CHESHIRE — The undefeated Cheshire football team delves into the heart of its rugged SCC schedule with some encouraging karma cultivated well before the players even hit training camp.
The first piece stems from last Thanksgiving, when the youthful Rams had a one-point lead over mighty Southington with under two minutes remaining. The Blue Knights, behind their All-State quarterback Jasen Rose, regrouped for a 36-29 win, but there were red undertones simmering beneath the surface.
“I think that confidence helps a lot of things,” Cheshire coach Don Drust said. “You get confident and you believe in who you are and, in high school sports, that’s so much of it: understanding that if we go out and work hard, we can be successful if we believe in each other.”
A significant core of returning players believed that much more than a pedestrian 4-6 record came from the ashes of singed turkey bones in 2015.
“I thought it shocked the state to be honest,” said linebacker Brian Weyrauch, the author of a stirring 65-yard fumble return and a jarring sack within four minutes’ time at the start of the second quarter in the Rams’ 56-18 rout of Sheehan on Friday night. “We have a good team coming back and we’re hungry.
“We always talk about building it as a family,” Weyrauch added. “Football is basically a second family. You’re always around each other and doing the hard work with each other when nobody’s out here but our guys. It’s just those four walls and us.”
Family references are more than hyperbole at Cheshire. Drust need look no further than across his dining room to find a source of inspiration, motivation and love. His wife Kristine guided the Rams softball team to an undefeated season and Class LL championship with a similar nucleus of outstanding athletes and a profound understanding of solidarity.
“I sit a little closer to her at the dinner table so it rubs off a little bit,” Drust noted.
Weyrauch paid homage to junior lineman Owen Reach for the defensive TD.
“He did the dirty work. He stripped the ball. My job was easy,” the senior captain said.
The Davis Factor
The underlying factor in game preparation for Cheshire centered on Sheehan’s all-purpose offensive machine Zach Davis.
Davis came into the game representing 93 percent of Sheehan’s rushing yardage, 83 percent of their total yards from scrimmage and all nine of the Titans’ touchdowns. He increased that number to 11 when he ripped off a 63-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage for a 6-0 lead and snared a 22-yard aerial for a third-quarter tally.
“He’s a heck of a football player. He’s very dynamic and he’s fast,” Drust said. “You certainly have to account for him on every snap, and that goes for special teams, too, because he’s scary when he has so much space.”
Drust said the emotions of playing at home eroded defensive thoughts of gap responsibilities on that first series.
“He’ll do that when you make mistakes,” Drust said.
Unofficially, Davis was “held” to 148 yards on 17 carries and 34 yards on five receptions. It ended a three-game, 300-plus-yard streak dating back to last Thanksgiving’s eight-TD, 507-yard explosion against Lyman Hall. Davis had 302 yards in the opener against East Haven and 332 versus Foran in Week 2.
“He’s a great player. He’s tough to stop. No disrespect to him, but I thought we did a pretty good job tonight on defense and offense,” Weyrauch said.
A crowd that Drust estimatd to be in the 3,000 range provided a Friday night lights atmosphere from eras past.
“We’re trying to build some energy and some excitement around it,” he said. “Football’s been important in this town for a very long time. When we bring energy, it filters right down and we talk about it a lot. When are you going to get 3, 4 or 5,000 people for anything anymore? We have a unique opportunity to build that in a town like this and this town loves it.”
The Cheshire defense made seven plays behind the line of scrimmage when it still mattered in the first half. Reach, safety Matt Nugent, linebacker Cesar Pascal, tackle Pat Bourdeau, end Dan Covel, linemen Drew Zebarth (6-7, 320 pounds) and Ben Beaudoin frequently disrupted the Titans’ offense.
On the Sheehan side, junior safety/WR Evan Mansfield was active on both sides of the ball, recovering a fumble at the end of the first quarter and connecting with QB Wes Terzi on two passes.
Sophomore Aaron Simmons also had two receptions. Freshman Russell Rutkowski scored a late touchdown on a drive where sophomore Jesse Johnson and freshman Jordan Davis, younger brother of Zach Davis, made substantial gains.
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