Livecast primer: Staples vs. Ridgefield
CIAC Class LL quarterfinals, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Staples (9-0) vs. No. 7 Ridgefield (8-2)
MSGVarsity.com will be live-streaming this game.
Overview: The Wreckers and Tigers have had a number of classic battles as FCIAC rivals over the past decade. Now they meet for the first time in the state playoffs with a berth to the Class LL semifinals on the line.
Staples enters the playoffs on the heels of a dramatic come-from-behind 31-27 victory over Greenwich (8-2) in the FCIAC championship game on Thanksgiving, giving the Wreckers their sixth conference title.
Ridgefield hammered Danbury 56-14 on Thanksgiving Eve to clinch its first berth to the state playoffs since 2005. Staples has reached the states 11 times over the past 12 years.
Ridgefield’s only two losses came against Greenwich (16-3) — which missed the states for the fourth straight season due to their loss against Staples — and fifth-seeded Norwalk (27-12).
Staples will be looking to make amends after suffering a heart-breaking 7-6 loss to Glastonbury in the Class LL quarterfinals last season, failing on a potential game-winning two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.
Ironically enough, Staples head coach Marce Petroccio is a Ridgefield resident, adding intrigue to an already interesting matchup.
When Staples has the ball: The Wreckers have the ability to beat teams in a number of ways with its spread-option attack. Senior running back Nick Kelly is dangerous both as a runner and as a receiver, and will also take snaps out of the Wildcat formation on occasion. Kelly has 533 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns receiving.
Lead running back Joey Zelkowitz (800 yards, 10 TDs) has been banged up since the Fairfield Warde game, but is slated to play. The Wreckers have great balance in the backfield with speedy Jon Heil (363 yards, 5 TDs) supplying a nice change of pace.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Massie is enjoying a solid season and already has one game of state playoff experience under his belt. Massie has thrown for 989 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing for 214 yards and another five scores.
James Frusciante (18 receptions, 437 yards, 5 TDs) is the top receiving threat for Staples with Zach Mitchell (12 catches, 186 yards) serving as a nice compliment on the other side.
The Wreckers are sure to see a lot of blitzing from an aggressive Ridgefield defense led by senior linebacker Adrian Jones (78 tackles).
When Ridgefield has the ball: Like Staples, the Tigers have a myriad of offensive weapons in their pistol offense. Junior quarterback Connor Rowe can beat teams with his arm as well as his legs, putting up 1,807 yards passing with 16 TDs and 11 INTs while rushing for 301 yards and five touchdowns.
Ridgefield’s rushing attack is led by powerful junior Sam Gravitte (753 yards, 12 TDs) and senior John Turner (671 yards, 7 TDs).
Ridgefield has a solid receiving unit comprised of Jack Heller (39 catches, 579 yards, 7 TDs), tight end Matt Flanagan (21 catches, 330 yards, 5TDs), Neil Gollogly (32 catches, 384 yards) and Gravitte (32 catches, 387 yards, 4 TDs) out of the backfield.
Prediction: Staples 31, Ridgefield 10