WESTPORT, Conn. – Staples High’s 30-28 loss to Norwich Free Academy in Sunday’s Class LL football semifinals was stunning, but the defeat should not be the defining moment of the Wreckers’ terrific season.
Upsets happen all the time, which why they are so fascinating. If every outcome were predictable, there would be no reason to watch. And Staples seemed like a lock to at least make the state final, and as the No. 1 seed, were the favorite to win the tournament.
Sometimes, the best team doesn’t win. If the teams played 10 times, Staples might beat NFA nine times. But it’s when you lose that matters. Staples picked a bad time to have an off day.
The Wreckers did not have their best game Sunday. Penalties, a costly safety and missed opportunities hurt.
Senior two-way player Nick Kelly missed the game with an injury, which cost Staples. Patrick Lesch rushed for 110 yards as his replacement, but Kelly can change his game with his speed. He’s also a defensive presence in the secondary.
The other thing that hurt Staples was its schedule. Aside from its 48-30 win over Greenwich on Thanksgiving, the Wreckers hardly had any competition after their 49-28 win over St. Joseph in the first week. The Wreckers scored at will, including a 42-20 win over West Haven in the first round of the tournament.
Unfortunately for Staples, all of those easy victories did not prepare them for a tight contest. Perhaps the quick turnaround, after playing the previous Tuesday, also hurt their performance.
Want some things to remember? How about senior running back Joey Zelkowitz, who rushed for 1,105 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging nearly 13 yards every time he touched the ball. Or quarterback Jack Massie, who ran for 10 TDs and threw for 17. The junior will start for a third straight year next fall. James Frusciante had 44 receptions and 14 touchdowns. Pieter Hoets, Brian Book and Lance Lonergan gave Staples one of the best groups of linebackers anywhere.
Coach Marce Petroccio has built Staples into one of the top programs in the state. The seniors ended their careers with a four-year record of 43-5, played in two state championship games and reached the playoffs all four years. They also won consecutive league championships.
Certainly they wish it could have ended with a title. But it was a great ride, and that is how this season should be remembered.
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