FARMINGTON – It was simply a matter of time for the Simsbury High football team Friday night in its season opening contest against Farmington.
The visiting Trojans were knocking on the door. Twice in the first half, they were inside the 10-yard line. Both times they were turned away – one of the reasons that Simsbury held just a one point lead at halftime.
But Simsbury scored two touchdowns in 16 seconds at the end of the third quarter and added another two touchdowns in 33 seconds midway through the fourth quarter to break open a close contest and beat Farmington, 42-12. The win spoiled the first athletic contest ever on Farmington’s new artificial turf surface.
“We wore them out in the second half,” Simsbury coach Jeff Osborn said. “That’s what we want to do to teams.”
Simsbury led by one at halftime, 13-12. The Trojans had the ball on the Farmington four-yard line with 21 seconds left in the first half but couldn’t convert. Farmington linebacker Connor Martin had a big play on third down, batting down the ball in the end zone for an incomplete pass.
On its first possession of the second half, Farmington drove to the Simsbury 21-yard line but the drive stalled when Simsbury held Indian QB Michael Popolizio to no gain on fourth down and one. The Trojans put together an 11-play drive and marched to the Farmington 30-yard line. But Jon Henry’s interception at the five-yard line stopped Simsbury – for the moment.
However, Farmington couldn’t move an inch. When Popolizio twisted his ankle on third down, he had to come out of the game. He’s also the punter and Martin had to punt instead. It went only 19 yards and Simsbury took over on the 21-yard line.
Foster scored five plays later from the one and Sam Collins’ two-point conversion run swelled Simsbury’s lead to 21-12 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter. On the kickoff, the Farmington return man moved too slowly toward the ball and when he tried to cover it up, a Simsbury player hit him and the ball squirted loose. Simsbury’s Aryn Morgan recovered on the Farmington 28-yard line.
Foster ran 14 yards and Elijah Barrows ran 14 yards and scored the touchdown 15 seconds after the previous score to increase the lead to 28-12 with 0:51 seconds left in the third quarter.
Farmington gained a first down on its initial drive of the second half but not much more. Simsbury held Farmington to 18 yards on the ground and 20 yard of passing before relaxing on the final Indian drive when the game had long been decided. Sean Penney had a 40-yard interception return and Simsbury recovered its second fumble of the game in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense is really focused on swarming to the ball and hitting hard,” Penney said. “Basically, it’s just good group tackling. We just to fly around there and have fun.”
Simsbury extended its lead to 35-12 on a 10-play, 80-yard march that ate up 7:33. Foster, who ran for a game-high 129 yards on 18 carries, scored his second touchdown of the day from the five with 7:33 remaining.
On Farmington’s next drive, Penny intercepted Popolizio and returned the ball 40 yards to the Farmington five-yard line. Barrows scored from the five just 16 seconds later for a 42-12 edge.
Barrows ran for 117 yards and two TDs on 16 carries for the Trojans. Foster completed 8-of-15 passes for 120 yards and two touchdown passes. He threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jake Feldman in the second quarter. Penney caught four passes for 39 yards and had a 28-yard touchdown reception.
Farmington coach Chris Machol was disappointed in his team’s effort, especially in the second half. “Give credit to Simsbury. They completely outplayed us in the second half,” he said. “We gave up and that is totally unacceptable. I can deal with a loss. I can’t deal with quitting. We will fix that.”
Machol did praise the effort of four linemen – Dan Hardiman, Akash Kumar, Vincent Stevens and Matt Goralski, who played on both sides of the ball. Hardiman had a sack and recovered a Simsbury fumble.
“We had too many holes,” Machol said. “Too many guys who weren’t ready and Simsbury made us pay.”
Popolizio, in his varsity start, did have his moments at quarterback for the Indians. He ran for a team-high 76 yards on 15 carries and completed eight of 21 passes for 112 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
Simsbury took a 7-0 lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Penney from Foster with 5:46 left in the first quarter. Farmington responded with a 57-yard march with Popolizio completing a 14-yard pass on third down to Carson Bombara to keep the drive going. Popolizo scored on a 10-yard run to cut the lead to one 7-6. Farmington took the lead when Jack Sucato caught a short pass from Popolizio and got into open space, scoring on a 60-yard touchdown run with 6:26 left in the first half. It gave Farmington its only lead of the day, 12-7.
NOTES: Simsbury leads in the series between the two schools, 19-15-1. It began in 1923. … According to results found in yearbooks and area newspapers, this may be the 100th opener for Simsbury football dating back to 1908. Research is still ongoing. According to results found so far, Simsbury is now 51-46-3 on opening day. Farmington slips to 37-45-3 in their first game of the season.
Simsbury 42, Farmington 12
Simsbury (1-0) 7 6 15 14 — 42
Farmington (0-1) 6 6 0 0 — 12
S: Sean Penney 28 pass from Grasson Foster (Stephen Gachwind kick), 5:46
F: Michael Popolizio 10 run (kick fails), 2:49
F: Jack Sucato 60 pass from Popolizio (run fails), 6:26
S: Jake Feldman 48 pass from Foster (kick fails), 3:51
S: Foster 1 run (Sam Collins run), 1:07
S: Elijah Barrows 14 run (Gachwind kick) 0:51
S: Foster 5 run (Gachwind kick), 7:33
S: Barrows 5 run (Gachwind kick), 7:00
RUSHING: Simsbury – Elijah Barrows 16-117, Grasson Foster 18-129, Sean Penney 4-36, Eric Bedson 2-20; Farmington – Michael Popolizio 15-76, Xavier Amos 5-21, Sean Dunleavy 1-8, Connor Martin 12-26
PASSING: Simsbury – Foster 8-15-1, 120; Farmington – Popolizio 8-21-1, 112
RECEIVING: Simsbury – Sean Penney 4-39, Sam Collins 2-6, Jake Feldman 1-48, Zach Graham 1-27; Farmington – Kevin Dunst 2-9, J.T. McLaughlin 2-10, Carson Bombara 2-20, Jack Sucato 1-60, T.J. Nanos 1-9