Football: St. Joseph rallies from 21 points down to win title
Trailing by 21 points early in the third quarter of Monday night’s CIAC Class S state championship game against Ansonia High wasn’t unchartered territory for the St. Joseph High football team.
The second-seeded Cadets trailed FCIAC foe Ridgefield by 25 points early in the fourth quarter of a mid-October game, before storming back with 28 unanswered points for a 38-35 win in that contest.
So, when Ansonia took a 28-7 lead with 9:21 left in the third quarter of the title game, the Cadets did not panic. It was just a matter of getting down to business.
“‘Look, guys, we’ve been here before,’” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said he told his kids, referencing the Ridgefield game. “’Let’s just get one back and take it one at a time.’”
The Cadets did just that, coming all the way back from 21 down to take a lead and then also overcoming a one-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to defeat top-seeded and previously unbeaten Chargers 42-36 before 4,000 at the Maclary Complex in Cheshire Monday night.
It was the 13th title for St. Joseph since the CIAC began holding football state championship games in 1976. Only Ansonia has more with 20.
In the second quarter and opening minutes of the third quarter, it looked like the Chargers could be on their way to their 21st title.
St. Joseph took a 7-0 lead just over three minutes into the game on a 21-yard touchdown pass from David Summers to Philip Pasmeg and Luke Kirby PAT.
The touchdown was set up by a bad snap on what should have been an Ansonia punt. But St. Joseph’s Ben Kirsch was able to tackle the punter at the 21 to set up the touchdown pass one play later.
The rest of the first half was all Ansonia.
Ansonia scored on touchdown runs of 7, 12 and 4 yards, and added a pair of two-point conversion runs to take a 22-7 lead into halftime.
Things got worse for St. Joseph when the Chargers opened up the second half with a quick 63-yard, five-play touchdown drive with quarterback Justin Lopez scrambling in from 13 yards to make it 28-7.
But Summer started to heat up on St. Joseph’s first drive of the second half.
“At halftime, we just told him to settle down,” said Della Vecchia of his junior signal caller. “He was pressing a little too much early in the game.”
Summers completed 7-of-13 passes on the drive for 52 yards, including a 10-yarder to Will Diamantis for a touchdown to pull St. Joseph within 28-14, after a Luke Kirby PAT.
It would be the first of five straight St. Joseph touchdowns. The Cadet defense set up the next three by forcing Ansonia to punt from deep in its own territory, then getting a Cayden Porter fumble recovery and an Ace Luzietti interception.
That led to a Summers-to-Pasmeg 70-yard touchdown catch and run, an 11-yard Summers-to-Jesse Bike touchdown, and a 58-yard Jaden Shirden touchdown run that gave St. Joseph a 35-28 lead with 6:47 left.
But Ansonia wasn’t done, not with senior feature back Markell Dobbs.
Dobbs, a Central Connecticut State commit who averaged over 15 yards a carry entering the game, took a handoff on Ansonia’s next play from scrimmage and raced 75 yards. He also added the conversion run to make it 36-35 Ansonia with 6:16 to play.
“He’s a terrific player,” said Della Vecchia of Dobbs, who finished the night with 239 yards and three TDs on 38 carries. “They’re a great team. They’re tough kids. It’s not just [Dobbs’] show. They have a lot of great players out there. [The game] was everything I thought it was going to be.”
St. Joseph responded with its own quick strike on its next play from scrimmage, a 56-yard Summers-to-Jared Mallozzi touchdown pass that would prove to be the game-winner. Kirby added the PAT for a 42-36 advantage.
The Cadets still had to stop Ansonia.
On third-and-12 from the Ansonia 28, Lopez dropped back and tried to go long to receiver Brent Washington, who was open initially. But the throw was a split-second late and Luzietti was able to get over in time to step in front of Washington for the pick.
St. Joseph grinded out a couple first downs behind Shirden to seal the come-from-behind win.
“Our kids’ resiliency and character showed tonight,” said Della Vecchia.
After a lackluster first half, Summers’ big second half gave him a 14-of-26 for 246 yards and five touchdown night overall.
Shirden added 87 yards and a score on nine carries, after -2 yards in the first half.
And the Cadet defense came up with the three big second half turnovers and one key stop to play its part in the victory.
Was it good enough to earn St. Joseph a top-ranked finish in either or both of the state’s polls?
Della Vecchia thinks it might.
“I think we have an argument for it,” said Della Vecchia. “Darien’s a great team. I know they beat us during the year, but they lost to a team that we beat. So, I think we have a right to it, but that’s up to the voters.”
CLASS S CHAMPIONSHIP
St. Joseph 42, Ansonia 36
at Maclary Complex, Cheshire High School
St. Joseph (12-1) 7 0 14 21 42
Ansonia (12-1) 8 14 6 8 36
records coming in = Ansonia 12-0, St. Joseph 11-1
S-Philip Pasmeg 21 pass from David Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
A-Markell Dobbs 7 run (Dobbs run)
A-Darwin Amaya 12 run (Dobbs run)
A-Dobbs 4 run (run failed)
A-Lopez 13 run (run failed)
S-William Diamantis 10 pass from Summers (Kirby kick)
S-Pasmeg 70 pass from Summers (Kirby kick)
S-Jesse Bike 12 pass from Summers (Kirby kick)
S-Jaden Shirden 58 run (Kirby kick)
A-Dobbs 75 run (Dobbs run)
S-Jared Mallozzi 56 pass from Summers (Kirby kick)
Rushes-yards 18-119 54-391
Passing 246 73
Comp-Att-Int 14-26-1 3-8-2
Punts-Avg. 2-32 2-32.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 9-41 6-42
RUSHING: St. Joseph-Shirden 9-87, David Summers 9-32; Ansonia-Dobbs 38-239,
Justin Lopez 7-129, Amaya 7-23, Terjuan Burney 2-1.
PASSING: St. Joseph-David Summers 14/26/246; Ansonia-Lopez 2/6/35, Dobbs
RECEIVING: St. Joseph- Paseg 3-110, Mallozzi 3-75, Bike 3-35, Diamantis
5-32; Ansonia-Amaya 2-61, Cody Teodosio 1-12.