Abdul-Basir helps ground out win

Mufasa Abdul-Basir scored the go-ahead touchdown with 9:46 left to play, as the St. Joseph High football team took down Darien High, 28-14, in a battle between unbeatens at the Dalling Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.

Jordan Vazzano’s 1-yard quarterback keeper pushed the Cadets’ advantage to the final scoreline of 28-14, following the fourth successful PAT from Kevin Bortnick with 5:41 remaining.

St. Joseph, ranked third in the state coaches’ poll, moved to 4-0. Seventh-ranked Darien dipped to 3-1.

“Any win is a great win,” Cadets’ coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “Especially to beat a great team like Darien.”

Basir’s 3-yard run with 6:17 left in the third quarter capped a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the second half for St. Joseph, tying the game up at 14.

Darien had taken a 7-0 edge with 3:27 left in the first quarter, when tailback Jay Harrison punched in a 1-yard touchdown.

Jordan Vazzano pulled the Cadets level with a 1-yard sneak with 7:39 left in the half. Darien then took the lead into the locker room following an 11-play, 88-yard scoring drive, which Harrison finished off with a 2-yard burst at the 31-second mark.

Facing a stout Blue Wave pass defense that stalled St. Joseph’s high-octane passing attack, the Cadets leaned heavily on a potent ground game.

Jordan Vazzano, coming off of back-to-back 300-yard passing games, completed 9-of-19 attempts for 91 yards.

Abdul-Basir, running behind Tom Adzima, Chris Taylor, Peter Mestre, Troy Vazzano and Steve Hashemi, piled up 199 yards on 26 carries.

The Cadets were forced to punt on their first possession of the game, after Darien’s talented sophomore end Mark Evanchick sacked Jordan Vazzano on third-and-6 from the St. Joseph 42.

“They put pressure on us the first couple of series,” Della Vecchia said. “I just thought up front, we’d try a couple things with our offensive line. I thought we were moving the ball well in the first half… we kind of self-destructed a little bit. They never really stopped the run, so we committed to it.”

Myles Ridder ripped off a 20-yard return after an interception to set up the Blue Wave deep in Cadets’ territory. A 16-yard scramble by Wyper and a 12-yard burst by Peter Archey led to Harrison’s 1-yard touchdown dive.

The teams traded punts from there, until St. Joseph rolled 55 yards in 10 plays to tie the game at 7.

Jordan Vazzano connected with Lars Pedersen for a key fourth-and-10 conversion, before capping the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper.

Darien regained the lead with its long drive before the break, but St. Joseph forged another deadlock following Abdul-Basir’s knifing 3-yard run.

The Blue Wave was poised to pull the lead back, rolling to St. Joseph’s 3-yard line in 12 plays. But, the Cadet defense strung together a goal-line stand.

Facing a fourth-and-goal, Darien eschewed a 20-yard field goal and went for it. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wyper handed off to Nicholas Lombardo — who misfired on an option pass in the corner of the end zone.

“That was huge, that was gut check,” Della Vecchia said. “I take my hats off to the kids, they did their jobs.”

Abdul-Basir’s 19-yard score with just under 10 minutes put St. Joseph ahead for good.

Darien advanced to midfield on its ensuing possession, but Alex Pinto batted down a pass to bring up fourth down. The Wave elected to go for it, but Wyper underthrew the intended receiver.

“They were making plays,” Della Vecchia said. “We weren’t really defending the short hitch stuff, I figured that’s what they would try to do. I think they had it open, they just underthrew it.”

Jordan Vazzano’s second rushing score of the game, set up by a Darien personal foul, sealed the victory.