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NEW MILFORD — It wasn’t the Thanksgiving feast the Green Wave were hoping.

Instead, New Fairfield treated itself to a 31-7 win in the annual Candlewood Cup game last Thursday to clinch the South-West Conference championship. The Rebels also secured a home quarterfinal game in the Class M state tournament, marking their first appearance in the state tournament since 2001, when they earned the second seed and lost to third-seeded Seymour in the Class M semifinals.

“I’m very proud of these guys and what they’ve accomplished this year,” New Fairfield coach Anthony Fata said. “It’ll also feel so darn good to go into work tomorrow. Usually, at this time every year, you’re cleaning out the locker, you’re getting everything ready. But tomorrow, to come in and get these kids prepared for a playoff run, that’s what it’s all about. I just hope these kids embrace every moment, because they’ve earned it, they deserve it, and I hope it keeps going all the way to the end.”

The New Fairfield offensive line — led by starters Justin Garden at center, guards Russell Howard and Jake Gouveia, tackles Kyle Brennan and Reed Oettinger and tight ends Mike Farrell and Greg Radovic — gave the Rebels plenty of room to run. Quarterback Michael Zanca connected with a wide-open Radovic on a 71-yard touchdown pass down the sideline in the third quarter, and James Lewis ran for a nine-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.

While it may not fill highlight reels full of spectacular, eye-popping plays, New Fairfield’s brand of smash-mouth football has proven to be effective. The Rebels have won nine straight games since a season-opening loss to Brookfield, including wins over Newtown and Masuk.

“When you have a line like our offensive line, it makes it very easy for me to call a play,” Fata said. “Whether it’s right or left, I know that, whichever side of the line I’m going to call, I know that these guys are going to explode off the ball and do the job they’re supposed to do. These guys have bought into the ground-and-pound.”

The New Fairfield defense, meanwhile, effectively bottled up a New Milford offense which could score from anywhere on the field with cannon-armed quarterback Tyler Hansen.

Jason Schretzenmayer sacked Hansen twice and batted down a pass at the line. An interception by Rudy Sarro set up the Rebels’ first scoring drive, which ended with Tripodi plunging into the end zone from the 1-yard line. Liam Rattigan sniffed out a trick play on the final play of the first half and tripped Hansen as he scrambled after faking a reverse. Lewis intercepted Hansen in the end zone late in the third quarter to initiate the drive which he capped with his touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Michael Clark had a sack on New Milford’s final drive, which ended with a Radovic interception deep in Green Wave territory.

Hansen completed 16 passes for 235 yards. He hooked up with Max Vaughey eight times for 150 yards, including a 72-yard scoring strike which put the Green Wave ahead 7-6 early in the second quarter. Hansen completed four passes for 32 yards to Matthew Brevard and three for 48 yards to Matthew Ryan. On defense for the Wave, linebacker Brett Leonard recovered a Tripodi fumble and had several big tackles at the line of scrimmage.

rgregory@newstimes.com

NEW FAIRFIELD 31,

NEW MILFORD 7

NEW FAIRFIELD

6 12 6 7 — 31

NEW MILFORD

0 7 0 0 — 7

NF—Zach Tripodi, 1 run (kick failed).

NM—Max Vaughey, 72 pass from Tyler Hansen (Christopher Montalvo kick).

NF—Tripodi, 56 run (kick blocked).

NF—Tripodi, 36 run (pass failed).

NF—Greg Radovic, 71 pass from Michael Zanca (run failed).

NF—James Lewis, 9 run (Will Enright kick).

Records: New Fairfield (9-1); New Milford (4-6).