Bru­ins, Taft set to clash

Greenwich Time - - SPORTS - By David Fierro

Some­thing cer­tainly has to give when Brunswick School and Taft School tan­gle on Satur­day in a much-an­tic­i­pated Erick­son League show­down.

Three teams are still un­de­feated in the Erick­son League, with the Bru­ins, who are cel­e­brat­ing their Home­com­ing, and Rhi­nos be­ing two of them. In­clud­ing Satur­day’s 3 p.m. matchup, there are still five reg­u­lar-sea­son games re­main­ing, but it’s not too early for teams to get the up­per­hand in race for the league’s top spot.

“It’s a very im­por­tant game, they all are,” Brunswick coach Jar­rett Shine said. “You can’t lose more than two games and have a shot at mak­ing the post­sea­son. Two 4-0 teams on our turf on our Home­com­ing, with a lot of alumni watch­ing — it should be an ex­cit­ing game.”

Brunswick (4-0, 3-0 Erick­son League), which reg­is­tered a 34-21 road tri­umph against Taft in 2017, is com­ing off a con­vinc­ing 29-7 vic­tory over host Kent School — a game that saw the Bru­ins in­ter­cept three more passes, re­cover a fum­ble and limit the Lions to 195 to­tal yards. Through four games, the Bru­ins have amassed 13 in­ter­cep­tions with ju­nior de­fen­sive back Liam Fair­back lead­ing the charge with six.

The Bru­ins’ de­fense, which has been a turnover­caus­ing ma­chine so far, must be es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive against a Taft team that’s scored more than 30 points in each one of its games.

by Tyler Whit­ley (a 2004 Taft grad­u­ate), the Rhi­nos topped Trin­i­tyPawl­ing a week ago, 36-20. Se­nior quar­ter­back Nolan Groomes threw a pair of touch­down passes to ju­nior Diante Vines for Taft, which re­turned a key fum­ble 88 yards for a touch­down in its win against Trin­ity-Pawl­ing.

“It’s go­ing to take a lot for us to stop them,” Shine said. “Mike Han­ni­gan (Bru­ins’ de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor) had done a good job of putting the game plan to­gether against a re­ally good Taft team. Their quar­ter­back is go­ing to Prince­ton to play foot­ball, we’ve played against him the past two years and he has got­ten bet­ter. They have a run­ning back who has ex­plo­sive speed — they are tal­ented over­all.”

Grooms has com­pleted 69 per­cent of his passes (47-68) for the sea­son, with nine touch­downs and just three in­ter­cep­tions. Show­ing that he’s a dual threat, he’s also rushed for 336 yards. Ju­nior Teely Rhyne has paced Taft’s run­ning at­tack (494 yards on 70 car­ries).

Be­hind lineback­ers Nick Vil­lis and David MacGil­livray, de­fen­sive line­man Howard Pow­ell and Fair­back in the sec­ondary, the Bru­ins have al­lowed a mere 38 points over their first four games — a trend they hope con­tin­ues dur­ing their Home­com­ing on Satur­day.

“Taft throws in some in­ter­est­ing for­ma­tions, like flex for­ma­tions,” said MacGil­livray, a ju­nior. “StopCoached ping the run is al­ways a big part of our game plan, so we have to do that once again against Taft. We haven’t been let­ting teams put up many points, be­cause every­one on our de­fense has been step­ping up. If we can stop the run, we’ll be in good shape.”

Of­fen­sively, Brunswick has fared well with ju­nior Nick Wine­gard­ner at quar­ter­back. He’s con­nected with se­nior star wide re­ceiver Cor­nelius John­son for big plays nu­mer­ous times and has used his speed and shifti­ness to gain yards on the ground. Ju­nior run­ning back Jalen Madi­son has given the Bru­ins’ of­fense a boost. He rushed for a sea­son-high 182 yards in Brunswick’s vic­tory at Kent last week and has con­sis­tently churned out tough yards on the ground each game. Mean­while, John­son’s made clutch, game-chang­ing catches each week for the Bru­ins.

Though the Bru­ins have ex­celled each week, it hasn’t be­gun games es­pe­cially strong, an as­pect Shine knows the team must im­prove upon start­ing Satur­day.

“We have to start strong, we can’t af­ford to get off to slow starts against teams like Taft,” Shine said. “We must be able to move the ball of­fen­sively and be bal­anced and on de­fense, we have to wrap-up and tackle. This is the tough­est test our de­fense is go­ing to face so far. Taft has a pretty dy­namic of­fense, so we have to play mis­take-free foot­ball on both sides of the ball.”


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