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Norwalk Blanks McMahon, Clinches Playoff Berth

NORWALK, Conn. – Brien McMahon High’s speed and versatility on offense has given many football teams fits this fall. But Norwalk High stopped the Senators cold, 17-0, in Thursday’s city rivalry game at the Senators’ Jack Casagrande Field. Norwalk earned the Sam Testa Trophy, which goes to the game's winner, for the second straight year.

The victory catapulted the Bears into its first state tournament game in 13 years. The official rankings and pairings will be released Friday. Norwalk is expected to travel to meet Conard of West Hartford in a quarterfinal game Thursday. If the Bears play as well defensively as they did Thursday, they could stick around for a while in the state playoffs.

Norwalk (8-1) held the Senators to 67 total yards of offense and four first downs and forced two turnovers. McMahon ran just one play inside the Norwalk 20-yard line, and that pass was intercepted by Delshawn Wilson. The Bears posted their first shutout of the season.

“They ran the formations that we were ready for,’’ said senior defensive back Johnny Anzalone said. “And we stopped them. We just tried to stay wide and box them in. We knew they were a better running team when they got to the outside.”

Norwalk scored the only points it needed on its first drive. Wilson, who was named Norwalk’s MVP, connected with Gil Araujo for a short pass over the middle. Araujo did the rest, bowling over tacklers and powering into the end on a 34-yard scoring pass. Norwalk missed the PAT but had a 6-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

Anzalone capped Norwalk’s best drive of the game in the second quarter. The Bears marched 76 yards in nine plays before he ran in from 10 yards out. Jon Wilkins kicked a 31-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the first half to close the scoring.

The Bears did little offensively in the second half, but McMahon did even less. Led by linebackers Bobby Stringfellow, Araujo, Patrick Whelan and Dave Klein, Norwalk kept a McMahon team that scored 33 points against New Canaan and 21 against league champion Staples under wraps.

“They’re a very good defense over there,’’ McMahon coach A.J. Albano said. “If you don’t score points, you’re not going to win. It’s that simple. Their defense prevented us from doing that. They’re going to a problem for whoever they play in the states.”

Wilson was the Bears’ offensive catalyst, finishing with 49 yards rushing on 19 carries and completing 10 passes for 146 yards. Anzalone rushed nine times for 33 yards, and Araujo hauled in five catches for 83 yards. Now Norwalk gets to play for the state championship.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,’’ Norwalk coach Sean Ireland said. “Maybe it will hit us tonight or tomorrow morning or when we get to practice. It’s something we haven’t done since 1998.”

Zack O’Connor was named MVP for the Senators (3-7), who had hoped to end the playoff dreams for their archrivals. “We just didn’t block well enough,’’ Albano said. “We were under pressure all day today. But it’s not because of anything we didn’t do. They’re a good team, and they’ve had a good season. We wish them the best of luck.”

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