Brotherhood fronts St. Joseph’s defense
TRUMBULL — They’ll meet at Cayden Porter’s house, three seniors at St. Joseph, and soon enough the football games will go on the television.
Other teams’ games, that is, film sessions for a defensive line that has worked together for three years.
“We’ll just hang out, then we’ll put the film right on the TV and study it together,” Mike Morrissey said, “not as part of homework or anything: We just want to do it.”
Porter and Morrissey, who became starters as sophomores, flank Jermaine Williams (known as “Whopper”), who started as a freshman, on a three-man line that brings size, speed, and maybe above all, tenacity. It’s a big reason the Cadets have won back-to-back CIAC championships and are the unbeaten No. 2 team in the state going into Saturday’s home game against No. 7 Ridgefield, which is also 5-0.
“We’re just brothers, you know? We’re just always together, bonding,” Williams said. “We do stuff on weekends, just hang out.”
They present an imposing front to other teams. Williams, in the middle, is 5-foot-11 and 320 pounds. Morrissey comes from the edge at 6-1, 196. Porter on the other side is 6-1, 248.
“Mike’s one of the fastest D-linemen I’ve ever seen. Whop’s obviously massive,” Porter said. “I’m not as fast as Mike or as big as Whop, but I think I’m physical, and I like to play hard.
“I’ve worked hard at everything I’ve done. Last year I had a really good senior right behind me, always there, I think I got my work ethic from watching them and having somebody behind me.”
They all showed that work ethic from Day 1 at St. Joseph, said coach Joe Della Vecchia. He saw it in Morrissey even earlier: The coach is Morrissey’s uncle, and he said Morrissey’s desire showed in football, baseball and basketball.
“They all have motors. They fight on every play until the whistle,” Della Vecchia said. “They just don’t stop. When you have one guy who does it, it’s impressive, but when you have three who do it all the time, it’s certainly contagious.”
TheMorrissey has five sacks; Williams has a couple, and Porter has two and a half tackles for a loss. The numbers don’t tell the story, Della Vecchia said. When they can occupy the other team’s blockers, that gives St. Joseph’s linebackers time and space. The Hogs’ two leading tacklers are linebackers Alex Pagliarini, with 17 solos and in on 17 more, and Cole DaSilva, in on 26.
“(The linemen) are the key to the whole thing,” Della Vecchia said. “We talk to them about not worrying about making tackles. They keep occupying people, and the other guys are free to roam.”
All three are looking to play at the next level, all looking at a few options as they hit the midpoint of their final season together.
They came to St. Joseph from three different directions, Williams from Norwalk, Morrissey from Stratford, Porter from Seymour. Morrissey remembers meeting Williams at a camp in eighth grade, but the three really didn’t know each other as they arrived.
The brotherhood, a term they all used, developed quickly.
“You can get into technique, strength, all that,” Morrissey said, “but the fact that we know what we’re doing as a unit, the fact that we trust each other: We know if one guy screws up and goes left, the other ones are going to be there. We work as a unit. It’s not one guy making all the plays. It’s one guy forcing him to the other guys at times. We’re all on the same page.”
The Hogs have passed every test handily this season; their past three wins are by 42 against Wilton, by 44 against then-No. 9 New Canaan, and by 29 last week against a deep Fairfield Prep team.
Next up are the No. 7 Tigers on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Dalling Field. The linemen have, yes, watched Ridgefield film. They’ve seen how Tigers quarterback Owen Matthews can scramble, Porter said; they’ve faced a good scrambler in New Canaan standout Drew Pyne.
“They’re a really well-coached team. We’ve played against them the past two years,” Williams said. “They’re going to come bring the heat. They’re 5-0. We’re 5-0. Somebody’s ‘0’ has got to go. They’re going to come and bring it, coming off a big win (over Wilton).”