Shirden, St. Joseph run past Trumbull, earn top seed in Class L, 1st FCIAC championship
TRUMBULL — St. Joseph is FCIAC football champion for the first time, the only unbeaten team in the conference. And it might have to run through a couple of FCIAC teams to reach its ultimate goal.
In the meantime, though, the Hogs could take a deep breath after a 52-7 win over Trumbull on a windy Thanksgiving morning at Dalling Field. They’d earned the school’s first unbeaten regular season since 1983 and the top seed in Class L, as well as the Jerry McDougall Trophy, named for the late Trumbull coach and athletic director, for beating their crosstown rival.
“Our goal was to get one step closer to where we want to get to, and that’s getting back to the state finals,” said St. Joseph senior running back Jaden Shirden, who scored four of his team’s seven touchdowns and was named his team’s game MVP.
“It was a great win, a great rivalry game. It was awesome today.”
St. Joseph (10-0) will play eighth-seeded Wilton (7-3) in the Class L quarterfinals, Tuesday night at 6:30 at Trumbull (St. Joseph has no lights). St. Joseph won their regular-season meeting at Wilton, 56-14, on Sept. 27.
The winner faces either fifth-seeded Wethersfield or, yes, fourth-seeded traditional FCIAC power New Canaan, which St. Joseph defeated 58-14 on the road on Oct. 4.
Hand, ranked atop the GameTimeCT poll all season and two-time defending Class L champ, could be waiting in the final. But St. Joseph was Class S champion two years ago and Class M champion last year.
The Hogs hadn’t gone through a regular season unbeaten in 36 years, though, not since back-to-back 11-0 years and Class SS championships in 1982 and 1983.
“It’s huge for us. We talked about it a lot this week, that we wanted to finish an undefeated regular season for the first time since then,” coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “It meant a great deal to our program. We’re happy about that and ready to move on.”
Trumbull (3-7) got on the board in the second quarter, a 24-yard pass from Riley Simpson to Eagles game MVP Kyle Atherton, to cut St. Joseph’s lead to 21-7.
Shirden stayed down a moment after a carry on the next series. He said he’d just had the wind knocked out of him, and he came back a couple of plays later to catch an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jack Wallace, one of four for Wallace.
Austin Jose’s 42-yard field goal sent the Hogs into halftime up 38-7.
A moment’s confusion after a penalty may have us off a little, but we had Shirden for 218 yards on 17 rushes. Either way, he scored three rushing touchdowns, 4, 39 and 50 yards, and broke free for 29 yards on his first carry.
Brady Hutchison caught two of Wallace’s four touchdown passes.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jaden Shirden was named the Hogs’ MVP, scoring four touchdowns.
Trumbull will bring back several key players next year.
“You’ve got three sophomores starting on the offensive line, and a junior,” coach Marce Petroccio said. “This team is a great team here, St. Joe’s. They’re fast on defense. They play hard. It’s a lot for us to overcome
“When you look back on the season, I think this: I think my seniors did a great job of leadership. We’ll be better a year from now. They taught our kids a lot of lessons I don’t want to have to discuss here, but they played hard for four quarters, and we ran up against a really good team. That’s all I can say.”
New Canaan’s 20-0 win over No. 3 Darien left the Hogs alone unbeaten in the FCIAC. There hasn’t been an FCIAC championship game since 2015; St. Joseph played in it once, 2013, losing to New Canaan.
“We’ll take a piece of (a conference championship). We’re happy about that, first time in school history,” Della Vecchia said. “We’d rather go on the field and win it, but we’ll take it.”
St. Joseph has won eight of the past nine meetings between the teams, missing only 2016. The Eagles still lead the all-time Thanksgiving series 13-11.
Since 1983, the end to the Hogs’ unbeaten dream had come at a variety of different times. The past five years, it was in the first half of the season, all to Darien. It came in Game 8, to New Canaan, in 2013. Once it lasted until Game 10, a loss to West Haven in 1990 before the Hogs rebounded to win a Class M championship.
“We understood, with New Canaan winning, this was the FCIAC championship. Even before that, we don’t care. They’re crosstown rivals. ... It’s fun, because I’m from this town, so I know a lot of those guys. Those guys know me. It’s always fun playing against the guys you grew up playing with.” —St. Joseph quarterback Jack Wallace
ST. JOSEPH 52, TRUMBULL 7
TRUMBULL0 7 0 0—7
ST. JOSEPH21 17 14 0—52
SJ—Jaden Shirden 4 run (Austin Jose kick)
SJ—Shirden 39 run (Jose kick)
SJ—Brady Hutchison 10 pass Jack Wallace (Jose kick)
T—Kyle Atherton 24 pass Riley Simpson
SJ—Shirden 18 pass Wallace (Jose kick)
SJ—Will Diamantis 15 pass Wallace (Jose kick)
SJ—Jose 42 FG
SJ—Shirden 50 run (Jose kick)
SJ—Hutchison 19 pass Wallace (Jose kick)
Records: Trumbull 3-7; St. Joseph 10-0