Football: St. Joseph-Wolcott game story
The St. Joseph Cadets came into their Class M quarterfinal game at Monroe Field on the campus of Wolcott High School with a chip on their shoulder, after getting shutout in last year’s state playoffs by New Fairfield.
Jared Mallozzi knocked that chip clean off the Cadets shoulder by returning the opening kickoff 78 yards to the Wolcott 19 yard line. Three plays later, Jaden Shirden took it in from eight yards out and Luke Kirby tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead just 55 seconds into the game.
St. Joseph continued to rattle the Eagles with its quick strike offense.
After Wolcott closed the gap at 28-21 heading into the final quarter, the Cadets sealed the deal with a 20-0 run and head into next Monday’s semifinals after a convincing 48-21 win over the Eagles.
“We had a chip on our shoulder,” admitted St. Joseph head coach Joe Della Vecchia. “When we walked off that field last year, that empty feeling never goes away. But you start out a game the way we did with the kick off return it really pumped the kids up and they were ready to go.”
Wolcott ranked No. 4 in Class M at 8-2 had its own motivation having been to four playoffs, with only one win to show for it. The Eagles had their work cut out for them, taking on the No. 5 seed and 8-2 Cadets, who have a reputation of putting points on the board in the playoffs. They had averaged 58 points per game in five wins, putting back-to-back state titles together in 2013 and 2014.
Wolcott’s Ethan Miner tackled Shirden in the end zone for a safety to get Wolcott on the board, and the Eagles cashed in on the short field kick off with Ray Iorio scoring on an 8-yard run to go on top 8-7.
Cadet quarterback Cory Babineau (10-16 passing for 232 and two touchdowns) opened up the passing game, hitting Shirden for 30 yards and connecting with Mallozzi on a 46-yard play.
Babineau took it himself on a one yard plunge and Kirby (6 of 7 extra points) booted it through for a 14-8 lead.
Iorio (40 carries for 193 yards) helped Wolcott move the chains and quarterback Mike Polzella threw a 38 yard touchdown to Steve Urbanski to put Wolcott back in front 15-14 heading into the second quarter.
“We had to work hard to prepare for Wolcott,” said Della Vecchia, who has guided the Cadets to four state titles in the past seven years. “We knew this was going to be a tough game. But they key was we had to get our offense going. The last two games our offense really hasn’t been there, and during the week in practice we challenged the kids.”
Knowing what was at stake, the Cadets defense made their mark. Brian Harner set the school record for sacks in a season at 8, and a career with 15, as he made eight tackles, three for loss yardage.
Robbie Miller and Ace Luzietti came up with interceptions.
Jesse Lawson 11 tackles and Jude Andrzejewski 10 tackles played a key role in stopping Wolcott on downs at the Cadets six-yard line with 8:15 left in the first half.
That paved the way for St. Joseph to take over the game.
Behind the line of Nick Crocco, Alec Pelletier and Jesse Veilleux along with Dave Veeley and Robert Mihaly, the Cadets began to move the ball on the ground.
Shirden (12 carries for 75 yards and four touchdowns) barreled in from a yard out completing a 10 play drive that saw Babineau find Ryan Donegan (10 yards), Charlie Pagliarini (17 yards) and Jesse Bike (10 yards) to put the Cadets ahead 21-15.
Adam Derbyshire (8 tackles), Nick Osborne (6 tackles) and Jermaine Williams stopped Wolcott in its tracks again, forcing a punt.
It took Babineau one play to convert it into a touchdown, hitting Mallozzi (6 catches, 165 yards, 3 carries, 88 yards) on a 61-yard pass for a 28-15 halftime lead.
Wolcott came out and fought to stay in the game going on an 18-play, nine-minute drive with Polzella connecting with Urbanski on a 9-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 28-21 heading into the final quarter.
That’s when the Cadets slammed the door shut. It took Mallozzi two plays to score the clincher, breaking loose on a 51-yard run and then hauling in a pass from Babineau for 25 yards to open up a 35-21 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Shirden ripped off runs of 28 and 29 yards to put the Cadets in scoring territory twice in the game’s final minutes and took it into the end zone twice on 1-yard plunges for the 48-21 final margin.