NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk High School football's history-making season ended with a 55-14 loss to Xavier Saturday in the Class LL semifinals at West Haven High School. The Bears finish the season 9-2 under first-year coach Sean Ireland. The Falcons (12-0) meet second-seeded Staples for the title next Friday or Saturday at Rentschler Field.
“They’re the No. 1 football team in the state for a reason, and they proved it tonight,’’ Ireland said. “It was frustrating.”
Derick Edwards scored both touchdowns for Norwalk, on a 72-yard pass reception and an 11-yard interception return. Norwalk managed little offensively against Xavier’s fast and aggressive defense, while the Falcons easily moved the ball against a Norwalk defense that had shut down nearly all of its opponents this season.
“Their line makes them tough,’’ quarterback Delshawn Wilson said. “Our line gave it all they had, and that’s all I can ask. It’s hard to get out and throw when they’re all chasing you.”
Norwalk vowed not to be intimidated and showed spunk early. After Xavier scored on its second drive of the game, on a 14-yard run by Mike Mastrioani, the Bears responded on their third drive. Wilson hit Edwards on the long pass play and Jon Wilkins’ extra point put the Bears ahead, 7-6, with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
Xavier came right back, with Ryan Murphy scoring on a 7-yard run just 1:17 after Edwards' score. Xavier added a 24-yard touchdown pass from Pat D’Amato to Murphy with 7:42 left in the first half, and D’Amato ran in from 17 yards out with 5:53 left to make it 27-7.
Edwards’ interception return gave Norwalk life with 1:58 left before halftime to make it 27-14. Xavier added another touchdown on a 10-yard run by Ryan Jacobucci, and led 34-14 at halftime.
Norwalk could manage little offensively in the second half, and Xavier added touchdowns by DeAngelo Berry and Charlton Ortega. The final score came on a 27-yard pass with 4:11 left.
“We couldn’t run the ball on them at all,’’ Ireland said. “They were bigger than us up front and more aggressive. You can’t simulate their speed. They’re a great team and they deserve to be going to the finals.”
Edwards had five catches for 86 yards for the Bears. Johnny Anzalone and Edwards had interceptions, and Franklin Bartley recovered a fumbled punt.
The Bears were hurt by an ankle injury to defensive lineman Kwazee Rice, who left late in the first quarter and did not return. And several Norwalk players went down on questionable hits by the Falcons that went unpenalized. “It seemed like we were playing 16 guys instead of 11,’’ said Ireland, biting his tongue about the officiating.
The loss closes the book on a spectacular season which saw Norwalk win its first playoff game and reach the Class LL final four. While the loss stung the Bears, they will be able to reflect in the days ahead with spectacular memories of a season few could have envisioned.
“We’re the first team from Norwalk High to win a playoff game,’’ Wilson said. “There’s going to be a lot of good memories. I’m going to remember all the hard work that went into this season, working in the weight room and all the practices. We have a lot to be proud of.”