New Fairfield High used its powerful running game to control the line of scrimmage, the clock, and the scoreboard when the second-seeded Rebels defeated No. 7 St. Joseph High, 24-0, in a Class M state quarterfinal game at rainy, fog-filled Rebel Stadium in New Fairfield on Tuesday night.
“It was part them and part us,” St. Joseph head coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “We didn’t make plays. They are a good, physical team that went after it. You have to make plays in the playoffs and we didn’t.”
St. Joseph finished its season at 7-3. New Fairfield (10-1) will host Ledyard (10-1) in the semifinals on Monday. No. 3 Ledyard defeated No. 6 Bacon Academy, 50-6.
New Fairfield advanced behind the running of Zach Tripodi, who ran for 113 yards on 16 carries, and James Lewis, who finished with 126 yards on 26 carries. Tripodi left the game after a second-effort 2-yard run midway through the second quarter. He sat out the rest of the game with his right arm in a sling.
The Rebels scored on a seven-play 68-yard drive on their second possession. Tripodi started the series with a 38-yard run and finished it with a 2-yard blast. Michael Handlmaier made the first of his three conversion kicks for a 7-0 lead at the 3:32 mark of the first quarter.
After an empty possession for the Cadets, the defense held and Mike Jones broke through to block Handlmaier’s punt to give the offense the ball on the Rebels’ 47-yard line. Two plays later, Andrew D’Amico picked off a long pass at the New Fairfield 24-yard line.
St. Joseph had trouble getting any offense generated as New Fairfield’s Brian McGonnigle and Jason Schretzenmayer made things difficult. The Cadets first three possessions ended in three plays — two punts and the interception.
New Fairfield drove 76 yards after D’Amico’s pick. A play-action pass from Mike Zanca to Mike Farrell was good for 31 yards to the 12-yard line and set up a repeat completion from the 13 for the score.
St. Joseph moved the chains for the first time in the game on Cory Babineau’s nine-yard completion to Liam Seperack. Three plays later, Cameron Ryan went back to punt. The senior had already booted the ball twice each time for 41 yards, but this time the snap got loose and the Rebels recovered on the Cadets’ 25.
Ryan, Jones and Seperack had stops and Handlmaier kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:50 remaining in the first half.
Down 17-0, Kevin Trefz took the ensuing kickoff on his goal line and ran it back to the Rebels’ 41-yard line. The half ended after three plays lost nine yards.
St. Joseph had only 10 yards of total offense through two quarters, minus 19 when three quarterback sacks were added in.
“We didn’t catch some balls and other times missed guys when they were open,” Della Vecchia said of St. Joseph’s inability to rally back in the second half. “I thought if we held them to seventeen or twenty-four points we would be okay. I thought it would be that kind of game.”
The Cadets had the ball first in the third quarter, but a pair of dropped passes, one for a long gain and possible touchdown, scuttled any momentum switch.
The teams exchanged punts, including the first of two 50-yard kicks by Ryan, before New Fairfield took 8:01 off the clock to take the game into the fourth period. The 16-play drive didn’t result in any points, but it kept the Cadet offense on the sideline.
Another dropped pass forced a St. Joseph punt from the 5-yard line. Ryan got off another great kick, but this time McGonnigle returned it 17 yards to the Cadets’ 38-yard line.
Seven plays later, Lewis scored from a yard out to make it 24-0 with 6:07 left to play.
After a sack was negated by a Babineau pass to Jared Mallozzi, St. Joseph went for it on 4th-and-8 but the pass fell incomplete.
New Fairfield drove to the 2-yard line before the Ryan and Jones led defense stopped Lewis short of paydirt with 35.8 seconds left to hold on downs.