By Eliot Schickler

eschickler@bcnnew.com

The Staples football team cemented itself as a top second-half squad.

Staples erased its second straight halftime deficit and grabbed its third second-half comeback win of the season (to go with a fourth game where it broke a tie in the third quarter) with a 35-17 home victory over Fairfield Warde to raise its record to 7-0. Warde dropped to 4-4.

"It's football, we do what we got to do," Wreckers coach Marce Petroccio said. "If a team stops us, we make adjustments. We have to figure out what people are doing and do what we do."

In the first half, the Mustangs combined their strong running with their clutch passing game and led 17-14 at the break. Warde was also helped when senior Devon Lofton intercepted sophomore Jack Massie's pass on the first possession of the game and returned it 50 yards.

"We did what we expected to do, we ran the ball, which is our game and executed in the first half," Mustangs coach Duncan Della Volpe said.

Following Lofton's pick, Warde had a first down on the Staples 33. Mustang senior captain quarterback Chris Foley (9-15 for 94 yards) came through in the clutch in the first half and his 22-yard completion to classmate Kevin Sullivan on a third-and-7 gave Warde a first and goal at the 8.

"He made some good decisions in the first half and we did a lot of things right," Della Volpe said.

Three plays later, Lofton ran it in for a 2-yard touchdown with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter. Senior Cooper Wicke's kick made it 7-0.

After an exchange of punts, the Wreckers tied it with a 12 play, 69-yard drive. Massie (11-19 for 132, eight carries for 36 yards) threw a clutch 18-yard reception to senior Jon Heil on a fourth-and-nine and a 4-yard touchdown pass to junior Nick Kelly on a third-and-goal with 11:54 left in the half. Senior Robbie Wolf's kick tied it 7-7.

Warde responded with a seven play, 62-yard drive. Senior captain Wolff (nine carries for 82 yards) had rushes of 15 and 33 yards on the drive and Foley hit Lofton (three catches for 30 yards, 14 rushes for 45 yards) for a 22-yard completion.

"Our line did a good job, the running backs picked up the blitzes and I was able to break tackles and get a few extra yards," Wolff said.

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This set up Wicke's 27-yard field goal with 9:43 to go, which gave the Mustangs a 10-7 lead.

One thing Staples did well in the first half was kick returns. Heil had a 40-yard return to start the game but ended up doing no damage. However, senior Zach Mitchell's 50-yard return after Wicke's field goal gave the Wreckers a first down on Warde's 44.

All Staples needed was one play and Massie threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to junior James Frusciante (four catches for 83 yards). Wolf's kick gave Staples a 14-10 lead.

However, the Mustangs came back after an exchange of punts and marched 69 yards on 15 plays to reclaim the lead, 17-14. Wolff scored on a 1-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left. Foley completed three passes for 32 yards on the drive and had a two-yard run to convert on a fourth-and-one.

Warde appeared to have the momentum but that changed when junior Greg Strauss intercepted Foley's pass on the Mustang 40.

"It was a big situation coming into the second half and it was a gut check for our defense," Strauss said. "We pressured the quarterback and the coaches put us in position to make plays. My teammates did their job and the secondary locked down their receivers. I read the play and was able to catch it."

That led to junior Nick Kelly's 10-yard touchdown run and coupled with Wolf's kick, Staples led, 21-17. Kelly (five catches for 30 yards, 15 carries for 81 yards) also hauled in two passes for 18 yards on the drive.

"It [his interception] was a big play, it changed the momentum and our offense started to roll," Strauss said.

Massie added a 9-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left in the quarter to culminate a 48-yard drive. Wolf's kick made it 28-17.

Despite trailing by 11, Warde was still alive. Wolff's 26-yard run gave the Mustangs a first down on Staples' 31. Classmate Joe Marx followed with an 11 yard gain but fumbled it and Strauss recovered it at his 15.

"Someone forced it loose and I was in the right place at the right time," Strauss said.

Heil closed out the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run to complete it a 46-yard drive.

Staples star running back Joey Zelkowitz left the game early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return.

"That's a very good football team [Warde] and Della Volpe does a good job with them," Petroccio said. "We made adjustments and loosened up the run."

Della Volpe said, "We did a lot of things right but ran out of gas. The pick didn't help us and we don't have the luxury of being able to turn it over against a team like Staples."