Football: Record-breaking St. Joseph earns state title
By equally distributing the workload, St. Joseph made it near to impossible for Berlin High to find the countermeasures necessary to deny the Cadets their second consecutive state championship with a record-breaking 70-18 triumph in the Class M title game at Finn Stadium in Shelton on Saturday.
Coach Joe Della Vecchia’s Hogs (12-1) showcased their ability to throw and run the ball with equal levels of effectiveness against the Redcoats (11-2). In scoring the most points ever in a state final, St. Joseph had 48 snaps from scrimmage: 24 times the Cadets threw the ball and 24 times they went to the ground game. Weaver defeated Darien, 69-26, in the 1999 Class M title game.
“We thought we could move the ball and score,” said Della Vecchia, who has coached his alma mater to six of their 14 championships. “We didn’t think that we could do it like that. We were lights out in the first half. The kids couldn’t wait to get out there.”
The dynamic duo of quarterback David Summers and running back Jaden Shirden were at the top of their game. Summers completed 17 of 24 passes for 369 yards (a 21-yard per average) and six touchdowns.
“Today was the best we possibly could have played,” said Summers after the Cadets scored five
touchdowns on six plays from scrimmage. “My o-line was outstanding. They have been all year. Jaden is so versatile, running the ball and coming out of the backfield. My outside guys...I have so much trust in them that they will get to my throws.”
Shirden ran for 167 yards (16.7 yards per rush on 10 carries) and scored three touchdowns.
“Coach told us to be great,” Shirden said. “It (the win) means a lot to me and to our entire school community. We lost some great players (this season) to injury, but we kept our heads up.”
The Cadets’ talent was far reaching.
Brady Hutchison (7 catches for 63 yards), Will Diamantis (5 catches for 146 yards) and Jess Bike (4 catches for 162 yards) hauled in two touchdown passes each.
St. Joseph’s defense balanced out the team’s performance by shutting out the Redcoats for two quarters. Jesse Lawson, Jack Wallace and Myles Hall each intercepted two passes.
“Our brotherhood is unmatched,” defensive tackle Cayden Porter said of the defense. “We trust each other in everything we do every day. This is an amazing feeling.”
Porter was joined up front by Jermaine Williams, Mike Morrissey and Kyren Jones.
“We don’t practice to win games — we work every day to win championships,” Morrissey said. “We think we are all pretty good and our captains on defense (Ace Luzietti, Lawson, Darren Warren) push us to be better.”
Lawson, Alex Pagliarini, Cole DaSilva and Davee Silas are linebackers.
Luzietti and Warren lead a hard-hitting secondary.
Della Vecchia pointed to his offensive line for 556 yards of offense in just over three quarters of first-string play.
“This team has gone through a lot of adversity with injuries,” he said. “It began when we lost three lineman in our season opener with New Canaan. It began with those guys. This team has a closeness and the players are tight on and off the field.”
Robert Mihaly concurred and spoke about the togetherness in the offensive unit that includes Mark Arnone, Nick DiIorio, Dennis Elros and Rich Licursi.
“We have a special bond on the o-line,” said the senior captain, who missed his junior season with a knee injury. “We are a family of five. When I was injured Rich Licursi stepped in. I couldn’t do it and he put in on the line every game. This year it meant so much more to me because I was out there helping. We play for each other and our coaches.”
Time of possession went to Berlin 28:41 to 19:19, but St. Joseph used nearly four minutes of clock time to strike on the first series of the game.
The Cadets went 59 yards in 11 plays with Hutchison bringing in a 7-yard pass from Summers at the 8:15 mark. Luke Kirby kicked the first on 10 conversions.
Pagliarini sent a message with a first-play sack of Berlin quarterback Kevin Dunn. The empty possession was followed by Shirden’s 59-yard in front of the Redcoat bench for a score.
Austin Jose’s kickoff carried into the end zone for the second consecutive time and Berlin had to start from its 20. Three plays later the Cadets got the ball back and Diamantis went over two defenders to haul in a 50-yard gain to the 5.
Shirden scored on the next play and it was suddenly 21-0 with 4:32 still remaining in the opening quarter.
It got worse for the Redcoats.
The Cadets got the ball back on a turnover on the Berlin 15. Summers found Bike open in the right flat. The junior made the first defender miss on the 11 and went 15 yards for the score.
Berlin, and the gutsy Dunn, answered with a 12-play drive that carried into the second period and brought the ball to the Cadet 24. After Warren tipped away a pass, Wallace came up with his first interception in the right corner of the end zone at the 10:36 mark of the half.
Bike ran under a perfectly laid out pass from Summers for a 90-yard touchdown on the next play to take the score to 35-0.
The defense got the ball back in only three plays for the fourth time.
Again, Summers struck quickly with a 26-yard scoring pass to Diamantis.
Another three and out and punt gave St. Joseph the ball near midfield. Diamantis made a spectacular catch good for 43 yards and dragged a defender to the two. Summers ran it in from there and it was 49-0 as the lights at Finn Stadium went on.
Berlin kept battling.
Dunn scrambled both for yards and time to throw to move the chains four times to the Cadets’ 14. He went looking for Alex Halkias in the end zone, but Wallace came over from his safety spot to intercept the ball.
Berlin took the second half kickoff and put two great possessions together.
Dunn threw short for a first down and then hooked up with Halkias open over the middle for a 60-yard TD. The conversion kick failed, but the Redcoats were on the scoreboard.
Berlin forced St. Joseph to punt for the first time and a personal foul call on the Cadets gave the Redcoats a short field.
Dunn went 19 yards to the 20 on a QB draw and two plays later scrambled for an 18-yard score. The two-point conversion pass was defended by Hall.
Berlin got the ball quickly and moved the ball into Cadet territory.
On first down from the 41, Hall intercepted a pass and brought the ball back to the Berlin 13.
Hutchison made a fine 13-yard TD catch on a well-defended pass from Summers to take the wind out of the Redcoats sails.
Lawson intercepted a pass when Dunn’s arm was hit and two plays later Summers connected with Diamantis for a 24-yard TD and a 63-12 lead with 3:17 to play in the third.
Berlin gave it one more try.
It used a fake punt pass from to Halkais to maintain possession, but Hall came up with his second interception on the first play of the final period.
Shirden broke off a marvelous 35-yard run with Mihaly leading the counter play. Shirden then fought his way to paydirt from 28 yards out for a 70-12 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
With reserves in the rest of the way, Hakais rambled 62 yards for a TD with 4:55 left to play.
ST. JOSEPH 70, BERLIN 18
BERLIN 0 0 12 6—18
ST. JOSEPH 28 21 14 7—70
SJ—Brady Hutchison 7 pass David Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Jaden Shirden 59 run (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Shirden 5 run (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Jesse Bike 15 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Bike 90 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Will Diamantis 26 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Summers 2 run (Luke Kirby kick)
B—Alex Halkias 60 pass Kevin Dunn (kick failed)
B—Dunn 18 run (pass failed)
SJ—Hutchison 13 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Diamantis 24 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Shirden 28 run (Luke Kirby kick)
B—Halkias 62 run (kick failed)
Records: Berlin 11-2; St. Joseph 12-1