REDDING and EASTON, Conn. – Joel Barlow attracted attention with its offense in the first five weeks of the high school football season, averaging more than 46 points a game en route to a 5-0 start.
In Friday’s 28-14 win over Bunnell, the Falcons proved they can play good defense, too. Barlow (6-0) blanked Bunnell (1-5) in the second half and held the Bulldogs to just 79 yards of offense. An interception by sophomore Bryan Gallaer helped swing momentum in Barlow’s favor, and the Falcons never looked back.
“I don’t think we’re scored upon yet in the second half,’’ coach Rob Tynan said. “Part of it is a feeling out process. Coach (Craig) Bruno can be hard to prepare for. We made some adjustments at halftime, and I thought our tackling could get much better, and it did.”
Barlow’s offense moved the ball all game but was hurt by mistakes at critical times in the first half. The Falcons scored on their opening drive on a 13-yard pass from Jack Shaban to Alex Lockwood. Bunnell hit back-to-back bombs, however, to take the lead. Bryan Castelot hit Dondre Clarke for an 83-yard score late in the first quarter and a 58-yard score early in the second quarter. Barlow trailed 14-6 at halftime.
But the second half was all Barlow. Billy Wilson scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and Shaban passed to Lockwood for the conversion. When Bunnell tried another bomb on the first play after Wilson’s touchdown, Gallaer intercepted it.
“That was a big play,’’ Shaban said. “He’s been doing a good job in practice. He’s a big kid and a good athlete and he made a great play.”
Steve Miller carried four times for 51 yards on a seven-play, 75-yard drive on Barlow’s next possession. Shaban capped it with an 11-yard touchdown run. Lockwood’s 13-yard run with 2:55 left locked it up.
Shaban had another big game, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Miller had 109 yards rushing, and Miller added 75. Barlow amassed more than 400 yards rushing on the night.
“Our offense is very hard to prepare for when you don’t do it,’’ Tynan said. “We’ll give the ball to anybody. Our fullbacks (Miller and Wilson) really ran hard tonight and that was one of the keys to the game.”
The victory was critical for Barlow as it looks to secure its first-ever state playoff berth. After a game against winless New Milford next weekend, Barlow closes with Masuk, Brookfield and Weston. Those three teams have a combined 14-2 record, and how the Falcons fare in those games will determine their playoff fate.
“It’s hard not to look ahead,’’ Shaban said. “But coach Tynan preaches it each week, go 1-0 every game. If you do that for 10 weeks, you’ll have a great football team.”