns (3) and yards (153).
Senior Tylor Seamons (15-134, 2 TD), sophomore Shakespeare Rodriguez (11-146-1) and senior Harry Febbriello (10-127-1) are also aerial targets. Febbriello has missed the last four games since breaking his left arm at Bethel. He has been cleared to play Thursday.
“Thanksgiving is very intense with so many people watching,” Febbriello said. “I have learned to just block that out and just play football this year.”
The Trojans defense is led by junior defensive end Zach Kizer, who leads the team in sacks (9) and tackles (58). McFarline has 51 tackles and five sacks at linebacker.
“I think he feels so much more comfortable at defensive end,” Weyrauch said of Kizer. “Besides the nine sacks, his energy level and what he brings is just incredible. His highlight film is going to be something because he makes tackles from across the field from the defensive end position.”
LH senior captain Jake Seichter is also a solid defender for LH.
“Me and Kizer are the two defensive ends and we like to rush the QB and rush the line and take anything that comes at us,” Seichter said.
Senior captain McClure, who leads the offensive line at center, said pulling off a win over Sheehan would take a lot of heart.
“A lot of kids have played their hearts out this year,” McClure said. “A lot of emotions from the last three years needs to come out and we need to play at our potential. We are capable of competing with anyone in the SCC, including Sheehan. With all of the hard work that we put in with Weyrauch, it’s going to come to fruition against Sheehan.”
Ruiz has also been solid on defense with 49 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a pick. Rodriguez leads the defensive backfield with three interceptions.
Weyrauch said Sheehan will be a difficult foe and can win games in a variety of ways.
“You name it, they present that challenge,” Weyrauch said. “Their line is big, physical and well coached. They have receivers that go up and catch the football. They have great running backs and a good quarterback. When you look at this team overall, it’s no secret why they are 8-1. Across the board, they have players at every position. I couldn’t even tell you what their weakness is, that’s how I would describe that football team. That line is one of the most physical lines I’ve seen in the SCC.”
The respect goes both ways in Wallingford.
“Lyman Hall is a very improved football team,” Ferrazzi said. “It showed from the tape from their Week 1 game. Weyrauch has done a great job. They have weapons that we are cognizant of. They want to run the ball and are more physical. This is a game where we are going to go toe to toe.”
Weyrauch said he’s looking forward to being on the sidelines on Thanksgiving. “The way the game unfolds will have a lot to do with how I feel afterwards,” he said.
“When I decided to go back into coaching, I was kind of torn,” Weyrauch added. “I know the time commitment and I know what’s expected and, ‘Do I really want to go out and do this again and throw yourself into a schedule where you aren’t home very much?’ But I have to tell you, this is the best move I have ever made, so I’m really glad I did it and I enjoyed it. I got to watch my own boys the last few years, but I’m looking forward to this immensely. To be able to coach on Thanksgiving day: Football and Thanksgiving just go together.”
Across town, Ferrazzi is proud of his team for making qualifying for the postseason for the first time in his 13-year tenure.
“It’s the goal of every team that’s been here when we set the goals at the start of the season,” Ferrazzi said. “Last year’s class set the tone and we entered this year with a younger team that has competed, played hard and has expected to win. They have learned how to win and that’s great for our program.”
Although this is likely the end of the 2017 line for LH Weyrauch hopes to build on the success in the future.
“I’m happy with the results of our football team,” the coach said.
“We have done some really good things. We can play much better than we did last week. We are going to need to because it’s going to take a supreme effort to give this team a good game on Thanksgiving. I expect our guys to face the challenge and give this team a good game.”