FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield Wildcats’ seventh-grade football coach Buddy Zachery loved his team’s position. The Wildcats took an 8-0 lead midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s Fairfield County Football League championship, and his defense was taking the field.
Wilton, however, had other ideas. Wilton scored on its next drive, then added two fourth-quarter scores to stun the Wildcats, 22-8, and win the league title.
Fairfield, which won the championship in sixth grade, had won eight in a row and its defense entered Sunday’s game with four straight shutouts. Yet, Fairfield could not make the tackles it needed, particularly against Wilton running back Harvey Alexander. He rushed for 148 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“We felt pretty good after getting the lead,’’ Zachery said. “We weren't doing what we wanted, but we were doing enough. We just didn't make the tackles. Football is a very basic game. If you don’t make the tackles, bad things happen. We didn't make them when we needed to.”
Fairfield (9-2) and Wilton (10-0) staged the defensive struggle everyone anticipated during a scoreless first half. Fairfield’s Joshua Evans recovered a Wilton fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, however, and the Wildcats took it in. Quarterback Matt Cerminaro scored on a one-yard run, and threw a two-point conversion to Zachary Taylor.
Alexander hushed the Fairfield celebration on the next play, racing 46 yards to the Fairfield 24. Five plays later, he scored on a 3-yard run and kicked a conversion to tie the score.
Wilton scored the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on a 22-yard pass from Brian Calabrese to Alexander, who outjumped two Fairfield defenders and raced into the end zone. The drive started after Fairfield was stopped on a fourth-and-two play at midfield.
“We thought we were closer than we were,’’ Zachery said. “But at the end of the day, you have to make tackles. We didn't make enough of them.”
Fairfield was hurt by the absence of lineman Joey Turner, who suffered a concussion in Thursday’s semifinal win against Wilton White. “I think he’s the most dominant player in the league,’’ Zachery said. “We didn't have him, and they controlled the line of scrimmage. One player makes a big difference. We needed to step up, and we didn't do it.”
Fairfield moved the ball into Wilton territory several times behind the running of Jack Curtis, Clay Zachery and Timmy Jacobi. But Wilton’s defense held, and Alexander put the game away with a 52-yard run against a weary Fairfield defense late in the fourth quarter.
“Offensively we were OK,’’ coach Zachery said. “But you have to make stops, and we didn't do that.”