WESTPORT -- The board for the FCIAC championship game is now set.
By plowing through Westhill 49-7 on Thursday evening in its final challenge before Thanksgiving, Staples High solidified its spot in the conference title game for a second straight season.
Now 8-0 on the year, the Wreckers will look to repeat in a rematch of last year's final, at Greenwich on Turkey Day at 10 a.m. Greenwich (8-0) remained perfect on the season on Thursday with a 54-8 rout of Danbury.
"These kids have worked so hard," Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said. "All the weight lifting, all the hills, all the practices, this is what it's all about. It's about us playing for a championship.
"We're excited as excited can be to line up against not only one of the best teams in the FCIAC, but in the state."
Staples struck Westhill (5-3) with a steady dose of options on offense and took a 7-0 lead on its fourth play from scrimmage on running back Nick Kelly's 55-yard touchdown run. Kelly, who didn't record a carry or a reception in the Wreckers' win over Fairfield Warde last Saturday, rushed for a season-high 148 yards and two touchdowns on six carries.
"We're in an option offense, so there's times where even if we want to get him the ball, we can't," Petroccio said. "Tonight, I wanted to feed him a little bit and I thought he did a great job."
Westhill scored on the first play of its second drive, using running back Davell Cotterell's 69-yard burst to the end zone to knot it 7-7 with 8:23 left in the first quarter. Cotterell's success on the ground was short-lived, however, as Staples contained the Vikings' home-run threat the rest of the evening. Cotterell, who rushed for 338 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Wilton last Saturday, ran 11 more times for only 14 yards in the first half.
"We were letting the 25-second clock run," said Westhill head coach Frank Marcucio, alluding to the Vikings' ball-control game plan. "Our best defense was to keep their offense off the field. ... I thought we played really well in the first half. We did what we wanted to do, and we were able to control the clock a little bit."
The Vikings managed to keep it close early and were tied 7-7 halfway through the first quarter. But on Staples' second possession, quarterback Jack Massie led a methodical 10-play, 66-yard scoring drive, capping it with an 8-yard touchdown run.
The Wreckers, who have scored at least 49 points in all eight wins, moved the ball effortlessly at times, piling up nearly 550 yards of offense.
"They do what they do, and they do it well. They've just got so many weapons right now," Marcucio said of Staples' offense. "You can't just focus on one thing. At the beginning of the game we did a good job of taking away their option stuff, then they ran all over us up the middle."
Staples did some damage through the air as well as Massie went 6-of-10 passing for 81 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Both of those scores went to wide receiver James Frusciante, who hauled in a 30-yard pass to make it 21-7 with 2:34 left in the second quarter, and caught a 20-yard scoring strike a minute before halftime.
"We went to our go-to guy. It was James Frusciante," Petroccio said. "We saw some things and the right call was made."
With the commanding lead in hand, Staples' defense buckled down and proved formidable the rest of the way. The Wreckers forced two turnovers on the evening--interceptions by Frusciante and Jake Melnick--and pitched a shutout from the first quarter on.
"We made a couple adjustments, but we knew it would kind of work out in the end," said Kelly, who also plays safety.
The Vikings nearly got on the board on their first drive of the fourth quarter, but quarterback Ryan Coppola was tackled at the Wreckers' 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal.
Staples scored on three of its five drives in the second half. Kelly's 28-yard scamper into the end zone on the Wreckers' second play of the half put them up 35-7.
Running back Patrick Lesch (seven carries, 105 yards) capped the scoring on a 5-yard run with 6:49 remaining. The touchdown concluded a six-play, 99-yard drive.
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STAPLES 49, WESTHILL 7
WESTHILL 7 0 0 0--7
STAPLES 14 14 14 7--49
W--Davell Cotterell 69 run (Bernard Busz kick)
S--Jack Massie 8 run (Gifford kick)
S--James Frusciante 30 pass from Jack Massie (Gifford kick)
S--Frusciante 20 pass from Massie (Gifford kick)
S--Kelly 28 run (Gifford kick)
S--Zach Speranza 6 run (Gifford kick)
S--Patrick Lesch 5 run (Gifford kick)
Records: Westhill 5-4; Staples 8-0.