In long anticipated NEPSAC showdown, Loomis Chaffee's defense smothers Avon Old Farms

Photo of Sean Patrick Bowley

AVON — The goal, defensive end Jerod Smith said, is to prove Loomis Chaffee's football team is the best in New England.

Apparently, there were some rankings out there that said otherwise. Which rankings were those?

"I don't know, we don't look into all that. Rankings don't mean nothing," the 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior from North Carolina said. "But if someone's ranked higher than me I'm going to prove that they ain't better."

There was little doubt on Saturday night. In front of an overflow crowd of approximately 2,000 fans spilling onto Ryan Field, Smith and his twin, 6-4, 230-pound brother Jacob led a defensive front that smothered Avon Old Farms in a 28-10 victory in, perhaps, the most anticipated NEPSAC game of the year.

"This means everything to us," said senior quarterback Dante Reno, the son of Yale coach Tony Reno and a South Carolina commit who ran for a touchdown and threw for another to answer Avon's only touchdown in the third quarter. "This was a game we had circled on our schedule since last year (a 35-26 Loomis victory).

"So it was a great win for our program amd great for New England football, too. I don't know how many people were here but there were a lot of peoople."

Those people came from all over to see nearly 20 future Division I college football players, many of which had Power 5 offers or commitments, play in a battle for New England supremacy — for now at least.

Of all the talent on the field, it was the Smiths and nose guard Cooper Austin (Yale) who stole the show. "We have the best defenseive line in the country and I think they showed that tonight," Reno said.

Loomis' defensive front had highly-touted junior quarterback Ryan Puglsi on the run all night. Puglisi was sacked a half dozen times and, when he managed to get away, threw three interceptions.

"As you can see, we had pressure on him every play," Jerod Smith said. "We caved in the pocked, forced Ryan to either scramble out or step up and get a sack. From a defensive line standpoint we played good. Really good.

"They were considered the best team in Connecticut. We just showed up, showed out and proved to them that we were going to show out and beat their ass every play."

Down 14-3 at halftime, Avon Old Farms recovered a Quincy Briggs fumble on the second half kickoff at the Loomis 6. Puglisi punched it in a couple plays later to get the Winged Beavers within 14-10.

But Loomis upped the ante when Reno threw a 40-yard strike to a wide open Carlo Crocetti to put the Pelicans ahead 21-10. A Kaleb Griffith interception quickly followed, leading to Efem-David Egbe's second touchdown of the game. 

"We were throwing a lot of shorter stuff, taking what they were giving us," Reno said. "Right after they scored, I looked at coach (Adam) Banks and he looked at me and said, 'Let's do it.' We threw a short hitch, and then went up top on them the next play.

"He's a great coach. He called a great game."

Briggs and Jaiden Spearman also had interceptions for Loomis.

The victory put an early stamp on the Founders League race, which finished in a three-way tie between the Pelicans, Avon Old Farms and Choate. Loomis (2-0, 1-0 Founders) lost to Choate last year, but won't see the Wild Boars until Oct. 29. There's also a key interleague game vs. Deerfield in a few weeks.

"Job's not finished," Smith said. "We've got to show up every week and play."

Avon Old Farms (1-1, 1-1), meanwhile, must regroup quickly for a suddenly massive road game at Choate, whom the Winged Beavers defeated last year. 

Loomis Chaffee 28, Avon Old Farms 10

LOOMIS CHAFFEE   14   0    7  7  — 28
AVON OLD FARMS     0   3   7  0 — 10
LC — Dante Reno 3 run (Ollie Iverson kick), 2:33
LC — Efem-David Egbe 14 run (Iverson kick), 0:07
AOF — Ryan Hornyak 31 field goal, 0:00
AOF — Ryan Puglisi 1 run (Iverson kick), 10:20
LC —  Carlo Crocetti 40 pass from Dante Reno (Iverson kick),
LC — Egbe 3 run (Iverson kick), 11:50
Records: Loomis Chaffee 2-0, 1-0 Founders; Avon Old Farms 1-1, 1-1