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Big games for "GN" in Class M playoff hunt.

POSTED October 27, 2013
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

WINSTED: While the local football schedule in the Northwest Corner of the state has yielded less than stellar results for most squads, one still has the ultimate dream in mind; an appearance in the postseason.

The next two weeks are shaping up to be a couple of the most important weeks this season for the team they call “GN”.

Head football coach Scott Salius and the Gilbert/Northwestern Yellowjackets are five games into their schedule and sport a 4-1 record going into this critical stretch that will pit them against two Pequot West foes, Canton on the road on Saturday and at home the following Saturday against Avon.

It’s been four years since the ‘Jackets have made the State Tournament, a statement itself that shows how far the program has come since Salius took over six years ago.

Finishing .500 back then was considered a successful season. Not anymore. The standards have been raised, the height of the bar clearly raised.

Not making the playoffs now equals an unsuccessful season in Winsted.

The 2013 “GN” team has a chance to do something special and the coach had marked on their calendar three key games when the year started.

“We needed to beat Cromwell, North Branford and Valley Regional to put ourselves in good position for the playoffs,” Salius said. “The Cromwell win (34-27 in the season opener) was huge.”

The North Branford game got away from the Yellowjackets and they dropped it by a 42-25 score.

Valley comes up in their next to the last game the week before Thanksgiving and all Valley has done is outscore their opponents by an average of 30 points per game (204-52).

First things first though, Canton.

Second year head coach Phil Philippon has a team that reminds Salius a lot of his own team back when he started.

A hard-nosed, well coached group of players without superstar names or stats but a team that believes and is learning how to win.

“They are just a good, solid team,” Salius said, “They don’t rely on just one player on either side of the ball. They are pretty big on both lines and can throw somebody different at you each play.”

Quarterback Eric Scott leads an offense that has averaged almost 30-points per game with help from wide-out Cam Daley and fullback Mike Amoroso who Salius described as a “bruising power back who is hard to get to the ground.”

Dan Delos ran for three scores and 115 yards in the Warriors 42-6 win over Nonnewaug.

“They may primarily be a running team but they switch it up pretty good,” Salius said. “It’s a team that will never quit and plays hard all game long.”

Canton is undefeated in the Pequot Uncas West division with wins over Avon, Housatonic, Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton and Nonnewaug.

Their 16-13 win over Avon in the season opener was their most impressive. The Falcons had owned the Warriors since the program started. When Canton took the lead, it marked the first time they had ever led against Avon.

Game two in this crucial span features a matchup with the team that has become the ‘Jackets biggest non-Housatonic rival in Avon.

The Falcons had their way with Gilbert/Northwestern for a good number of year until the 2010 season, the year the ‘Jackets stunned Avon by a 7-0 score, a win that propelled them into the playoffs.

Avon may not have the big name stars like Colin Moore or Tyler D’Onofrio but they had enough to stun North Branford 41-38 earlier this month with two scores in the last 26.6 seconds.

Quarterback Noah Hahn has been a force for head coach James Caouette and played a key role in the Falcons 41-10 win over “GN” last year.

Salius has had these games circled since the schedule came out.

He strives to get his team to the next level but understands they have to take care of business on this floor first.

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