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Article Published December 2, 2019
Guilford Finishes Season with a Loss Against Hand
Peter Vander Veer

The Guilford football squad hosted Hand for the annual matchup between the crosstown rivals on Thanksgiving Eve. The Indians took a 61-6 defeat against the Tigers at Kavanaugh Field on Nov. 27 to finish their season with a record of 4-6.

Hand put up 34 points in the first quarter and then scored 21 points during the second to take a 55-0 lead into halftime versus Guilford. With the win, the Tigers finished off their second-straight undefeated regular season and increased their all-time lead in their Thanksgiving series with the Indians to 41-5-1.

“The game itself with Hand was pretty much as advertised. They are, by far, the best high school football team that I’ve seen in quite some time,” Guilford Head Coach Anthony Salvati said. “Their lines, both offensive and defensive, are comparable to many college teams. They just came in and took care of business.”

Guilford recorded its lone score of the game when senior running back Charles Walcott ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Walcott had 19 carries for 98 yards in the contest. He finished his senior season with 1,541 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 197 rushes.

“Charles was the heart and soul of this team, but he had some very dedicated seniors around him,” Salvati said. “One of my biggest disappointments is not having more time with the seniors. They had three different coaches in three years, so they didn’t have much time to learn our system.”

Despite the loss to Hand, Coach Salvati took a lot of positives away from his first campaign at Guilford. Salvati came to Indians this year after having spent the previous 15 seasons as an assistant coach at North Branford.

“When you look at our record, you would think that it was just another mediocre season,” Salvati said. “We’ll have a good core of young players coming back. We had 42 players this past season, counting all four classes. Two of our youth teams in town did well, also. Our future is bright. Most of our kids are already back in the weight room.”

Junior quarterback Aedan McDermott will return for his senior season next fall. McDermott finished this year with 1,231 passing yards and eight touchdowns to go with two TDs on the ground. In the Hand game, he completed six passes for 71 yards, throwing two completions apiece to Walcott (21 yards), junior Drew St. Denis (27 yards), and senior Aidan Chiaia (23 yards). Junior Ian Derda had 24 receptions for 309 yards and one touchdown for Coach Salvati’s squad this season.

“We struggled in several areas during the year,” Coach Salvati said. “Our offense never quite got into the rhythm that it should have, and we had some key injuries to players on our offensive line. We were missing three of them for the Hand game. I’m not sure that it would’ve made that big a difference, though.”

Senior Ryan Eldridge recovered a pair of fumbles for the Indians against Hand. He also had eight tackles on the night. Senior Evan Russell made nine tackles, junior Niko Tartagni had eight tackles, and sophomore Eric Dolmus recorded a pass deflection.

Tartagni and Dolmus are among the key players who will be back with Guilford next year. Coach Salvati said that freshmen Hayden Eldridge (center) and Mike O’Brien (running back/linebacker) could make significant contributions in 2020 after seeing some time late in the recent campaign.

“We are losing most of our size,” said Salvati. “But there are some very good linemen returning.”

Out of Guilford’s six defeats, three of them game by six points or less. The Indians started their season by posting wins against Branford (20-19), Hartford Public (40-20) and Avon (37-3). They dropped a 34-28 decision to East Haven the following week and then took losses against Lyman Hall (20-14), Masuk (49-0), Foran (31-27), and Wilbur Cross (25-13). Guilford bounced back by defeating Bassick (49-6) before losing to Hand in its finale.

In addition to their overall record of 4-6, the Indians also went 2-3 in their SCC Tier 3 games this year. Guilford beat Branford and Bassick to go with losses against East Haven, Lyman Hall, and Foran in divisional play.