Breaking Down St. Joseph's semifinal win
The St. Joseph High football team defeated Ellington/Somers, 55-6, in a Class M-Small Division state semifinal game played in a steady rain at McDougall Stadium in Trumbull on Saturday, Nov. 6.
Coach Joe Della Vecchia’s No. 2 seeded Cadets (10-2) will play No. 1 seed Ledyard High (12-0) in the state finals on Saturday at Willowbrook Park. The Colonels defeated Wolcott High, 54-7, in their semifinal.
St. Joseph defeated Ledyard, 84-49, in last year’s state quarterfinals on its way to winning the title by a 54-16 margin over Brookfield.
“They are really good,” Della Vecchia said. “It will probably be another explosive game, but hopefully not like last year,” Della Vecchia said. “I had a feeling we’d see them again. I think they are a great team.”
St. Joseph took a 42-6 lead into the half over Ellington/Somers, who scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Nate LaJoie to Mark Hickman with 43 seconds remaining in the second period.
Mufasha Abdul Basir, who finished the game with 2,131 yards rushing and is the first Cadet to rush for more than 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons, took the first play from scrimmage following the Knights’ score for 87 yards and another Cadet touchdown.
“We had a great week of practice and showed what we can do when we execute,” Abdul Basir said. “Yeah, I had a great year, but I’m most proud of what the offensive line did for me.”
Konrad Piszczatowski, Chris Taylor, Marc Bernatchez, Tim Beyer and Jack Ganser, with Troy Vazzano sidelined by illness, didn’t miss a beat up front. St. Joseph had 437 yards of total offense in 29 plays in the first half.
Abdul Basir had 183 yards on nine carries rushing before intermission. He had one tote for 11 yards after the half.
Lars Pedersen had six carries for 98 yards and 143 all-purpose yards.
Cory Babineau completed 8-of-12 passes for 147 yards and two scores. Seamus Keating had four catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Patrick Battista took a jet sweep 76 yards for a touchdown on the Cadets’ first series of the third quarter.
After the defense, which allowed only four first downs in the first half (one on a penalty), and 206 total yards, forced another three and out, Battista ran the punt back 74 yards for the Cadets’ final touchdown.
The final five-plus minutes of the third period, and the entire fourth quarter, was played with a running clock and St. Joseph reserves in the game.
Babineau’s 19-yard scoring strike to Keating completed St. Joseph’s second possession, which began from the Cadets’ 36-yard line with Abdul Basir’s 27-yard run.
The PAT was no good, but St. Joseph led 6-0 at 6:39 of the opening period.
The Cadets moved 54 yards on seven plays in their next possession, with Abdul Basir running for a 30-yard score inside a block by Jack Ganser.
Battista caught Babineau’s two-point conversion pass for a 14-0 lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
After Cameron Ryan pressured Christian Riders’ punt, St. Joseph marched the short field in four plays. Abdul Basir took a screen pass 33 yards for the touchdown.
Marc Mrozek, who blocked the Knights’ extra-point try, made the first of his five conversion kicks for a 21-0 lead with 10:44 on the clock.
Pedersen’s 29-yard punt return set up his 4-yard touchdown run and it was 28-0 with 9:41 remaining in the first half.
Ellington/Somers, after being gifted its initial first down on a offsides call on the Cadets, moved the chains a second time before Matt Laveneziana, Nick Colluci and Ryan forced another punt.
Babineau found Keating with a pass three plays into the next series, and the senior ran around Battista’s block for a 55-yard touchdown.
The Knights’ Ben Kloter caught a pass and after some missed tackles, he rambled 61 yards to bring the ball into Cadet territory for the first time in the game.
Two plays later, Hickman caught a pass from LaJoie in traffic in the end zone for the touchdown.
Pedersen and Matt Olival recovered fumbles, and Laveneziana and Piszczatowski had quarterback sacks.