Staples football heals up before final stretch
Injuries caught up to the Staples football team as it hoped to enter its Week 7 bye undefeated before a difficult three-game stretch to end the season.
Despite the late 31-27 defeat to Ridgefield last Friday, the Wreckers (5-1) still have it all in front of them as they heal up during an off week to end October. Games against St. Joseph, Darien and the Thanksgiving showdown with Greenwich will all be tough tests that may require a full-strength Staples team.
“I think slowly but surely we are starting to get some kids back,” said coach Marce Petroccio. “In that respect the bye week for us was good. I guess when you look back on it (the bye week) probably did (come a week late), but it is what it is.”
By the time the final horn sounded against the Tigers, Staples was down its starting quarterback (Andrew Speed), two running backs (Ethan Burger) — Connor Adrian severely sprained his ankle and will likely miss time — and its top two cornerbacks (Ben Thaw and Colin Hoy).
While several ball carriers were out of the lineup during the stretch, senior Evan Gilland was one who helped shoulder the load offensively. The tight end/defensive lineman came to Staples as a quarterback and running back, but didn’t see time in the backfield until injuries against Stamford Oct. 16 began piling up.
“(Gilland) is an athlete and we want to get him the ball,” Petroccio said. “That kid is a warrior. In the (Ridgefield) game he played tight end, running back and quarterback, and five technique and three technique (on defense).”
Operating out of the wildcat at times against Ridgefield, Gilland took a keeper 52 yards for a touchdown. In total, he carried 10 times for 112 yards and the score.
And at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds? Good luck bringing him down.
“He’s very difficult to bring down,” Petroccio said. “He runs hard, he runs angry, he’s got speed and balance. When you go to tackle him; he’s a lot like (Burger). But he’s a bigger, stronger, taller Ethan. When you go to tackle him, you better make sure you have your helmet buckled because he will try to run you over.”
Petroccio anticipates having Speed, Hoy and Thaw back for the showdown with St. Joseph next Saturday, but Burger’s hamstring injury remains a question mark. Adrian’s injury will also likely keep him out against the Cadets.
The Wreckers still control their own destiny for both the FCIAC final and Class LL playoffs, and a strong first five games with a full unit provides confidence that December football is still possible.
“The bye came at a good time, but it’s not a great time coming off a loss,” Petroccio said. “Our kids are excited to try to win out these last three games and get ourselves back into the playoffs.”