St. Joseph advances in states with offensive explosion

Mufasa Abdul Basir rushed for five touchdowns, leading St. Joseph High to an 84-49 dismantling of Ledyard High in the Class M state football quarterfinals at McDougall Stadium on Tuesday night.

“The kid is a great runner... He doesn’t need much to go through,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “He has great moves and great vision.”

With the victory, the second-seeded Cadets advanced to face third-seeded Joel Barlow High of Redding (10-2) on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Bunnell High in Stratford. Barlow clobbered sixth-seeded Gilbert/NW, 54-27, in another quarterfinal at Western Connecticut State University.

St. Joseph (11-2) led 47-35 at the break, with Jordan Vazzano hitting Lars Pedersen for a 12-yard touchdown to provide the halftime cushion.

Ledyard (9-3), the seventh seed, pulled back its deficit to 47-42 when sophomore quarterback Ty Ebdon slung a 43-yard touchdown pass to River Thomas in the third quarter.

But that was as close as the Colonels got, as the Cadets erupted for 37 straight unanswered points to cruise to the lopsided victory.

“I think we just wore them out to be honest with you,” Della Vecchia said.

Joey Civitella ran for two touchdowns for St. Joseph, while Shane Miller added two rushing scores. Miller, a senior wide receiver, ran for 201 yards on five carries. He also caught two touchdown passes from Vazzano. Christian Trefz chipped in with a rushing TD for the Cadets.

St. Joseph piled up 808 yards of total offense, with the Hogs’ line of Steve Hashemi, Peter Mestre, Christopher Taylor, Troy Vazzano and Tom Adzima paving the way.

Abdul Basir led the charge with 21 carries for 323 yards — including 17 for 248 in the first half — and lined up a cornerback, putting in yeoman’s performance for the Cadets.

That’s fine by him, after he missed last year’s 34-14 loss to Hillhouse in the Class M quarterfinals due to a late-season academic suspension.

Said Abdul Basir:

“Last year, I had to witness my team lose to Hillhouse and I told myself this year if I was able to keep myself in it I’m going to give them 110 percent of body and mind and really ball out and that’s what I did today.”

The junior tailback kicked off the first-quarter fireworks with a 51-yard touchdown run through the middle on the second play on the game.

The first of Kevin Bortnick’s five successful PATs made it 7-0 Cadets less than a minute into the contest.

That started a wild exchange of six consecutive touchdowns, with the Cadets holding a 28-21 lead at the end of the first quarter when the dust settled.

Jordan Kowalski pulled the Colonels even on Ledyard’s opening possession with a 3-yard TD plunge, before Miller shook loose for a 51-yard scoring run. Joe Carter then returned ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

The volley of scores continued, with Abdul Basir roaring into the end zone from 29 yards out and Ebdon sneaking in from three yards.

Civitella’s 3-yard run with 5:05 left in the quarter capped a five-play, 69-yard scoring drive, staking the Cadets to a 28-21 advantage.

St. Joseph’s defense netted the first stop of the game on the next Ledyard possession, turning the Colonels over on downs at the Cadet 36. But Basir lost a fumble on first down, which was recovered by Tanner Daggett.

Ebdon then connected with Thomas for a 22-yard touchdown, tying it at 28 early in the second quarter.

“I thought we could score a lot and I thought we could stop them a little bit better than that,” Della Vecchia said. “They came ready to play. They had a great game plan.”

After Basir scored from two yards out, Bortnick’s PAT was off the mark.

When Kowalski hauled in a 37-yard scoring strike from Ebdon, Luke Saccone’s extra point give the Colonels their first and only lead of the game at 35-34.

It was fleeting, as Jordan Vazzano hit Miller for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 4:29 left in the first half. The Cadets forced Ledyard to punt on the next possession, then rolled 81 yards in five plays to take control heading into the half.

Miller had a touchdown run of 81 yards called back on the first down due to a hold, but three totes by Abdul Basir followed by a 12-yard pass from Jordan Vazzano to Lars Pedersen put St. Joseph in the end zone once again. The two-point coversion failed, but the Cadets had a 47-35 lead heading into the locker room.

Ledyard pulled back to within one score on Thomas’ touchdown reception from Ebdon, but the Cadets buried them under a deluge of touchdowns from there.

Miller (52 yards), Abdul Basir (12 and 27 yards), Civitella (45 yards) and Trefz (3 yards) rushed for scores, while Jordan Vazzano threw a 19-yard TD pass to Miller.

Kowalski’s 20-yard run with 1:49 left provided the final scoreline, as Ledyard just could not keep up with St. Joseph’s frenetic scoring pace.

“That’s the way we play, we play to try to score every time we have the ball,” Della Vecchia said. “It becomes a game of chase after that.”

Up next, the Cadets will face an explosive Barlow squad led by quarterback Jack Shaban. The senior has rushed for over 2,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Abdul Basir said. “Our defense is really going to have to step it up. We can’t have a day like we did today if we’re thinking about beating Joel Barlow.”