Lars Pedersen, Mufasha Abdul Basir say goodbye

There is a strong bond between St. Joseph High head football coach Joe Della Vecchia and his two All-State players — Lars Pedersen and Mufasha Abdul Basir — and breaking that link won’t be easy for any of them.

“When you win championships, a lot is expected of you,” Della Vecchia said of Pedersen and Abdul Basir after the duo signed commitment letters on Wednesday to attend Cornell University and Central Connecticut State, respectively.

“We didn’t know what was expected as a team (after winning the 2013 Class M state title), but I know that Lars and Mufasha had to shoulder more in the program than anyone...

“They carried themselves as great leaders. They never doubted it. Winning back-to-back state titles is great...but I’m proudest of them as young men.”

Pedersen said:

“We had to make the team into a brotherhood. This year wasn’t going to be 2013, when we’d win by 40 points and five guys would score touchdowns.

“Coach had Mufasha run that ball and I was able to do other things. Mufasha and I always had each others back.

“When I came here from Cape Cod, I never expected this sense of family. It was all about being brothers and playing with heart. That is what I’ll remember most.

Abdul Basir said:

“Between us, Lars and I, there was always common ground — What roles do we have to fill to make the team better? I’ve never seen a better competitor, and I think he’d say the same for me. That was our connection.

“I’m ready to get going to college. But it is hard to leave high school. The coaches and the guys on the team have given me wonderful memories.

“St. Joseph will always be my home. St. Joseph football will always be part of my family.”

Della Vecchia said:

“For Mufasha, who ran for more than 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns here at St. Joseph, to accept that challenge of carrying the ball 25-30 times a game is a lot for a high school player. And then to play on the other side of the football (in the secondary) wears on you emotionally and physically.

“He always looked over at me on the sideline and was beating on his chest: ‘I got you, I got you.’

“Lars came to town from Cape Cod and I saw the tape and knew he was going to be a good player.

“We haven’t played many freshmen over the years, but we needed a safety his first year and in his first game he knocked down four passes. He was a good player then and turned into a great player.

“He’s scored the ball on the football field every way possible — kickoff, punt return, fumble recovery, catching the ball, running the ball and throwing the ball. Every way but on a safety, and I should probably look that up.

“Lars and Mufasha  were exceptional leaders. They were very goal oriented as individuals and for the team. They knew what was expected of each of them and put those expectations on their teammates.”