WESTON, Conn. – For the first time, the Thanksgiving Day football battle between rivals Joel Barlow High School and Weston High School will mean more than just bragging rights.
Thursday’s game kicks off at 10 a.m. at Barlow, and a berth in the Class M state tournament is on the line. The Falcons (8-1) are seeded fourth in Class M. The Trojans (7-2) are seeded 10th but would move into the eight-team playoff field with a victory. Even with a loss, Barlow could sneak into the playoffs.
Weston has won four of the last five match-ups, but the stakes have never been as high.
“It’s going to be a very good game, a very good matchup,’’ Barlow running back Alex Lockwood said. “Weston is a very good team. It’s going to be a fight.”
Barlow’s only loss this season was to undefeated Masuk, 42-23. It set the stage for its showdown with Weston by winning last week at Brookfield, 29-22, as Lockwood scored a pair of touchdowns.
But the Falcons will be playing without quarterback Jack Shaban, who was lost for the season in the loss to Masuk. Shaban was having a wonderful season, with 1,118 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Cooper Brown started in Shaban’s place in the win over the Bobcats.
The Falcons also have a balanced attack with Lockwood (1,031 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Billy Wilson (617 yards, 10 TDs). Barlow does most of its damage on the ground, particularly with Brown at quarterback. He completed just two passes against Brookfield.
Weston is more diverse offensively, led by quarterback Tyler Hassett. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions and rushed for a team-high 693 yards. Justin Schaffer (55 receptions for 903 yards, 380 yards rushing) is Hassett’s top target.
Weston won five straight to open its season before losing in an upset to New Fairfield, 42-21. The Trojans won their next two before falling to Masuk, 49-0, last week.
“It’s probably the biggest game we’ve had in school history,’’ Barlow coach Rob Tynan said. “This is our 15th year, and we’ve had four ties. That’s unusual. Sometimes records don’t matter, nothing else matters. It’s mano a mano, and we go at it. It will be a good football game.”