Van der Merwe gives Staples boost

NORWALK — The Staples football team needed a boost going into halftime, and Ben van der Merwe obliged.

The senior kicker nailed a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half, and in the second, senior quarterback Daniel Thompson threw two touchdown passes to help lead the Wreckers to a 44-7 FCIAC victory over Brien McMahon on a humid Saturday afternoon at Casagrande Field.

“I liked the way we came out in the second half. We got our act together on both sides of the ball,” said Staples head coach Marce Petroccio, whose squad is unbeaten on the young season at 3-0.

“The first half was very sloppy and choppy with a turnover and two penalties in the red zone. We just could not get going, and McMahon had something to do with that also, but we felt we could play better and I think in the second half that’s exactly what we did and the field goal before the half uplifted us.”

Van der Merwe was originally going to attempt a 43-yarder but an offsides penalty by the Wreckers moved them back 5 more yards. The extra yardage didn’t affect van der Merwe in the least as his kick split the uprights and gave Staples a 23-0 edge at intermission.

“I’m very happy and all the credit goes to Harris Levi, my holder, and Blake Runkle, my snapper. They’re the best at what they do and they make my job easy,” said van der Merwe, who also had five extra points and three touchbacks on the day. “I still had complete confidence in my ability to make it (after the penalty), and I’m glad the coaches had confidence in me to try the field goal. It worked out better for everyone.”

Thompson took the baton from van der Merwe in the second half and guided the Wreckers to two scores on their first two possessions. He capped a six play, 53-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Max Lonergan and led a three-play, 62-yard scoring push which culminated with an 11-yard strike to Kevin Rabacs to put Staples ahead 37-0 with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter.

Thompson, a first-year starter, finished 13 of 16 for 179 yards, two TDs and an interception, and he also found pay dirt on a 27-yard touchdown run down the right sideline in the second quarter.

“We didn’t play our best football but when you play bad and score 44 points you have to feel pretty good about yourself,” Thompson said. “We started off slow in the first half but we got together in the locker room at halftime and talked and said we have to come out and have a better second half to keep momentum going into next week and we did a good job of that.”

When Thompson wasn’t gouging the Senators through the air, Levi led the ground assault by racking up 119 yards on 19 carries. Staples finished with 209 rushing yards from scrimmage and scored its first three touchdowns of the game on the ground.

Whereas the Wreckers excelled on offense for the most part, McMahon couldn’t sustain long enough drives to put points on the board, with part of the credit going to a Staples first-team defense, which has yet to allow a touchdown this season.

The Senators scored their lone touchdown on an 82-yard run down the right sideline by Sean Miller in the final three minutes of the contest.

“We didn’t give up many big plays but we didn’t put them in uncomfortable situations,” McMahon head coach AJ Albano. “They got 4, 5, 6 yards a play. On a couple third downs we had some penalties to let them off the hook, and you can’t do that against good teams. We did some good things today but we also made a lot of mistakes and we have to turn those mistakes into good things.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Daniel Thompson, Staples. The senior first-year starting quarterback went 13 of 16 for 179 yards, two TDs and an interception, and he also scored on a 27-yard touchdown run.

KEY PLAY

After Nick Marsan intercepted a Thompson pass on McMahon’s 6-yard line, the Senators made three first downs and got to midfield before an unsportsmanlike penalty by McMahon, along with the Staples defense, set them back and they eventually had to punt. Six plays later, Thompson scored on a 27-yard scamper to put the Wreckers ahead 20-0 with 3:11 left in the first half.

QUOTABLE

“We’re going to need that down the road,” Petroccio said of van der Merwe’s field goal. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to score when there’s 1.2 seconds on the clock and we’re on the 33-yard line. That was a hell of a boot. The kid is legit.”

“He settled down and he was upset after the interception,” Petroccio said of Thompson. “The way he played in the second half is a testament to the kind of kid he is.”

UNSUNG HEROES

Harris Levi and Max Lonergan, Staples. The senior running back churned out 119 yards rushing on 19 carries, and the senior wideout had six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

STAPLES 44, McMAHON 7

STAPLES 13 10 14 7—44
McMAHON 0 0 0 7—7

S-Max Lonergan 10 run (run failed)
S-Brandon Adrian 2 run (Ben van der Merwe kick)
S-Daniel Thompson 27 run (van der Merwe kick)
S-Van der Merwe 48 field goal
S-Lonergan 25 pass from Thompson (van der Merwe kick)
S-Kevin Rabacs 11 pass from Thompson (van der Merwe kick)
S-Timmy Luciano 8 run (van der Merwe kick)
M-Sean Miller 82 run (Michael SantaLucia kick)
Records: Staples 3-0, McMahon 0-3.