THS defense pitches second straight shutout

Playoff spot on the line Friday at Newcastle

TORRINGTON – For the second straight week, the Torrington High School defense stepped up to the challenge of holding an opponent out of the end zone.

The end result was a 22-0 victory over the Upton-Sundance Patriots, keeping the Blazer playoff hopes alive heading into the final week of the season.

“Credit needs to be given to those up-front guys in the trenches,” coach Russell Stienmetz said. “It’s not an easy task by any means, especially against Upton, who you knew they’d run the ball at you. The linebackers and secondary just pursing, getting to the ball and making tackles.”

The Blazer defense forced five Patriot punts, forced one turnover on downs and forced two turnovers.

The two turnovers came in the form of two interceptions by sophomore linebacker Mac Hibben. The first came with 6:09 left in the first quarter and the second came with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great night by him,” Stienmetz said. “He’s getting better and more physical, getting into the flow of the game and a lot better eyes than earlier in the season.”

Offensively, Torrington utilized a strong running game behind junior quarterback Bryce Hager and senior running back Dylan Packard.

The duo combined for 197 yards of rushing on 47 attempts. Hager scored all three of the Blazer touchdowns.

“Bryce is starting to see the holes better and finishing drives for us,” Stienmetz said. “Dylan Packard had a great night running the ball aggressive. Credit to the inside guys once again. Tackle to tackle to the tight end, they were blocking well, and the running backs were running behind their pads.”

Hager got the Blazers on the scoreboard with 1:03 left in the first quarter on a 10-yard keeper.

His second score came at the 5:05 mark in the third quarter on a 5-yard run, and his final score came in the closing seconds of the third quarter on a 22-yard run.

With 5:40 left in the game, the Torrington defense pinned Upton-Sundance deep and a bad snap over the head of the punter, resulting in a safety.

“Having them all the way backed up,” Stienmetz said. “I know it was a bad snap, but it was great to get more points on the board.”

Now, the Blazers (3-5 overall and 3-3 in the 2A East Conference) turn their attention to the Newcastle Dogies (3-4 and 3-3). It is a must-win situation for Torrington. The winner earns a berth into the playoffs, while the loser’s season is finished.

“We have to contain their main ball carrier No. 30 (Holden McConkey), rally and get him on the ground. He’s a very fast, physical back. We need to make them do something they don’t want to do a bunch of, which is throw.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.