"GN" falls to Joel Barlow in Class M quarters...Story by Gerry deSimas.
By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
DANBURY, Dec. 3 – There is no question about the value of Gilbert/Northwestern John Lippincott on the Yellowjacket offense. He has completed 162 passes for 1,330 yards and 13 touchdowns. On the ground, Lippincott has raced for 629 yards and seven touchdowns – a perfect complement to leading rusher Tony Ortiz (1,673 yards and 17 TDs).
But when Lippincott pulled a hamstring in the first series of Tuesday night’s Class M semifinal, the value he brings to the Yellowjacket defensive unit became clear. Joel Barlow ran through Gilbert/Northwestern scoring touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions as the Falcons rolled to a 54-27 victory at Western Connecticut State University.
The Falcons advance to Saturday’s semifinals where they will face No. 2 St. Joseph of Trumbull at Jonathan Law in Milford. The No. 6 seeded Yellowjackets, in the playoffs for just the second time in its history, finish the season at 9-3.
No. 3 Joel Barlow ran for 538 yards on 51 carries – its second highest performance of the season. Quarterback Jack Shaban led the way with 184 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. The Yellowjackets stopped Joel Barlow (10-2) on its first possession. They never did it again.
Lippincott was injured on Gilbert’s first offensive possession as the Yellowjackets marched to the Joel Barlow 19-yard line before the drive stalled. While he was able to continue playing quarterback, his ability to run was severely limited and he couldn’t play on defense at outside linebacker.
“He is our big leader out there (on defense),” Gilbert coach Scott Salius said. “He is the one that knows everything, recognizes the offense and makes the adjustments on defense. His big responsibility as an outside linebacker is stopping the pitch (play). We gave up 54 points. I guarantee if John Lippincott wasn’t hurt, you wouldn’t see 54 points up on the board.”
The Falcons run the ball hard and don’t go down easily. And its triple option offense makes it difficult to see who has the ball. Several times, Barlow players were past the line of scrimmage on the way to big gains before the Yellowjackets closed in on the ball carrier.
“They ran the triple option better than we stopped the triple option,” Salius said. “They are phenomenal at what they do.”
Shaban has been Joel Barlow’s catalyst all season long with over 1,800 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns and he jumpstarted Barlow. “Obviously when Jack needed to take over, he took over, which he always does,” Barlow coach Rob Tynan said. “That’s the kind of player he is.”
Shaban escaped up the middle on a 47-yard run with 4:34 left in the first quarter to give Joel Barlow a 7-0 lead. On Barlow’s next possession, he scored from the four to extend the lead to 13-0. The Falcons made it 20-0 on a 17-yard run from Harry Wilson with 2:41 left in the second quarter.
Gilbert/Northwestern made it easy for the Falcons to score their fourth touchdown. The Yellowjackets gambled on a fourth down and three play from their own 42 yard line but the Falcons were all over the play and sacked Matthew Nieves for a six-yard loss.
It’s not unusual for the Yellowjackets to gamble deep in their own territory on fourth down. But unlike some of their Pequot Conference opponents this season, the Falcons made Gilbert pay for it – quickly.
Two plays later, Stephen Miller scored from the 19-yard line for a 27-0 lead with 1:28 left in the half.
Gilbert/Northwestern refused to fold. Lippincott has a 10-yard reception to Paxton Lewis Franklin and a 19-yard completion to Ortiz. Lippincott found Lewis Franklin open in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown reception with 14 seconds left in the first half.
To open the second half, Ortiz ran back the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. He took the ball at the one yard line, moved to his left, evaded two tackles and set a new school record for the longest kickoff return. That cut the Barlow lead to 27-12.
However, the Yellowjackets simply couldn’t make a stop.
On Barlow’s next possession, they faced third down and 14 on their own 20-yard line and Brian Gallaer took a pitch from Shaban and rambled 56 yards for a first down. They eventually scored to extend the lead to 34-12.
Thanks to big plays from Ortiz and Seth Dayton, the Yellowjackets cut the lead to 14 again. Dayton gained 26 yards on a pass from Lippincott while Ortiz scored on a 31-yard touchdown run with 6:56 left in the third quarter and added a two-point conversion that trimmed the lead to 34-20.
However, Barlow again made a big play on third down. On third down and three from the Gilbert 42, the Yellowjackets stopped Wilson for a three-yard loss. But they were penalized 15 yards for a facemask penalty. The drive continued and Barlow scored again.
“That was probably the biggest killer play of the game,” Salius said.
Ortiz ran for 143 yards on 22 carries. He returned three kickoffs for 140 yards, including the 99-yard touchdown return that snapped the old school record of 95 set by Ryan Horvay in 1994. It ties the record for the longest scoring play in school history. Bob Hayberry had a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Windsor Locks in 1981.
“That kid (Ortiz) has some nice moves and he caught us off guard a bit,” Tynan said. Ortiz also made some nice tackles on defense, too.
Lippincott completed 8-of-19 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns to Paxton Lewis Franklin. He did throw one interception. Lewis Franklin caught four passes for 64 yards.
Joel Barlow 54, Gilbert/NWR 27
Joel Barlow (10-2) 7 20 13 14 – 54
Gilbert/NWR (9-3) 0 6 14 7 – 27
JB:Jack Shaban 47 run (Juan Gomez kick), 4:34
JB:Shaban 4 run (kick wide), 10:48
JB:Harry Wilson 17 run (Gomez kick), 2:41
JB:Stephen Miller 19 run (Gomez kick), 1:28
G: Paxton Lewis Franklin 27 pass from John Lippincott (kick wide), 0:14
G: Tony Ortiz 99 kickoff return (run fails), 11:46
JB: Ryan O’Hara 13 run (Gomez kick), 8:59
G: Ortiz 31 run (Ortiz run), 6:56
JB: Shaban 17 run (kick fails), 1:44
JB: Alex Gallaer 15 fumble recovery (Gomez kick), 11:51
JB: Shaban 3 run (Gomez kick), 7:46
G: Paxton Lewis Franklin 18 pass from Lippincott (Joe Columbie kick), 6:46
RUSHING: Joel Barlow – Zach Raposo 2-9, Harry Wilson 11-80, Jack Shaban 17-184, Bryan Gallaer 8-136, Alex Gallaer 1-15, Ryan O’Hara 4-22, Stephen Miller 7-85, Dylan Carter 1-7; Gilbert – John Lippincott 7-17, Tony Ortiz 22-143, Alden Tellier 1-minus 4, Matthew Nieves 2-3, Seth Dayton 1-minus 5
PASSING: Joel Barlow – Shaban 0-2-0; Gilbert – John Lippincott 8-19-1, 123
RECEIVING: Gilbert – Paxton Lewis Franklin 4-64, Tony Ortiz 1-19, Seth Dayton 2-34, Nick Pedrolini 1-6
RETURNS: Punts – Shaban (JB) 1-2; Kickoffs – Ortiz (G) 3-140, Dayton (G) 3-27, Tucker Kreh (G) 1-0, Pedrolini (G) 2-36, Shaban (JB) 1-8
FUMBLE REC: Michael Fracasso (G), Scott Colby (JB); INTERCEPTIONS: Harry Wilson (JB) 1-3; PENALTIES: Joel Barlow 11-130, Gilbert 8-60