New Milford prepares for Thanksgiving challenge
NEW MILFORD — The New Milford football team has some extra time to prepare for what appears to be its biggest challenge of the season.
The Green Wave will try to finish at .500 for the season and halt a two-game slide when it hosts New Fairfield on Thanksgiving morning in the battle for the Candlewood Cup.
New Milford has lost its last three to New Fairfield and hasn’t had possession of the Candlewood Cup since a 31-28 victory in 2011, which is also the last time it was .500 or better (5-5). If the Green Wave are to regain the upper hand in the rivalry, they will have to find a way to slow down one of the hottest teams in not just the SWC but the state as well.
“We have seen them on tape and seen them in person and they are a talented and well-coached team,” New Milford coach Larry Badaracco said. “They have big lines on both sides of the ball that fire off quick and their back Zach Tripodi is a dominant back and a physical runner.”
New Fairfield has not lost since dropping its season opener at Brookfield, 27-13. Since then, the Rebels have allowed no more than 14 points in any game and have allowed only seven in each of their last two, including a 13-7 victory over Newtown last Friday.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Badaracco said. “They are the No. 1 team in the SWC in my eyes. Once you beat Newtown, you are on top. It’s a good opportunity for our team and for the seniors. It would be the biggest win the seniors have had and we are excited for the challenge and opportunity.”
To get that win, the Green Wave will need to shore up a few areas, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It’s been a learning process this season on defense for New Milford. The Green Wave returned just one starter on the defensive line and had to replace half of its linebacking corps as well as its entire secondary.
The unit has shown promise at times and also its inexperience.
“Defense is a much more physical side of the ball and it has been a slower road than we thought in terms of finding our strengths,” Badaracco said. “The scheme and system are good, we just need the kids to buy into it a little more and execute it and we as a staff have to coach it up better.”
Led by standout senior quarterback Tyler Hansen, offense hasn’t been a problem for most of the season for New Milford. The most prolific quarterback in the SWC, Hansen will enter Thanksgiving Day having thrown for 2,290 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. New Milford will need him to cap his career with a big game in order to pull off the upset.
“The offense has been consistent since I have been here and that’s a testament to the amount of work the kids have put in,” Badaracco said. “Passing leagues, working in the offseason, it has paid off.”
New Milford has had some time off after a disappointing 31-21 loss to Weston on Friday night. The Green Wave led 21-12 at the half, but were unable to put the Trojans away. After a few days off, the Green Wave got back to work this week and Badaracco said the extra rest will allow some players to heal and get treatment.
“The kids have bounced back and been resilient all season,” Badaracco said. “They are excited and looking forward to the challenge. It’s a great rivalry, it should be a great atmosphere on Thanksgiving morning and if we come out and match their physicality and play solid football we will have a chance to end the season on a positive note.”