Cadets’ senior captains speak out

The St. Joseph High football team brought a strong contingent of players to the CIAC Football Finals Luncheon at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on Dec. 9.

To a man, coach Joe Della Vecchia’s five captains agreed that by defeating Ledyard High for the Class M-Small Division title at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Willowbrook Park in New Britain, and by doing so winning a second consecutive state championship, would be special.

“We came in from the first day in the weight room with the same goals, the same mindset,” said offensive lineman Konrad Piszczatowski of St. Joseph’s preparation.

“We did our work in the weight room and had technique training. We did all this so we would be here this week.

“We definitely were going to miss Tom (Adzima), Peter (Mestre) and Steve (Hashemi), but we worked together to become a good unit.

“When we went to 6-2 (with a loss to New Canaan), our playoffs started right away. We couldn’t afford another loss and we took care of business.”

St. Joseph put together four straight victories, including a 55-6 demolition of Ellington/Somers in the semifinals. The No. 2 seeded Cadets will take a 10-2 record into its game with No. 1 seed Ledyard (12-0).

“It was very rewarding to win it last year because with so much experience and so much talent, well, we just knew we were going to win,” said offensive lineman Chris Taylor about St. Joseph’s 54-16 victory over Brookfield High.

“We had a great group of seniors. This year we’re the seniors and we know it’s our turn. So yes, this would certainly have a different feel to it.

“We knew we lost three starters on the offensive line, so we put a lot of time in the weight room.

“I saw some time as a sophomore, and that gave me the experience that helped the last two seasons.”

Troy Vazzano returned to the offensive line for his senior season.

“It’s different this year because on Saturday I’m going out there on the field with my friends, the guys I’ve worked together with for four years, for the last time,” he said.

“We’ve had to shift around a bit because of injuries to Chris Taylor and Jack Ganser, but Tim Beyer, Marc Bernatchez and the rest of us have done our best.

“When we see Lars (Pedersen) or Mufasha (Abdul Basir) in the end zone, we know we’ve done our job.”

Pedersen, a three-way threat as a wide receiver, running back and kick returner, is well aware of that help.

“This group has been together since we went 10-0 as freshman and we’re always picking one another up,” he said.

“We knew if we kept at it going forward that we could do something special.

“Last year, we had eight juniors on the field when we won the title with a great group of seniors.

“Now, its time to finish what we started.”

Abdul Basir had trouble rattling off any pertinent statistics regarding his record-breaking season, but had no trouble pointing to those responsible — using the full names of each of his offensive lineman and receivers that block down field.

“I’m going to miss it when it’s over,” said Abdul Basir, who has rushed for better than 2,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

“Coach Dell has been as much a father figure as a coach, not just for me but for every player in our locker room.

“No one other than teammates saw how dedicated our line was in making this season their own.

“I don’t expect a cakewalk. That is a great Ledyard team and we expect an all-out war. But we’re used to playing in big games all year.

“We had two tough losses to an undefeated Darien team and then to New Canaan, who each year finds a way to put great players out there.

“Ledyard is going to be going for a championship and we’ll be ready.”

Della Vecchia’s crew defeated Ledyard, 84-49, in last year’s quarterfinal.

“As I said after our win over Ellington/Somers, it will probably be another explosive game, but hopefully not like last year,” he said. “We’re going there to win. This team has a lot of pride.”