St. Joseph defeats Barlow, advances to final (updated)

Shane Miller ran for three touchdowns and caught one of Jordan Vazzano’s two touchdown passes when coach Joe Della Vecchia’s St. Joseph High football team defeated Joel Barlow of Redding, 62-33, in the Class M state semifinals at Bunnell Field in Stratford on Saturday afternoon.

No. 2 St. Joseph (12-2) will play No. 5 Brookfield High (11-3) for the title at 10:05 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Arute Field on the campus of Central Connecticut State University.

The Cadet defense, held Barlow (10-3) without a point in the first half, and St. Joseph took a 28-0 lead into the break.

“Our kids played with patience and understood their assignments,” DellaVecchia said of his defense. “We preached that at practice and they carried it out. To shut down such a good team for a half...We didn’t expect that.”

The other unexpected aspect of the game between FCIAC and SWC mainstays came on the third play from scrimmage, when St. Joseph running back Mufasha Abdul-Basir lost conciousness after a tackle and had to leave the field by ambulance.

The junior standout returned to the sideline late in the game, with his team leading 62-27.

“Mufasha is a great player and a great teammate, and we had to find a way to pick it up,” said Miller, who ran for scores of 52, 22 and 63 yards and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass. “With our offense line, we did a good job.”

Steve Hashemi, Chris Taylor, Peter Mestre, Tom Adzima and Troy Vazzano did the work up front for the Hogs.

Jordan Vazzano threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Lars Pedersen to complete the game-opening drive that saw Abdul-Basir run for 32, 9 and 6 yards before being injured.

Miller ran 52 yards to make it 12-0, and Jordan Vazzano’s two-point conversion pass to Pedersen upped the margin to 14-0 with 5:07 remaining in the opening period.

Barlow, led by quarterback Jack Shaban, was held on downs at the Cadets 35- and 32-yard lines, before Jordan Vazzano used a rare carry to go 52 yards for a score. Marc Mrozek’s PAT made it 21-0 with 6:56 left in the first half.

Pedersen stopped Barlow’s next drive with an interception in the end zone, and the Cadets went 80 yards in nine plays, with Miller taking a pass from Jordan Vazzano and dodging his way 28 yards for the score.

Mrozek’s PAT took the score to 28-0, with 1:33 remaining before intermission.

Barlow received the second half kickoff and scored in two plays, with Bryan Gallaer finding pay dirt from 43 yards out.

Pedersen returned the Falcons’ kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to negate the momentum-swinging score — but wait — Shaban took the Cadets’ kickoff 75 yards and it was 34-13 with only 54 seconds gone in the third period.

When Barlow’s Harry Wilson ran 20 yards for a score, and Juan Gomez’ PAT was good, the Falcons had closed within 34-20 with 4:56 to play in the third.

Sam Gold recovered an onsides kick, and Barlow was back in business at the Cadets’ 35-yard line.

The Falcons moved the chains to the 14, but on a fourth-and-5 play from the nine, Mike Schuchmann and Nick Colucci led a strong stand to get the ball back on downs on the first play of the final quarter.

Instead of being one score down, Barlow found itself back in a hole when the Cadets navigated the 95 yards in four plays to go on top 42-20.

Miller had a 35-yard run, Civitella carried for 22 and 16 yards, and then Miller went 22 yards for the score.

Mrozek, the holder on a broken PAT attempt, found Dylan Ryan in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion.

After a stoppage on downs at its 37, St. Joseph added to its lead on Miller’s 63-yard touchdown run.

Barlow’s Stephen Miller ran 51 yards for a score at the 4:56 mark, but Mrozek returned the kickoff 47 yards for a Cadet touchdown and added the PAT.

Darren Jackson’s interception set the Cadets up at midfield, and Civitella carried three straight times from there, with the final tote good for a 21-yard touchdown.

Barlow closed the scoring on Wilson’s 10-yard run with 38.4 seconds remaining.