Playoff Time for GN.
TORRINGTON- If you took a mirror and pointed it at either of the two teams battling in today’s Class M quarterfinal game at Torrington High School at 6:30, the reflection might just be the same and on a deeper level than just the players on the field.
Both programs, the Gilbert/Northwestern Yellowjackets and the Plainville Blue Devils, have made remarkable turnarounds over the past few years, the Blue Devils in just one year while G-N has been building for three.
Just four years ago, the Yellowjackets suffered through a 2-8 season, it’s worse for Plainville, who lost 20 straight at one point and heard rumblings of a football program that should just give up.
The Yellowjackets too, had heard for years that they would never be able to be competitive with the schools in the Pequot while the Blue Devils struggled mightily in the Central Connecticut Conference division IV.
It all started to turn around for G-N when they got a new head coach in Scot Salius in 2008.
Salius turned a struggling program into a physically dominant one in three short years, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
It all started in the weight room as the first year coach began molding a unit that would no longer be pushed around in the second half of games because they had no leg strength left.
The results have been steady; a 5-5 first year gave way to a 7-3 mark in 2009, just one game out of the playoffs.
In 2010, despite a few pitfalls against teams they should have beaten, the Yellowjackets posted an 8-2 record and will host a playoff game, albeit in Torrington because of the need for lights.
You could say their watershed moment as a program came on November 20 when the shut out powerhouse Avon by a 7-0 score.
The Falcons had been the measuring stick for Salius and his coaches since the got here in 2008. Each year, though the scores may not have reflected it, the two programs got a little closer in skill and strength before the ultimate defensive game on the road pushed the Gilbert/Northwestern program over the mountain.
On the other side of the mountain, like the mirror, wait’s a team that has also overcome huge odds to make a playoff appearance.
The Blue Devils first year head coach, Chris Farrell, took over a program in need of a transplant and at present has the patient up and ready to do battle.
After losing their first two games (the first, a loss to Maloney, would become a forfeit because of an ineligible player) Plainville ran off seven in a row before dropping their finale, a 27-7 loss to Northwest Catholic on Thanksgiving Day.
The Blue Devils come in with a 8-2 record but are a bit banged up.
Junior quarterback, Tony Lopizzo was thought to be out for tonight’s contest but there may be an outside chance he will play.
Another mirror moment comes to mind when you think about the two teams offenses.
Both love to run behind strong offensive lines. Each has a quality runner; Devon Molway for G-N, Lopizzo for the Blue Devils.
Plainville has as many as six running backs who may see the ball on Tuesday night, if Lopizzo can’t go behind center, look for Ross Zettergren to take the bulk of the snaps.
Sweep is the name of the game for the Blue Devils, they are effective when they get to the outside; the “Jackets defense has been working on it since the found out their opponent.
For the Yellowjackets, quarterback Bobby Lippincott has been Mister Everything since he broke on the scene as a freshman four years ago.
A good runner who can also put the ball into tight spaces in the air, Lippincott also handles the punting duties, something he hopes not to have to do too much of on Tuesday night.
Molway rushed for over 1200 yards this season and has been a consistent force in the backfield.
Fullback, Kyle Jones, a player who also remembers what it was like four years ago in Winsted, is a bruising blocker who is used in short yardage or goal-line situations.
The ‘Jackets have their share of banged up players too, running back/linebacker Eddie Eseppi has been out since the Coventry game with a knee injury.
Neither defense gives up much scoring, the Blue Devils gave up 13.1 per game, the Yellowjackets 13.7.
Don’t expect to see two offensive juggernauts dueling it out at the Robert H Frost Complex tonight.
Defense may just rule the day again.
That seems to fit these two similar as a mirror-image teams to a tee.