Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sports

Guilford Takes 27-18 Loss to Hillhouse

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Junior Mike O’Brien had a big night on the ground when the Guilford football squad took a 27-18 defeat against Hillhouse in a road game on Oct. 15. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Junior Mike O’Brien had a big night on the ground when the Guilford football squad took a 27-18 defeat against Hillhouse in a road game on Oct. 15. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)

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Senior captain Eric Dolmus caught a TD pass from senior quarterback Nico Messina during the second quarter of Guilford’s loss versus Hillhouse last week. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Senior captain Eric Dolmus caught a TD pass from senior quarterback Nico Messina during the second quarter of Guilford’s loss versus Hillhouse last week. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)

Head Coach Anthony Salvati knew that there was plenty of work to be done when the Guilford football team entered the 2021 season.

The Grizzlies came into the year with a young and inexperienced squad after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire 2020 campaign. With minimal experience on the varsity roster, Guilford lost its first two games this year, but then bounced back with two wins leading up to its pivotal SCC clash against Hillhouse in New Haven last week.

“Coming into this year, we knew we were going to be rebuilding a lot of the pieces that we missed from 2020,” Coach Salvati said. “Not having a season last year definitely hurt us a little bit, because a lot of these players haven’t had any experience playing at the varsity level, so those first couple of games were tough. I like the way we’ve bounced back since then, and I’m hoping that we can continue to battle as a team.”

Guilford wound up taking a 27-18 defeat to Hillhouse at Bowen Field on Oct. 15, putting the Grizzlies’ record at 2-3 on the season. Despite the loss, Guilford was competitive throughout the game and even had a lead in the first quarter.

Junior running back Mike O’Brien kicked off the scoring for Guilford with a 20-yard rushing touchdown on the opening drive of the night. O’Brien finished the game with 22 carries for 127 yards and a TD.

“We went right down the field our first drive of the game. We controlled time of possession really well this game,” said Salvati. “The issue was, every time we scored, they came back with a big play. We couldn’t prevent the big play from happening.”

Guilford’s two other touchdowns also came during the first half versus Hillhouse. Senior quarterback Nico Messina connected with senior captain wide receiver Eric Dolmus for a score in the second quarter. A few possessions later, Messina found senior captain wideout Jack O’Brien for a TD strike.

Messina went 5-of-8 for 85 yards passing and two touchdowns for the Grizzlies. Dolmus had five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Jack O’Brien finished with four catches for 65 yards and a score.

Guilford only trailed Hillhouse by three points at the break, but was unable to put up any points in the second half, and went on to take the 27-18 defeat.

“It was 21-18 at halftime. The only other score of the game came in the fourth quarter, when they punched one in on us.” Salvati said. “I was really proud of the way we played defensively in the second half. We simply didn’t miss tackles. We were gang tackling a lot better, after being hesitant in the first.”

Senior captain linebacker Eddie Barlage led the Grizzlies with nine tackles in the game. Senior defensive end Aiden McBrierty had eight tackles for Guilford. Dolmus made seven tackles and also had an interception for Coach Salvati’s squad.

“I’m pumped, honestly. I’m very proud of where we are right now. The kids don’t quit,” said Salvati. “We have a lot of guys who are coming back from injury, with Jack O’Brien being the big name, and he’s been an absolute workhorse for us offensively. We have a bye week coming up, and that should give us more time to get more of our injured guys back.”

Coach Salvati is looking forward to the return of Trevor Ridley, a sophomore wide receiver. Ridley sustained an injury in Guilford’s season opener, but is expected to be back after the Grizzlies’ bye week.

“I’m going to do my best here going into the bye to make this coming week of practice fun for the guys. The kids have been working so hard this year, and they deserve it,” Coach Salvati said. “We are still going to work hard and fix our mistakes from the previous weeks, but I’m definitely encouraged with where we are at as a program.”

Following the bye week, Guilford will play a home game against Brookfield at North Branford High School on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. Brookfield also has a record of 2-3 on the season, but Coach Salvati knows that it will be a challenging matchup for the Grizzlies.

“We’re a power-run team and, we want to keep utilizing that to our advantage. We are 60-40 in terms of our run to pass ratio,” said Salvati. “We are doing our best to keep a good balance, but we want to stick with what works best for us. We are competing in every single game, and I know these guys are eager to get back out there against Brookfield and come away with a win.”


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