NORWALK — For the second straight week, the Ridgefield football team had to wait on the trajectory of a ball flying through the night air on the game’s final play to have the outcome decided.
Eight days ago it was a successful field goal in a win over New Canaan. Tonight a defensive struggle ended with the Tigers’ Owen Gaydos making an interception in the end zone to secure a 7-0 win over Staples.
“Welcome to the FCIAC,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said. “A great team, a great program, they are certainly not going to go away easily. They kept coming at us.”
The Tigers (3-0) appeared on the verge of running the clock out but turned the ball back to Staples at its own 23-yard line with 19 seconds left. The Wreckers (1-2), who had trouble on offense after an opening drive ended on a goal-line interception, used two completions to get to the Ridgefield 37. But Gaydos came down with the team’s third interception.
“We had a lot of big turnovers and we did a good job putting pressure on the quarterback,” said Reid Englert, a two-way linemen for the Tigers. “Obviously it was great to get that shutout.”
Ridgefield has allowed just 21 points this season. Seven came after a long kickoff return to start the opening game against Fairfield Warde. The defense held the Rams to just two third-quarter scores.
“I think they’re proud of themselves and they believe in what they’re doing,” Callahan said. “We’ve had good defenses in the past but to have a good defense with playmakers, you never feel you are out of it because they can make a play and turn a game around.”
Ridgefield took a 7-0 lead after a 10-play drive to start the second half. Xander Scavone, who played a prominent role in the running game and finished the game with a closed left eye, scored on a 2-yard run.
Staples, behind Henry Beck, had some success running the ball. But Jake Thaw, the team’s best playmaker, went long stretches without touches, except when he was moved to quarterback on several occasions.
“We were moving the ball but we kept stalling out when we got down to their territory,” said Adam Behrends, the Wreckers’ first-year coach. “Ultimately all that falls on me so I have to call plays better.”
Staples’ offense was at its best on the first possession of the game. The offensive line was opening holes and Beck was exploding through them and breaking tackles. Beck carried the ball on the first five plays for 78 yards. But on third down from the Ridgefield 7, quarterback Jackson Zager was intercepted by Dean Habeeb.
Ridgefield answered with its own 11-play drive but was hurt by two penalties and had to punt.
From there both defenses stiffened even more. The Wreckers contained a team with several breakaway threats.
“They were outstanding,” Behrends said. “They have kept us in every single game. We have to back them up and score some points and that’s on me.”
Ridgefield has a number of players back on defense and has been even better than expected.
“We have a lot of returning starters from last year but everyone is doing their own job for us to be successful,” Englert said. “Staples is a great team and we worked hard all week to prepare for them. We really came out strong.”
Callahan said Thaw was the focus of a defense that bent some but ultimately was perfect on the scoreboard.
“To pitch a shutout against that team is quite an accomplishment,” Callahan said. “They are capable of moving the ball but they were not capable of getting into the end zone, so that’s good defense.”