Mistakes cost Wilton in loss to Trumbull



Hour Staff Writer

The X's and O's might have looked vastly different compared to the past four decades, but pretty much everything else looked like Wilton Warrior football at Fujitani Field on Thursday night.

The Warriors, playing with their typical over-sized hearts inside their under-sized bodies, went toe-to-toe with the highly touted Trumbull Eagles, playing its stereotypical, Wilton brand of hard-hitting and cerebral defense.

When all was said and done, however, the 2009 season opener came down to a couple of special team gaffes by Wilton as the Eagles escaped with a 13-7 win.

"We went toe-to-toe with them," said Wilton's first-year head coach Bruce Cunningham. "We just made a couple of too many mistakes and when you go against a team that has experience and is as skilled as (Trumbull is) ... we just gave them too many opportunities and they capitalized on just about every one."

Trumbull's Anthony Matera rushed for two touchdowns for the Eagles -- the first of which was an 11-yarder which came after Wilton fumbled an Eagles punt in the second quarter. Matera's second score came on its opening drive of the third and was a 5-yard scoring saunter. Matera also made one of his two PATs to account for the Trumbull scoring.

On both scoring drives, Trumbull turned to the sweep play to gain big yardage and set up both scoring runs.

"The one true concern I had was their team speed," said Cunningham. "We stretched out (defensively) and went over it and over it, but obviously a couple of times that got to us a little bit."

Wilton had tied the game late in the second quarter when senior quarterback Jackson Wilbur (15-for-30, 173 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) led the Warriors on a 70-yard scoring drive in the final 1:13 of the half.

Starting on the Wilton-30, Wilbur hit Clay Helms for a 6-yard pass and, after an incompletion, connected with Matt Baird on an 11-yard pass.

Wilbur then threw up a 35-yard bomb to wide out Matt Reyes-Guerra-Dunn, getting the ball down to the Trumbull 12-yard line. Dunn, a junior playing his first-ever official football game, had four catches for 81 yards.

After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Wilbur hit halfback Mike Francia on a safety valve pass and Francia raced 12 yards into the end zone for the touchdown. Jeff Lebowitz's point-after made it seven-all with 36.3 seconds to play.

"Give Wilton credit. They played tough," said Trumbull head coach Bob Maffei. "They're going to be a good team. We didn't know what to expect from them, but they executed pretty good and their defense was lights out against us. But we just made a couple of big plays."

Two of those big plays came on Trumbull's opening drive of the second half.

After Wilton went three-and-out and the Eagles got the ball, quarterback Mike Romano scrambled 17 yards on a second down one play before Frank Gaines went sweep left for a 24-yard rush.

Three plays later, Matera was in the end zone again to make it 13-6.

With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wilton punter Scott Young pinned the Eagles at their own four and -- five players later -- the Warriors defense, led by Ryan Phillips, Alex Sabato and Terrence Reedy -- forced the Eagles to punt from their own 20.

On the ensuing punt, though, a funny bounce deflected off a Wilton blocker and Trumbull recovered at the Wilton-44.

From there the Eagles ran out the clock, leaving the ball inches from the goal-line as time expired.

Trumbull outgained Wilton 290-211 in the total yards department with the Eagles' Will Melvin (19 carries, 66 yards) and Romano (12 carries, 65 yards) leading the way.

"We played hard, but we just made mistakes," said junior linebacker Ryan Phillips. "When you're playing a good team like that you have made to make plays and we just didn't make enough good plays to win."

Trumbull 0 7 6 0 -- 13

Wilton 0 7 0 0 -- 7

T -- Anthony Matera 11 yard run (Matera kick)

W -- Mike Franica 12 yard pass from Jackson Wilbur (Jeff Lebowitz kick)

T -- Matera 5 yard run (kick failed)