Welcome to the Guilford High School Touchdown Club website!
It was an exciting season for the Guilford Football program. We are incredibly proud of the team for their efforts and how they represented themselves and the program throughout the season. Now, we get to celebrate them at the end-of-season banquet scheduled for Sunday, December 12th at 5:00 pm in the Commons at Guilford High School. Players who paid their buy out at the beginning of the season receive complimentary tickets. All other players, parents and guests must purchase a ticket. We look forward to celebrating the team together. Thank you!
Eddie Barlage was as integral of a member of the Guilford football team as any athlete during the 2021 campaign in which the Grizzlies finished 6-4 overall.
A senior captain and outside linebacker, Eddie was one of six Guilford players to earn All-SCC honors, and he couldn’t have been happier with how his final season concluded.
“I started playing football in 7th grade,” says Eddie. “Playing backyard football with my friends was definitely one of the most fun things I did growing up, so I decided to go out for the real thing. I feel like this season went really well as a whole, and I have high hopes for next year’s team. I feel that we seniors have done the right things to put the program in a great position for the future.”
In Eddie’s 10 games played, he earned a team-best 68 tackles and averaged nearly eight tackles per game. Eddie was also first in forced fumbles with two and tied for third in sacks with three.
“The best part about the sport is the competition,” says Eddie. “I love competing, especially in football because it exemplifies all the areas I pride myself in, including athleticism and mental toughness. One of my favorite moments from this season came against Branford. It was far from my best game statistically, but it was amazing to see my teammates play their hearts out and come away with a big victory.”
Eddie credits Coach Salvati for helping him grow as a player. The senior captain says Coach Salvati is one of the smartest coaches he’s had the chance to work with.
“Coach Salvati and I have a great relationship where we joke around when appropriate, but also understand when it’s time to work,” says Eddie. “When Coach Salvati got to Guilford, I was very impressed with his knowledge of the game. That’s a feeling that I still have today. More importantly, I admire how he cares for all the players and goes out of his way to help us when we need it.”
Coach Salvati describes Eddie as one of the hardest workers both on and off the field, and a true mentor to all of his teammates.
“Eddie is the epitome of hardest worker in the room,” says Coach Salvati. “He has worked non-stop, 365 days a year to accomplish his goals and become a leader and captain of this team. To see him grow both on and off the field over the past three years has been one of my biggest highlights as a coach. His leadership and presence on the field and in the locker room will be greatly missed.”
Aside from football, Eddie is also a captain on the Guilford wrestling team, which is off to a 1-0 overall start to its winter campaign. The Grizzlies bested Morgan 54-12 in their opening meet of the season.
“I give lots of credit to wrestling for my success as a football player,” Eddie says. “Wrestling introduced me to great physical and mental challenges that I had to overcome.
“Wrestling develops a mindset that I think is hard to get from other sports,” he adds. “The mindset is to be intense and to push through pain while also respecting your opponent. Wrestling definitely gave me the mental edge over my opponents on the field.”
Above all, Eddie was ecstatic he and his teammates were able to complete an entire football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wasn’t worried about playing through the coronavirus, rather grateful for the opportunity,” says Eddie. “After seeing all of the seniors last year go without their last season, I appreciated the opportunity to play even more.”
Several football players from local high schools were recently selected to the All-Southern Connecticut Conference Team based on their performances during the 2021 fall season. The athletes included students who attend Branford, Daniel Hand, East Haven, and Guilford high schools.
Branford had six players selected to the All-SCC Tier 3 Team this season. Senior Nate Mathis made the team as an offensive lineman for Branford. The Hornets’ other All-SCC selections were senior David McDonald (defensive line), senior Cameron Paleski (linebacker), senior John Frawley (defensive back), and sophomore Nate Florio (defensive back).
Four athletes from the Daniel Hand football team earned All-SCC Tier 1 accolades on the offensive side of the ball. Seniors Seth Sweitzer (wide receiver), Patch Flanagan (quarterback), Ethan O’Brien (running back), and Brendan Walsh (offensive line) were the All-SCC selections for the Tigers this year.
Senior Shea Carasone and junior Mekhi Morrison of East Haven made the All-SCC Tier 3 Team this fall. Carasone made the team as a punter, and Morrison earned All-Conference honors as a defensive lineman on behalf of the Yellowjackets.
Six athletes from the Guilford football squad garnered All-SCC Tier 3 accolades. Senior Eric Dolmus (wide receiver), junior Mike O’Brien (running back), and junior Luke Carignan (offensive line) were the Grizzlies’ selections on offense. Seniors Jack O’Brien (defensive back), Aiden McBrierty (defensive line), and Eddie Barlage (linebacker) were named to the team on defense.
When Jack O’Brien broke his collarbone two weeks before the Guilford football team started its season, the senior captain was heartbroken. The first question that rushed through Jack’s mind was whether he would he be able to play football at all after missing his entire junior year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I broke it in a preseason scrimmage two weeks before the first game, coming down catching a ball,” says Jack. “It was very mentally challenging at first after putting in so much work in the offseason for the first game. Then finding out I couldn’t play for several weeks was very tough.”
Jack wound up missing the first three games of the season, but then got back on the field and made a big impact for the Grizzlies upon returning. Jack finished the year with 26 catches for 400 receiving yards and 8 total touchdowns, two of which he scored against East Lyme in his first game back in action. The senior also made the All-SCC Tier 3 Team for his play as a defensive back.
“I knew I had to do my part as a captain of the team and still be a leader, so I always brought energy to the team, regardless if I was padded up with them or not,” Jack says. “The recovery process was not bad. At times it was tough mentally, but I followed doctor’s orders very responsibly and was blessed to be back on the field as early as I was.”
Jack helped Guilford finish with a record of 6-4 after the Grizzlies had lost their first two games of the year. Head Coach Anthony Salvati believes that Guilford could have been a playoff team had Jack played the entire campaign. Salvati credits Jack for his persistence to return to the field and his performance once he got back out there.
“Jack is an exceptional leader on and off the field,” says Salvati. “His presence was clearly missed when he missed the first [three] games of the season. The offensive production became far more balanced once he returned, as well as more explosive. Jack also gave us the versatility on defense to bring pressure from different areas, while he was able to cover receivers.”
Jack’s relationship with Coach Salvati has strengthened during his tenure in the program. Jack says that Salvati always puts the team before himself, and he admires his coach’s dedication to the game.
“He’s so supportive and is so committed to making the whole team and I better players and young men,” Jack says of Salvati. “He cares about everything we do. He always emphasizes being good students and people in the community. I know he will do anything for me, and I can say the same.”
In addition to having a stellar season on the gridiron, Jack has also been succeeding academically at Guilford, posting a 3.5 grade-point average during the football season. Now, Jack’s sights are set on attending prep school next fall in order to have a better opportunity to get recruited by top colleges for football.
“Next year, I will be playing at a post-grad prep school. I have yet to decide where, but I have already talked to a handful of schools,” says Jack. “My plan after prep school is to play at the highest level I possibly can, while receiving a good education.”
Along with playing football, Jack also competed for the Guilford boys’ basketball team in his sophomore year. However, once he became a junior, Jack decided to dedicate himself to football exclusively, and that decision paid dividends this year.
“I spend a lot of time working on my route running and my catching,” Jack says. “I stopped playing basketball after my sophomore year to focus on football, and I feel like that really paid off.”
The Guilford football team posted its third-straight shutout and fourth win in a row when the Grizzlies claimed a 48-0 home victory against East Haven last week. The Grizzlies improved to 6-3 on the year heading into their season finale versus Hand on Thanksgiving Eve.
On Nov. 18, Guilford hosted SCC Tier 3 opponent East Haven and blanked the Yellowjackets by a 48-0 score. In addition to picking up their sixth win of the year, the Grizzles improved to 3-1 in the SCC Tier 3 standings by shutting out the Yellowjackets.
Junior Mike O’Brien had a night on the ground by carrying the ball 11 times for 186 yards and four touchdowns for Guilford in its win over East Haven. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilgert went 9-of-12 passing for 125 yards and a touchdown, including a 28-yard scoring strike to senior captain Eric Dolmus. Overall, Dolmus had four receptions for 49 yards and the TD.
Sophomore Dillon Burlakoff ran the ball six times for 74 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown run. Senior captain Jack O’Brien kicked six extra points and also had two catches for 31 yards on the night. Sophomore Jake Jahnige added a 35-yard reception for the Grizzlies.
Senior captain Eddie Barlage led the defensive effort for Guilford by making eight tackles, forcing a fumble, and also recovering a fumble for a touchdown. Senior Aiden McBrierty, junior Luke Carignan, and junior Dan O’Connell each recorded a sack in the victory.
Guilford finished the 2021 season by facing Hand on the road in the annual Thanksgiving week matchup between the two rivals on Nov. 24 (after press time). Like Guilford, Hand came into the game with a record of 7-3 on the year.
That’s the perfect word to describe Guilford’s performance Friday night as the Grizzlies blanked Branford 31-0 Friday night at Kavanaugh Field in a Southern Connecticut Conference football contest.
It was probably the best performance in the three-year tenure (not counting 2020’s COVID-canceled season) of Anthony Salvati as head coach of the Grizzlies.
“It’s definitely up there,’ Salvati said. “To play against a rival like this and a playoff team, we came out and played well today.”
Defensively, Guilford didn’t allow the Hornets to get past the Grizzlies’ 24-yard line.
“We played Guilford football — go to the ball, stay low and gang tackle and went to the ball. We’re finally healthy with everyone coming back from injuries and it showed.”
Branford also shot itself in the foot all night as every time the Hornets started to mount an offensive drive, the Hornets were set back by penalties and never recovered.
“Hats off to them. Their staff put together a great plan,” Branford coach John Limone said. “They outplayed us and outphysicaled us. We picked a bad time to have a bad night.”
And Guilford took advantage of it. The Grizzlies opened the scoring late in the first quarter when quarterback Tyler Hilgert connected with Jack O’Brien for a 32-yard touchdown pass. With O’Brien’s first of four extra-point kicks, it was 7-0.
“We went with a new snap count for them because we thought they knew our cadence,” Dolmus said. “It worked every time.”
Just three plays later, a collision right as a Zachary Turbert pass hit one of his receivers sent the ball into the air and Guilford’s Erick Dolmus picked it off and returned the ball 29 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter.
“I came in full speed, caught it and I knew I was going to the crib,” Dolmus said.
A 27-yard field goal by O’Brien and a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nico Messina to Dolmus in the second quarter made it 24-0 at halftime.
The only scoring in the second half came on a six-yard run by Michael O’Brien.
Going into the game Branford (6-2) was the second seed in the CIAC Class M playoffs, but the loss will drop the Hornets in the seedings. They’ll probably have to beat Law and East Haven in their final two games to have any chance to return to the state playoffs.
“They are all must wins,” Limone said. “We have to worry about one game at a time. Yes, it’s Coach speak, but it’s coach speak because it’s true.”
Guilford (5-3) also remained alive in the Class L playoff hunt. The Grizzlies play East Haven next week and close out their season on Thanksgiving Eve night against Hand. They’ll obviously have to win both games and get a lot of help.
“Our goal is 7-3 but we can only get there if we win against East Haven next week,” Salvati said. “I tell the kids that every week is a playoff game. That’s how we play every game.”
When the Guilford football team entered its bye week, Head Coach Anthony Salvati knew that the Grizzlies needed some time to recuperate from a hard-fought loss against Hillhouse on Oct. 15. Guilford returned to the field ready and refreshed last week and notched a convincing win versus Brookfield.
Guilford hosted Brookfield for a non-conference contest at the Surf Club in Madison on Oct. 28. The Grizzlies routed the Bobcats by the final score of 43-6 to level their record at 3-3 on the year.
“Brookfield is a very physical team and a team that we knew we couldn’t overlook going into this matchup. I was really proud of the way everyone played,” Coach Salvati said. “Every week, I feel like we get better. We had a rough start with injuries, but I feel like we are really starting to hit our stride now.”
Guilford’s offense essentially turned in a flawless performance in the team’s win over Brookfield (2-5). Senior quarterback Nico Messina went 14-of-17 passing for 227 yards and three touchdowns for the Grizzlies in the victory. Two of those touchdowns went to senior captain wide receiver Eric Dolmus, who had seven receptions for 148 yards on the night. Fellow receiver Jack O’Brien, also a senior captain, finished the game with five catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns to help Guilford win with authority.
“I was really proud of the way our senior wide receivers performed in this game,” said Salvati. “Eric has been a consistent playmaker for us all season, as has Jack, and it was nice to see both of them get a couple of touchdowns on the night.”
Junior running back Mike O’Brien had 15 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown for Guilford. Senior Eddie Barlage also found the end zone on an 11-yard TD rush.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilgert got some playing time under center in the game. Hilgert completed seven passes for 65 yards and also ran for a 1-yard touchdown to finish off the scoring for Coach Salvati’s squad. Sophomore Brady Hallihan kicked an extra point in the game.
“I like the way that we rebounded this week. We didn’t really put that Hillhouse team away when we had a chance to a couple weeks ago. This week, our defense was strong all-around,” Salvati said. “We had no missed tackles and made a lot of great plays, which put our offense in a favorable position. It was to our benefit that Brookfield was playing on a short week, as well.”
Junior linebacker Liam Alberti aided the defensive charge for Guilford by making 10 tackles in the win. Sophomore safety Jake Jahnige had a huge game that saw him snag three interceptions to go with five tackles. Barlage had seven tackles for the Grizzlies, while senior defensive end Aiden McBrierty made six tackles to go with one sack.
“I think Aiden had one of the biggest impacts on the game,” said Salvati. “He had several quarterback pressures, which contributed to several bad throws for Brookfield and led to some interceptions for us. He had a tremendous game.”
Coach Salvati views the injuries that his team went through at the beginning of the season as both a curse and a blessing. While it was difficult seeing some of Guilford’s best players get sidelined, those setbacks also gave some of the younger athletes a chance to gain varsity experience—something that has ultimately benefited the entire team.
“The younger kids who didn’t have varsity experience at the beginning of this season are finally playing like varsity players,” Salvati said. “It’s great to see us coming together like this. We’ve got four games left this season, and the kids’ goal is to finish 7-3.”
Guilford’s next game is on the road against fellow SCC Tier 3 opponent Bassick (1-6) on Friday, Nov. 5. The game gets underway at 6 p.m. at Kennedy Stadium in Bridgeport. After that, the Grizzlies will conclude their regular season by playing home games versus Branford and East Haven, followed by their finale at Hand on the night before Thanksgiving.
“I’m looking forward to seeing these guys compete,” said Salvati. “We are finally fully healthy, and my expectations for the team are high for the rest of the year. We just want to take it week by week.”
Eric Dolmus has been making plays all season long for the Guilford football squad. A senior captain who plays wide receiver and cornerback, Eric is proving a consistent contributor for the Grizzlies with his performance on both sides of the ball.
Eric first stepped on the football field in his freshman year at Guilford. Eric’s friends talked him into joining the team, and he’s been working hard at getting good on the gridiron ever since.
“My favorite aspect of the sport is that I get to take all the pain I feel inside and take it out on the field. I also love that you get to play for your team” says Eric. “It’s a team sport, and everything you do has to be 100 percent. You have to leave every out on the field for your teammates.”
At 5 feet, 9 inches and 170 pounds, Eric may not be most physically imposing wide receiver on the football field, but he has the work ethic of an athlete who is never satisfied and is always grinding to improve his skill set. Eric has already received Division I scholarship offers from Central Connecticut State University and the University of Maine.
“This whole offseason, I lifted a ton. I do wide receiver drills and agility drills a lot. I also do a lot of speed drills to get faster,” Eric says. “What drives me to become a better player is the future that I can give to myself and my family if I go far with football. I want to play in the NFL and think with hard work, passion, and grit, I can make it. What makes me stand out from the rest of receivers is my speed and my ability to get the ball wherever it is.”
Through five games this season, Eric accumulated 400 receiving yards on 30 catches to go with four touchdowns. As a cornerback, Eric has three interceptions, two pass deflections, and 26 tackles for the Grizzlies.
Eric set the tone for his senior season when he scored a touchdown during Guilford’s first game of the year.
“So far, my favorite moment as a player came in our first game this year, when I scored my first touchdown,” says Eric. “We were playing Law, and I took a slant 51 yards to the house at the start of the game. It was an awesome feeling.”
Head Coach Anthony Salvati says that Eric brings impressive athleticism to the field for Guilford. Salvati praises Eric for his ability to remain unfazed in pressure situations, in addition to how well his senior captain has been performing in the classroom.
“Eric started for us at corner as a sophomore, but the most exciting part has been being able to watch Eric mature off the field,” Salvati says. “Eric has turned his academic career around since his freshman year and is a solid 3.0 student, which will benefit him well as he chooses which school to attend and play next fall.”
Eric appreciates all the effort that Coach Salvati has put into to helping him become a better football player since his freshman season. Eric knows that he wouldn’t be where he is today without Salvati’s guidance.
“My relationship with Coach Salvati is great. He’s always been my go-to guy for almost everything in life,” says Eric. “He’s shaped me into the man I’m becoming, and I appreciate that a lot. He’s helped me a ton with my recruiting to play college football.”
Aside from football, Eric enjoys hanging out with his friends and family. Even when he isn’t competing, Eric loves watching both NFL and college football games.
Guilford has a record of 2-3 at the midway point of the 2021 season. Eric wants to the Grizzlies to finish the year strong and cap off their campaign by earning a win versus their crosstown rival.
“I’m hoping we can win out this year and go 7-3,” Eric says. “I really want to beat our rival Daniel Hand, too.”
The Guilford football squad traveled to East Lyme to take on the Vikings for a non-conference clash on Oct. 8. The Grizzlies notched a 34-12 win against East Lyme to even their record at 2-2 on the season.
Junior running back Mike O’Brien had a huge game for the Grizzlies by carrying the ball 24 times for 277 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Senior quarterback Nico Messina went 4-of-6 passing with two touchdowns—one to senior Eric Dolmus and the other to senior Jack O’Brien. Sophomore QB Tyler Hilgert was 7-of-10 for 72 yards with a touchdown toss to Jack O’Brien, who had six catches for 45 yards and two TDs on the night. Dolmus had three catches for 37 yards and the one touchdown.
The Grizzlies also had their fair share of standouts on defense in their win against East Lyme. Barlage had 16 tackles with a sack, junior Liam Alberti made 11 tackles, and senior Aiden McBrierty had nine tackles and a sack. Freshman Melvin Omeragic made nine tackles and had a sack, while junior Alejandro Colberg-Martinez recorded eight tackles to go with a sack. Dolmus had six tackles and also snagged an interception for Head Coach Anthony Salvati’s squad.Senior Eddie Barlage had eight rushes for 41 yards to aid the Guilford offense. Sophomore Buddy Gambardella had two catches for 19 yards, and sophomore Jake Jahnige reeled in a 9-yard reception.
Guilford’s next game is on the road versus Hillhouse on Friday, Oct. 15. The game gets underway at 7 p.m. at Bowen Field in New Haven.
Coming off a lost season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dillon Burlakoff couldn’t wait to begin his junior campaign with the Guilford football squad this fall. Dillon, a running back, is making immediate contributions for the Grizzlies in both their rushing and passing attacks.
Guilford lost its first two games of the season, but bounced back with a 21-0 victory versus Pomperaug to improve to 1-2. With that first win out of the way, Dillon believes that the sky is the limit for the Grizzlies in 2021.
“My expectations are the same as everyone else’s on the team. We want to win a state championship for Guilford,” says Dillon. “But we must all believe it and play as a team to fulfill our expectations.”
Dillon has 10 carries for 97 yards to go with 10 receptions for 50 yards thus far this season. He’s also been contributing for Guilford on special teams. Dillon’s love for the gridiron stems back to him watching his favorite NFL team on television as a youngster.
“I’ve been playing football for seven years. Watching the Dallas Cowboys as a kid really got me into the sport, and I’ve been addicted to it ever since,” Dillon says. “My favorite aspect of the sport is the offense, because all 11 players are involved in the play. Everyone has to do their job in order for the play to work.”
Head Coach Anthony Salvati commends Dillon for the tenacity that the junior brings to the gridiron. While Dillon isn’t the biggest player, Salvati says that he’s constantly competing his hardest, while displaying lots of heart.
“Dillon is a quiet workhorse. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with heart, tenfold,” says Salvati. “Dillon has great vision and instincts, which allows him to hit the smallest of holes and create a big gain when running the ball. He is always a very dangerous punt and kick returner that can flip the field in our favor at any moment.”
Dillon says that his relationship with Coach Salvati is among the strongest he has with anyone at Guilford High School. Dillon views Salvati as a friend and a mentor who he can go to with questions both football-related and otherwise.
“My relationship with Coach Salvati is great. He is a really smart coach and is turning Guilford High School football around,” Dillon says. “I’m confident that we are going to have a strong season, and big reason is because of all the effort he has put into us during the offseason. I’m looking forward to seeing how we finish.”
Guilford was able to play a little football last year by competing in a 7-on-7 touch league. The fact that the Grizzlies couldn’t play their traditional campaign motivated Dillon to put in extra work during the offseason, so he could come back stronger as a junior.
“I worked really hard this offseason to improve my game,” says Dillon. “I lifted weights, worked on footwork, and studied a lot of film for the most part.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger as Guilford competes this season. Dillon isn’t too worried about playing through the pandemic, because the Grizzlies are following all of the proper safety protocols.
“Our coaches believe that it is safe to play, and they let us play,” Dillon says. “I trust them to do what is best for the team, and I know Coach Salvati has everyone’s best interest in mind.”
Aside from football, Dillon also plays basketball and golf with his friends for fun. He also enjoys gaming. Dillon is interested in continuing his football career at the next level after he graduates from Guilford.
“Football is and always will be my main sport, and I’m hoping that I can play in college once I graduate next year,” says Dillon. “I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can, and I’m hoping that all my hard work pays off.”
Guilford Head Football Coach Anthony Salvati knew that going two years without having a football season was going to take a toll on his team. The only question for the Grizzlies was just how much of a toll that time away from the game would take.
Guilford opened its 2021 season by playing Jonathan Law on Sept. 10 and lost by a 34-7 score in a home game at North Branford High School. Senior quarterback Niko Messina and a few of his teammates had to sit out the Grizzlies’ season opener after suffering recent injuries.
“We had three key injuries going into this game with one being our starting quarterback Niko Messina. He banged up his knee during our final preseason contest, and we think it’s a bone bruise,” Coach Salvati said. “The issue with the bruise is he can’t plant and fire in the pocket how we would like him to, so we’re not going to rush him back.”
“Tyler was in his first varsity game as a sophomore. He made mistakes, but I liked his poise in the pocket,” said Salvati. “He didn’t have that doe-eyed look that a lot of kids get when it’s their first real game. He threw the ball on time, and he missed in all the right spots. I was very pleased with how he performed for us.”Sophomore Tyler Hilgert started for Guilford at quarterback and threw a touchdown pass to senior captain Eric Dolmus on the team’s first drive of the game. The touchdown helped the Grizzlies go up 7-0 just two minutes into the game, but that score proved to be their only TD of the evening.
While Guilford wound up losing the game by a wide margin, Coach Salvati said that the final score wasn’t truly indicative of his team performed against Law. The Grizzlies were only down by one score, trailing 13-7 midway through the quarter, before Law scored the last three touchdowns of the game.
“We’re a bit undersized, but our guys weren’t backing down at all. They were flying around the field. We were legitimately a play away from being in control of that game,” Salvati said. “We have a young group of kids, with six or seven sophomores starting for us, so it’s going to take time for us to develop as a team.”
In addition to Messina, another key player that the Grizzlies were missing versus Law was senior captain wide receiver Jack O’Brien, who suffered an injury during the preseason. O’Brien, Dolmus, and Eddie Barlage are the team’s senior captains this season.
Sophomore wide receiver Jake Jahnige was injured in the contest with Law and couldn’t play on the offensive side of the ball. Guilford also saw a few other players leave the game with injuries.
“These injuries definitely hurt us coming into this game. And then we had three more injuries during the game, which sets us back even more,” said Salvati. “I think a lot of it has to do with the layoff. Your body is not accustomed to the beating it takes when you are playing a full-contact sport and you take almost two years away from the game.”
Junior running back Mike O’Brien, sophomore wide receiver Trevor Ridley, and defensive end Ian Myers were also forced to leave the Law game due to injury. While he was sad to see that, Coach Salvati also felt pleased with how some of Guilford’s younger athletes stepped up in the game. This includes players like junior running back Dillon Burlakoff.
“One of the biggest bright spots of the game was Dillon Burlakoff. He was running hard every single play, and it took three or four guys to bring him down,” Salvati said. “I think that’s a positive for us going into next week. I know some of these younger guys are eager to get some playing time, and they are going to get the chance to prove themselves.”
Burlakoff had 10 carries for 97 yards, while Mike O’Brien ran the ball 19 times for 85 yards in Guilford’s season opener. Hilgert went 8-of-15 passing for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Dolmus caught six passes for 62 yards and one TD.
One aspect of the Law game that Coach Salvati felt pleased with came on the defensive side of the ball. Guilford changed formations from a 3-4 to a 4-3 at the beginning of this season, and Salvati feels that is going to pay dividends for the Grizzlies.
“I’m still confident in that formation, even though we allowed 34 points. Our defense had to play a lot, and they were in a bad spot most of the game, because the offense couldn’t get anything going,” said Salvati. “I’m excited to see how this formation continues to grow on us.”
“I knew this game was going to be a dogfight. Law has great size, and they ran the spread really well against us,” Salvati said. “We have to learn from our mistakes and be better the next time we hit the field.”As he begins his third year as Guilford’s head coach, Salvati wants to see his team grind it out on the gridiron. The Grizzlies will look to bounce back from their loss to Law when they play a non-conference road game against New London on Friday, Sept. 17.
2021 Guilford Football Schedule
Sept. 10: Jonathan Law 34, Guilford 7
Friday, Sept. 17: at New London at 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24: at Pomperaug at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8: vs. East Lyme at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15: at Hillhouse at Bowen Field at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 29: vs. Brookfield at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 5: at Bassick at Kennedy Stadium at 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12: vs. Branford at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 19: vs. East Haven at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 24: at Hand at Surf Club at 7 p.m.
Who will run Guilford’s spread offense? That remains to be determined. Coach Anthony Salvati has three candidates available: senior Nico Messina, junior Liam Alberti and sophomore Tyler Hilgert.
Even when the Grizzlies make that decision, Salvati said the possibility exists to use specific packages to have multiple quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
Whoever ends up under center will have two primary targets running pass patterns: Jack O’Brien and Eric Dolmus. Salvati expects both seniors to be playing in college next season. Dolmus recently announced an offer from Central Connecticut State.
Mike O’Brien should make life easier on whoever starts behind center. The junior back saw significant varsity action as a freshman in 2019 despite having an all-state performer in Charles Walcott seeing most of the action. Dillon Burakoff will also get carries. Both backs will work behind an offensive line that Salvati says might be undersized, but has the necessary skill and experience to offset it.
Guilford will switch from an odd front on defense to an even one due to a surplus of quality linemen and linebackers. They will benefit from an athletic secondary, led by Dolmus and O’Brien, that should be able to disguise coverages.
The program is looking to earn its second winning season in three years under Salvati -- who would become the first Guilford coach to have two winning seasons in at least 20 seasons. The Grizzlies got off to a promising start in 2019, winning their first three games. But they lost five of six to finish the year 4-6.
Guilford, a member of SCC's Tier III, faces New London, Pomperaug, Brookfield and East Lyme in its Connecticut Football Alliance schedule.
Guilford's home Kavanaugh Field is being refurbished and should be ready for the team's second home game on Oct. 8. The Grizzlies will face Law in its opener at a site to be determined.
The 2021-22 GHS Football season is officially here! Team practices have begun. Attendance is mandatory. The practice schedule is linked below. Schedule is subject to change. Coach Salvati will communicate responsibilities and schedule changes directly with players via Hudl.
Like many children in Guilford, Brianna Seixas began her athletic career on the soccer field as a youngster, although she didn’t fall in love with the sport. Brianna decided to give cheerleading a try in elementary school, and that decision wound up changing the course of her athletic career.
After speaking with one of the football players, Brianna became intrigued by the sport. When Brianna was in 4th grade, one of her friends who played football would often tell her stories about the practices and the games. This piqued Brianna’s interest enough for her to join the Guilford Youth Football program as a 5th-grader.
Now, Brianna is a member of the football team, the wrestling team, and the girls’ lacrosse squad at Guilford High School, where she recently finished her sophomore year. Brianna sure is glad that she had that all-important chat that steered her toward the gridiron.
While her family was surprised at first, they supported Brianna in her new endeavor. Brianna feels thankful to both her late grandfather, Matthew Middleton, and late great-grandmother, Shirley Middleton, for their encouragement as she started playing football. Both of them passed away earlier this year, although they were able to see Brianna continue with football as she entered high school. They also saw Brianna take up two new sports with wrestling in 8th grade and lacrosse as a freshman.“I was cheering at a game, and a player ran off the field right next to me,” says Brianna. “He was in his pads and we talked a little bit, and I thought it was really cool.”
“I picked up wrestling a lot faster than football and was the only girl since I joined the 8th-grade team,” Brianna says. “Since I was new, I didn’t win a lot, but I won my last match by pin and realized I could pin another person again. I wanted to test my motivation and continued in high school.”
Brianna also tested her mettle by signing up for the football team at Guilford High School. While Brianna and her competitors were similarly sized throughout youth football, she saw this change at the high school level as many of the other players were taller and now outweighed her by at least 40 pounds.
“The first time I got hit at that level was during practice, and I was told that I was going to be scared at first. But once I took the hit and got up off the turf, that was my adrenaline,” says Brianna, who is a tight end and outside linebacker. “One hit can’t stop my love for what I want to do. If you find love in it, there’s nothing stopping you.”
Guilford football Head Coach Anthony Salvati remembers the first time that he and Brianna met. Brianna demanded that she receive no special treatment as a female player on the team.
Coach Salvati adds that he’s eager to see Brianna hit the field and fight for playing time as a junior next season.“Brianna is amazing and has earned the respect from her coaches and teammates by working as hard as everyone, sometimes harder,” Salvati says. “She knows what her position responsibilities are on both offense and defense at all times and always helps her teammates if they are struggling to comprehend.”
“Brianna will be competing for varsity playing time this fall against players at her position who outweigh her by 50-plus pounds, but one thing is for sure: She will be ready to compete and she will not back down,” says Salvati. “Brianna and I share a common goal, and that goal is get her to be the first female to score a varsity touchdown in school history.”
Brianna is grateful for Salvati’s support in their quest to make Guilford history. Brianna is already the first female in Guilford to complete more than one season of youth football and high school football. Brianna does offseason training at Pro Limit Athletes in North Haven with Ike Igbinosun, who was a member of several NFL franchises.
Brianna has received support from many other people, including her mom Ashleigh Fritz, who Brianna says, “really pushes me,” along with her teammates, team captains, and her classmates at Guilford. Brianna recently realized that her accomplishments have inspired other people.
“I didn’t realize how many girls actually supported me and thought it was cool and I was brave,” says Brianna, who also plays the violin and shows cattle. “Last fall, a little girl from Southington messaged my mom and asked me to come to her football game. I went and her eyes lit up and she was so happy to see me and wanted pictures. I didn’t realize I had an impact on younger kids.”
Another lesson that has always resonated with Brianna was one from Ron Lecointe, her lineman coach. Leconite gave her an assignment of watching the 1997 film Gattaca and reporting the movie’s message to him the next day.
“The message was that genetics don’t define your potential,” Brianna says. “That is something that has stuck with me through football, wrestling, and lacrosse, and will hopefully stick with me when I’m wrestling in the Olympics.”
Brianna has been working toward her goal of qualifying for the Olympics. After earning the pin that inspired her to continue in 8th grade, Brianna joined the team at Guilford High School, where she wrestles at 145 pounds. Brianna competed in enough varsity matches to earn her varsity letter as a freshman last year. Although she got injured midway through the season, Brianna came back to compete at the inaugural Girls’ Wrestling Invitational, where she finished in fourth place for the 145-pound division.
Brianna became the first female wrestler at the high school to finish a full season and also to first to place at a state competition. When COVID-19 took away the 2020-’21 wrestling season, Brianna’s coach recommended that those interested should join a club. Brianna had previously competed among 99 wrestlers at the Women’s State Championship and became familiar with Ella Nichols, who won the state title.
“A few months after that tournament, she texted me and asked if I’d go to KT Kidz [in Rocky Hill] with her to drill,” says Brianna. “As a mediocre fourth-in-the state wrestler going against a girl who was fifth in the nation pushed me and made me see what I could work toward.”
Brianna then joined the Overcomer Training Center in Middletown, where she worked on her technique several days a week. With that club, Brianna traveled to Nationals in Virginia Beach and won a match in the women’s brackets.
Brianna went on to compete in women’s tournaments in Gatlinberg, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brianna took first place in folk-style and second in freestyle at both events, making her a two-time All-American wrestler.
“I’d only worked on freestyle for about a month,” Brianna says. “So, I just wanted to test what I’d learned in those tournaments, and I ended up knowing a decent amount.”
Even with all of these achievements, Brianna is hardly satisfied and has some big goals for herself going forward.
“I really push myself a ton to get what I want. You have to be the best to stand out,” says Brianna. “I’ve made town history four or five times and state history with a record 99 girls going to the state tournament, but there’s still more I want to do.”
Congratulations to our senior players on their commitments to continue their football careers beyond Guilford High School. We are all incredibly proud of your accomplishments and can't wait to watch you perform at the next level.
Evan Chapman - Nichols College
Ian Derda - SUNY Maritime College
Sam Huffman - Mass Maritime Academy
Aeden McDermott - Canterbury School
Nico Tartagni - Nichols College
Your Guilford Football Family will be cheering you on every step of the way. Go be great!
Additional pictures from the signing day can be found by clicking on the Pictures tab in the top navigation bar.