Fairfield Prep, Ryan subdue Hamden
Injuries are a part of football, and when a player goes down, an opportunity arises. It's all about the next man up.
Making only his second start of the season, Fairfield Prep junior running back Dillon Ryan continued Friday night to make the most of his opportunity, rushing for 101 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a 28-14 SCC victory over Hamden.
"He's hungry," said Fairfield Prep head coach Tom Shea of his running back. "He's a strong, well-built kid. An excellent athlete."
Ryan replaced starting running back Joe McBride midway through Prep's blowout loss at home to Xavier three weeks ago. McBride, a junior, will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
"A good team is one that has depth," Shea said. "You tell guys this at the beginning of the season, that lineups are going to change, fortunes rise and fall, people have to be ready."
The Jesuits overcame an early seven-point deficit and a sleepy start to the second half to pick up their second consecutive victory and improve to 5-2 on the season. Hamden left Alumni Field with a 1-6 record.
Fairfield Prep used a pounding running game on a frigid night, rushing for 254 yards, while passing for 102. Senior quarterback Tom Brewster (4-for-9 passing) was more effective on the ground then through the air, finishing with 95 rushing yards.
The Jesuits allowed Hamden to strike first, on a 24-yard touchdown run by Stephen Gary in the first quarter. They then locked down defensively for the rest of the half, not allowing the Green Dragons to move over the 50-yard line again.
The Jesuits ground-and-pound offense dominated the second quarter. Trailing 7-0, Fairfield Prep scored three times to take a 21-7 lead into halftime.
"These guys can score a lot of points," Shea said. "They are dangerous and we wanted to control the ball and keep it out of their hands."
Ryan, who ran for 89 yards in the half on 14 carries, ran for a five-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter. Shane Dempsey converted a five-yard run and Brewster connected with Michael Niche on a 38-yard pass for the Jesuits other two scores of the first half.
"We came out in the second half and we were as flat as can be," Shea said.
But the Jesuits woke up when it mattered. Two possessions later, Fairfield Prep took the ball 52 yards down the field for a touchdown. They used Brewster's feet to set up a 3-yard Ryan touchdown run with just over four minutes to play in the game. Brewster ran for 49 yards on the drive as the Jesuits pulled back ahead by 28-14.
Hamden didn't back down, moving right up the field and to the five-yard line with 2:45 to play. But Prep sophomore linebacker Nicholas Crowle made the biggest defensive play of the game for the Jesuits, tackling Gary for a five-yard loss. Prep made three more stops to close out the victory. Crowle also batted down a pass during the final stand.
"(He) made a couple big plays," Shea said of Crowle. "He's going to be an all-state caliber play and he's almost there already. We try to tell guys, `In these pressure situations, it's a team game, but its individual battles, and someone has to make their mind up to step up,' and he did."
Prep plays at Shelton Friday at 7 p.m.