Playoff action Jacket football takes down Plainville, loses to Hillhouse

TORRINGTON — In his three-year tenure as head coach, Scott Salius has transformed the Gilbert-Northwestern Yellowjackets football program into a team that demands attention, awe and respect not only from the Northwest Corner, but the entire state. Salius’ Yellowjackets accomplished more than just an improved record this season, shocking many by earning the school’s first playoff run in team history.

The year prior to Salius’ management, the Jackets finished the season with an abysmal overall record of 1-9. Salius improved that record to just shy of the .500 mark his first year, finishing out at 5-6 with a Berkshire Bowl victory under his belt as well. Last year’s Yellowjackets earned the team’s first winning season in 15 years with a record of 7-3 and another win at the Berkshire Bowl.

GN faced Plainville at Robert H. Frost Field in Torrington and filled the stands and sidelines with a host of enthused Yellowjacket supporters. GN received the opening kickoff and responded with a strong return by Devon Molway.

Molway quickly went back to work, running out a first down and then combined on the rush with senior co-captain Bobby Lippincott for another first down shortly after. Lippincott fired a pass to receiver Sean Fitzgerald, who broke multiple tackles to carry in the first touchdown of the game. GN added the extra point.

The Jacket defense, led by senior co-captain Kyle Jones, quickly dismantled Plainville’s offense, feeding off the energy of an early touchdown and a big QB sack by Jones.

Plainville prepared to punt, but apparently GN’s early efforts had rattled them deeper than it appeared, as the toss went over the head of the kicker and was downed just shy of Plainville’s goal line. GN wasted little time and extended their lead to 14-0 in the opening minutes of the first quarter with a touchdown carry from senior co-captain Drew McCarthy and an extra point from John Ambrozaitis.

After another strong GN defensive display, Plainville was forced to punt once again on their next possession. Lippincott connected with Fitzgerald for a 66-yard touchdown pass to extend the Yellowjacket lead to 21-0 in the first quarter.

Plainville found no respite in the second, as Lippincott found McCarthy with a gorgeous pass in the end zone for another GN touchdown. Ambrozaitus added the extra point to extend the Jacket lead to 28-0.

A frustrated Plainville team began taking bad penalties from cheap shots, late hits and misconduct.

Molway and Jones made the best of the gifted penalty yardage and built upon it by blasting up the middle. Jones eventually battled his way through for another Yellowjacket touchdown, giving the Jackets a 35-0 lead in the second.

Plainville’s antics continued through their next possession. GN remained calm and collected, and more importantly, demonstrating true class. GN held their 35-0 lead into the halftime break.

Plainville lost possession in the third off a fumble recovered by GN. Molway, Jones, McCarthy and Lippincott quickly worked the rush deep into Plainville territory and just shy of the goal line. Molway finished the drive by leaping over the pile to score another touchdown for the Jackets, building upon their lead, 41-0 early in the third quarter.

With the imminent win in hand, Salius sent the youthful portion of the Jacket squad onto the field to finish out the evening. Plainville was able to squeak out touchdown late in the fourth, but the young Jackets blocked the extra point, ending with a final score of 41-6.

After the immense surge of immediate post-game celebration, Salius gathered his team at center field and spoke with honesty and pride.

“When the rest of the state looks at the score tonight, they won’t be able to believe what we accomplished,� said Salius. “I never thought I’d say it, but we are now playing for the right to play at Rentschler Field.�

The Jackets went on to face Hillhouse in the semifinals, but saw their playoff ambitions halted shy of that  trip to Rentschler Field, taking a 42-14 loss at Municipal Stadium.

Senior co-captain Kyle Jones, who played three years of varsity football under Salius’ leadership commented on the team’s progress after the win over Plainville.

“It was a lot of hard work,� he said. “I give all the credit to coach Salius. He is great at recruiting players and he pushed us hard. He has done a great job of making advancements in the program.�

The Jackets lose a number of key players to graduation this year, many of whom played their best football under the leadership of Salius. Graduating GN seniors include co-captains Bobby Lippincott, Kyle Jones and Drew McCarthy, as well as Connor Frey, Julio Ruiz, Luke Knap, Jackson Reidy, Charlie Shea, Robert Kitch and Sean Fitzgerald.

GN finishes out the season with a final record of 9-2.

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