WILTON — Danny and The Dee.
Those looking for the major story angle in a battle of two teams whose talent levels were curiosities to the rest of the FCIAC — and maybe their two coaches — saw Staples’ 49-3 win over Wilton tonight come down to quarterback Danny Thompson and the Wreckers’ defense.
Sure, you don’t construct such a resounding win without a complete team effort, which the Wreckers received.
But it was hard not to be most impressed with the improvement of Thompson and the way the Wreckers shut down Wilton’s ground game.
“I like the fact that we came out and we were intense and very physical,” Staples coach Marce Petroccio said. “Once we got our feet wet with this option, I think our defense just played awesome. Having said that, that’s a good football team. I think it just kind of snowballed on them. Danny had a tremendous night, our receivers had a tremendous night and the offensive line… They’re not bad.”
Harris Levi — as consistent as ever — ran for four touchdowns, but the Wreckers (2-0) were able to move the ball effectively because of a complementary passing game. Thompson, after two years as a backup with a few starts, has improved his accuracy, and the Wreckers have perhaps their deepest group of receivers in recent memory.
Thompson kept his pass catchers happy by mixing the ball around. His 47-yard touchdown pass to Jake Thaw, who made a spectacular diving catch, came two plays after the Warriors had kicked a field goal and extended Staples’ lead to 21-3 with 7:50 left in the second quarter. He later hit Max Lonergan for a 13-yard touchdown that made the score 35-3 at the half.
“I’ve been working a lot in the offseason, our group of receivers have been working together a long time and we finally get to be on the field together the same time, and we just love to play football,” Thompson said. “Spring, summer, we will go out and play 7 on 7 on our own. We go pretty deep so we can get our work in way before the season.”
Thompson said having the time to prepare for taking the keys to the offense helped him hone his game.
“Last year I played mostly receiver so when I came in there I wasn’t completely ready, but now that I’m fully focused on it, it’s great, I’m ready and I have great players around me,” Thompson said.
Thompson said being on the other end of passes has made him better with his delivery.
“There are times you’re not really sure where a receiver is going because things can happen with a defender, where they make you change your route a little bit,” Thompson said. “After playing receiver I get a feel for where they are going to go.”
The offensive line will like their grades after the coaches watch film. The unit was the biggest uncertainty during the preseason, five new starters with little time to come together as one.
“It all starts with the offensive line,” Thompson said. “I know there have been some questions but they are great, I love them and they show who they are. They may not be the biggest but they’re great players and they keep our running game going and keep our passing game going too.”
Then there was the defense, which provided itself with ample rest by not allowing the Warriors to extend drives.
Petroccio was better able than most coaches to simulate in practice what the Warriors like to do.
“We ran that offense for 15 years,” Petroccio said. “We won a lot of games with that offense. We’re basically an option type of team so we had some ideas of how to stop it, and again all the credit to the defense, all the credit to the offense and all the credit to the coaches. We just had a phenomenal night.”
The one thing Petroccio knew when camp opened was he liked the collective personality of his players.
“The thing with these seniors is they really care,” Petroccio said. “They come to practice every day with a lunchpail ready to go to work. They love each other. It’s a very close team. The chemistry is really good and the chemistry with the coaches is phenomenal.”
Petroccio has changes on his staff, changes on the field, changes all around. And that also means changing the way last year ended, four straight losses to eventual state playoff teams that led to a rare .500 finish.
“We’ll just keep going,” Petroccio said. “We will do what we do, practice hard, get ready for McMahon and take it one game at a time.”