WESTPORT — Staples running back Harris Levi proved Friday night he is as economical with words as he is both shifty and forceful carrying the ball.
His analysis of the Wreckers’ 42-6 over Wilton was concise and accurate: “Our line beat their line, that’s what it came down to.”
Its was an A-Plus night for Levi both in analysis as well as performance.
Wilton (2-1) is an improved team and it will have success this year, but it lacked the size to hang with the brute force of the Wreckers (3-0), who will go as far as their ground game and defense takes them.
Right now the outlook is quite good, sunnier after a team that opened slowly in its first two games scored on four of its first five possessions.
“We talked about it all week,” Staples coach Marce Petroccio said. “We need to play four quarters here. I think our third quarter statistics are off the charts but we have to start doing that in the first quarter. We sprung a couple big runs and it’s a credit to the offensive line and the receivers blocking on the perimeter. We’ve got some kids who are gamers.”
Staples rushed for 482 yards on 39 carries. Levi, a junior who got the bulk of the work because of two injuries, finished with 218 yards on 20 carries. There was no loss in quality.
Quarterback Andrew Speed needed just five rushes to gain 195 yards, including scoring runs of 89 and 52 yards.
“They want to prove themselves every time they come out,” Petroccio said of his runners. “They want to win. They are not going down on the first tackle.”
Staples rolled despite losing Elliott Poulley, who was injured last week against Danbury and could return next weekend. And, of course, there was the preseason injury to Ethan Burger that the Staples players are rightfully tired of talking about.
“I knew from the start that we have good backs,” Levi said. “Ethan is a great running back; I respect the guy a ton.”
With all due respect to Levi, Poulley, Speed and Brandon Adrian, Petroccio could probably lace up his old pads and put up credible numbers behind an offensive line that features five seniors and might be the team’s greatest attribute.
“We’ve been working with this chemistry for the four years we’ve been here and really this is the culmination of all the work, all the extra practices and conditioning,” said Nick Roehm, the Wreckers’ left tackle.
Add in tight end Ryan Fitton, a human plow who demonstrates the old-school benefits of a great blocking tight end, and the Staples runners usually have three or four yards to build up momentum before seeing a defender.
“They have a lot of pride, they are a tight knit group and they take care of each other,” Petroccio said. “Tonight for us to get off to a start like that was huge.”
Then, of course, there is the defense, which would have pitched a shutout save for great execution on a flea flicker that completely fooled the Wreckers. Wilton’s Will Litton hit Robbie Hermann for a 49-yard touchdown in the second quarter to avoid the shutout.
Staples is going to try and have another run at a state title going old school, playing to its strengths in a spread offense world. Will it work? Are people ready to put the Wreckers on the same level with Darien and New Canaan?
“Everyone loves an underdog, right?” Roehm said with a smile. “We will be all right. It is all talk. We will prove it on the field.”
Staples’ lone question mark may be how it will fare if put in the position of having to play from behind. If the first three weeks are a read, that may not ever be a concern.
“As long as we can play great defense and run the ball we can have some success here,” Petroccio said.
After Friday night, few would disagree.