Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Oct. 17-23:
Andrew Johnson - Portland High School (Soccer): Johnson, a senior captain, scored an insurance goal as the Highlanders beat Haddam-Killingworth 3-1 on Senior Night, Oct. 22. Johnson’s goal highlighted a banner night at Portland High School as the team celebrated the team’s four seniors —Johnson, Cole Bates, Ryan Clarke, and Brandon McPhee — prior to the game and then the future stars shine during the game as junior Gio Discenza netted a pair of goals and sophomore Parker Thompson dished out a pair of assists.
Aiden Palen - East Hampton High School (Cross-Country): Palen finished 5th overall, running a time of 16:50, at the Shoreline Conference Cross-Country Championship at Hammonasset State Park on Oct. 20. The junior led a strong Bellringers team that placed 5th overall as a team. Daniel Drlik (17:30) placed 14th, Gabriella McMillian (17:35) placed 16th, Alex Rivard-Lentz (17:58) placed 21st, and Evan LoPresit (18:05) placed 22nd to round out the top five East Hampton runners to cross the finish line in the conference championship.
Ally Hadley - RHAM High School (Volleyball): Hadley had team-high 24 digs and 22 kills as the Raptors rallied to win the last two sets in a five-set win over Glastonbury (18-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-16, 15-9) at Glastonbury High School on Oct. 19. The 22 kills were a season-high for Hadley, a senior, who leads the team in aces this season. RHAM ended the week with a three-set victory over E.O. Smith in the team’s “Dig Pink” game, which raised money for breast cancer research. As of Wednesday, the Raptors have a record of 16-2 and have won six straight games.
Ryan Moores - Bacon Academy High School (Cross-Country): Moores placed 5th overall, running a time of 17:16, at the Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) Championships at Norwich Golf Course on Oct. 20. Moores, a senior, headed a pack of Bobcats that finished sixth overall as a team and ranked third in the Division II bracket. Brendan Reas (31st), Carson Brown (37th), Aaron Fidrych (46th), and Andrew Lima (60th) also contributed to Bacon’s overall score at the championship meet.
Portland High School junior Cam DiMauro scored less than a minute into the second half, breaking a scoreless tie as the Highlanders held on for a 1-0 victory in the annual grudge match with the Bellringers at East Hampton High School on Oct. 21.
DiMauro netted the go-ahead goal just 49 seconds into the second half, weaving through a pair of defenders before netting the shot in the left corner of the goal.
“I got that [shot] in the first half, but I missed it. In the second half, I got it right,” said DiMauro.
During the halftime break, Portland first-year head coach Cory Tobler talked to his team about finishing and DiMauro took advantage on the first shot after action resumed.
“We had those same opportunities in the first half; we just didn’t capitalize on them. We had some really good crosses and I just told them to keep shooting,” recalled Tobler. “Cam hit a great shot right to the corner.”
For the first 40 minutes the Shoreline Conference (SLC) rivals played to a draw as the both defenses stiffened on every offensive attack.
DiMauro had three different shots on goal in the first half. The first two were gobbled up by East Hampton’s junior goalie Sonoma Steiner and the third shot in the 34th minute was deflected by Steiner.
East Hampton had trouble creating shots, but Maya Korczak fired one off midway through the first half that was saved by Portland's goalie Lauren Eckert.
Head coach Andrea Giuliano was disappointed that her Bellringers didn’t match the energy from the visiting Highlanders.
“This is probably the first game that we haven’t outworked a team and as a result it shows. We’ve outworked every other team that we’ve played,” said Giuliano, who is in her second year leading the program. “[The players] know they have to play hard the entire game and if they don’t, these are the results.”
Following DiMauro’s goal, Portland’s confidence grew and they possessed the ball for a majority of the second half. The Highlanders fired a handful of shots at Steiner, who thwarted every attempt to keep it a one-goal deficit.
Portland’s defensive captain Mia Quesnel said DiMauro’s score provided the unit in the backend the boost they needed to preserve the shutout.
“We really just had to lock down in the back and make smart decisions,” said Quesnel. “I trust my team and I trust my keeper, and we were able to come out with a win.”
With time winding down, East Hampton had a couple of chances to tally the equalizer as Rachel Boudreau and Andrea Berg had shots on goal. But each was rejected by Eckert.
Tobler, a 2009 graduate of Portland High School who played soccer at the school, knows the significance of the rivalry and enjoyed getting a win in his coaching debut against the Bellringers.
“Every time we play East Hampton there is that extra edge that we want to win. It’s been forever that these towns have had a great rivalry,” said Tobler. “It doesn’t matter if one team is having a down year and one team is having a good year, it’s always a great game and it’s always a fight because each team wants to have that win until next year.”
Giuliano said that she can use the loss as a teaching tool.
“[The players] can see what breakdowns happen in the game and they have to be able to take that and learn from that,” added Giuliano.
East Hampton was able to shake off the loss to Portland and defeat Windsor Locks 3-2 in the regular season finale on Oct. 25. Bri Miller, Abbie Miller, and Marissa Martin netted goals in the win, which was the team’s seventh of the season.
“The best thing is that they have stepped up together. Not everyone has had the best game every single game, but we have covered each other as a team very well,” Giuliano said of her young team, who is now preparing for the postseason tournaments. “We are not a very large team, we have 19 all together, and whoever is out there knows they have to give all that they got.”
Captaining the Bellringers are the team’s only two seniors, Maddie Crumb and Bri Miller, who have logged major minutes this year and have been Giuliano’s “eyes and ears” on the field.
“On the field they work hard for the entire 80 minutes and everyone else follows,” Giuliano said of her captains. “They are out there directing the players when we can necessarily direct them and they are giving them the feedback they need.”
For Portland, the win over East Hampton was big on a couple of different levels. Along with giving the Highlanders bragging rights over a conference foe, it also qualified the team for the state tournament.
After starting the season with one win in the first seven games, Portland has won five of their last seven games.
Tobler said he has seen a tremendous difference from game one until now.
“We have a very young team and the leaders have grown into those roles and really stepped up,” added Tobler.
Offensively the team has found a rhythm, scoring 23 goals over the last seven contests compared to only six in the first seven games this fall.
“We’re playing more connected,” DiMauro said of the difference on offense. “In beginning of the season we didn’t have much time to prepare and it was disconnected, but we’ve learned how to play together.”
Defense has been an area of strength for Portland all season. In 14 regular season games, the Highlanders allowed more than two goals just twice.
Tobler credited Quesnel, who was a returning all-conference player, for leading the change defensively.
“Mia is confident back there and she is confident with who she has,” Tobler said of his defensive captain. “She’s a great leader.”
Quesnel said preaching “positivity” and making less errors has attributed to the success on the backend.
Both DiMauro and Quesnel said that Tobler has given the program a new positive perspective, which is starting to translate to win on the field.
The Highlanders play their regular season finale this Friday, Oct 26 at Suffield, starting at 6:30 p.m.
East Hampton senior captain Maddie Crumb gets ready to clear a ball as Portland's Annabelle Maruschock pursues at East Hampton High School last Friday
GHS senior golfers Jared D’Angelo (left) and Sean Sullivan helped lead the way for a Guardians team that finished second overall in conference.
Prior to the team’s final home match, Glastonbury High School senior golfers Jared D’Angelo and Sean Sullivan hadn’t played in the same foursome all season.
Head coach Tom Zelek decided to change that by pairing his only two seniors together for Senior Night as the duo marched side-by-side for their final nine holes together at Glastonbury Hill Country Club on Oct. 18 against Rocky Hill.
D’Angelo shot a 40, sinking a pair of birdies and hitting five greens in regulation, and Sullivan hit five of seven fairways as the two made a curtain call on the home course.
On a picturesque autumn day, Sullivan said the scenery added to the excitement yet it was his chance to play with his classmate that he cherished the most.
“It was special to play with Jared,” said Sullivan. “I didn’t get to play with him once all season, so getting to play with him was definitely my favorite part.”
D’Angelo added, “It was our final time here as a team; it was nice to be out here one last time. We’ve had fun all year”
Zelek praised his two seniors for stepping up this season, crediting D’Angelo for being consistent on the course and Sullivan for his positive attitude.
“Jared has been a steady player; he’s even-keeled. He always has a score in the match that we can use to win,” added Zelek. “Sean is someone that will always be the first person to congratulate someone for a good shot or help someone look for their ball in the woods. He also makes the effort to talk to the kids on the other team.”
Sullivan’s sportsmanship was evident on the 7th hole when he high-fived a golfer from Rocky Hill who had chipped a shot onto the green.
The Guardians easily defeated the visiting Terriers (167-239) in the Senior Day match.
Junior captain Gavin Kvadus earned the match medalist after shooting a 39. Kvadus drained two birdies, hitting five greens and only needing 16 putts to complete his round.
Kvadus, who is the No. 9 ranked player in the state, said he learned on D’Angelo and Sullivan for their leadership this fall.
“It’s definitely good to have those two seniors that can show me what it’s like to be in that more mature roll,” added Kvadus
Zachary Durant, who shot a 39, also scored for the Guardians in the convincing win over the Terriers.
The home finale put a bow on a 13-5 regular season for Glastonbury, who won 10 of 12 Central Connecticut Conference matches to finish second overall in the conference behind Berlin.
During the 18 regular season matches, the Guardians had some memorable moments. Most notable was a win over Fairfield Prep on Sept. 29. At the time, the Jesuits of Fairfield were the no. 1 ranked team in the state and were undefeated in match play.
After making the 60-mile trip to The Patterson Club in the southern part of Connecticut, the Guardians handed the Jesuits a (157-159) defeat.
Kvadus was the co-medalist—tying with Fairfield’s Robby Rosatti—shooting a 38 on the immaculate course in the Fairfield County.
“On any given day, any team can win in golf. I never go into a match thinking we can’t win. It was a challenging match and we purposely scheduled that match,” recalled Zelek. “I like to play the best team and have the most challenge. It was a great experience for the kids.”
D’Angelo added. “We were really happy to be there because the Patterson Club is just such a nice and exclusive course. Getting the win really pumped us all up and we really enjoyed the time when we were there.”
For Sullivan, the trip to Fairfield was more than just a golfing outing.
“Patterson was really special for me because my dad grew up there and worked there, and lived on the course. I got to see the house [he lived at] for the first time,” stated Patterson. “I played probably my best golf all year there. The course was gorgeous and it felt amazing beating them at their home course.”
Both seniors said the win over Fairfield and the Senior Day were something they will never forget, yet it’s the team moments off the course that they will miss the most.
“We’re always trying to make each other improved but we are also always having fun with each other.” said D’Angelo.
Sullivan added, “The team was amazing. I feel like we had a group of eight friends and not just competitors.”
Senior members of the Wethersfield field hockey team with their families prior to Senior Night Oct. 18. Photo credit – Grafx Eagles)
Prior to their game against East Catholic last Tuesday, Wethersfield field hockey celebrated their seniors and then won the battles of the Eagles—blanking the visiting Eagles from Manchester 6-0 on Oct. 18.
“All of the seniors went out to lunch before this because we are a family,” senior goalie Veronica McKenna said following the game. “We cried before this and we’ll probably cry after.”
McKenna is one of five senior players, joining Bella Tomaino, Maddie Gove, Avery Brown, and Maria Nock who are playing out their finals games at Wethersfield.
Senior team-manager Cheryl Gleason was also recognized before the game for her work behind the scenes.
Once the game started, Wethersfield used a balanced scoring attack and a swarming defense to win their seventh game of the season.
Five minutes into the contest, junior Sadie Ruiz scored a goal with an assist from Tomaino. Brown then tallied a goal with four second left in the open quarter after getting a fantastic feed from Brynn Lisella.
In the second quarter, Ruiz added her second strike with an assist from Mallory Mori, putting the home team up by three at the break. It was Ruiz team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Mori, a freshman, then added a goal of her own when she tapped in a shot to the right corner with an assist from Tomaino.
With 11:09 to play in regulation, Tomaino then scored one of her own when she received a pass from Lisella before blasting a powerful shot that nailed the back of the box.
“I knew they were leaving a lot of the middle open, so I just slid into an empty zone and I saw [Brynn] trying to push it and called her name,” said Tomaino. “I wanted it, and when I got the opportunity I had to bury it.”
Sophomore Sophia Barbara then set up Lisella for a goal with 5:45 left to close out the scoring and put a pretty bow on Senior Night.
McKenna and Tess Parker combined for a shutout in goal, with McKenna playing the first half and Parker finishing the game.
It was the team’s fourth shutout this season. Through the team’s first ten games, they have allowed a total of nine goals.
McKenna said that communication has been the key to the dominant defensive, adding, “We are all friends on and off the field, which is a really important aspect of it. My defense is always there for me and I am always there for them.”
After advancing to the program's first state championship game since 1980 a season ago, head coach Colleen Budaj said has been pleasantly surprised with how the team has responded to the success.
“After losing the kids that we lost last year we knew this would be a rebuilding year,” said Budaj, who graduated three all-conference players from the state title team. “But these kids have come in and not lowered the bar.”
“These seniors and the captains set that bar high,” added Budaj, who coaches the team with her husband, Steve Budaj. “[The returning players] had so much fun last year in that tournament run and they wanted to recreate that this year. I give them a lot of credit for that.”
McKenna, Tomaino, and Gove are Budaj’s field captains.
“Knowing what this team did last year and knowing what we could do this year translates to the same mentality into this year,” said Tomaino, who is helping run the defense with McKenna. “It’s about building those relationships with the help back there.”
Gove added that the seniors made it a point to become a welcoming influence for the incoming players so they can bestow that mentality to the younger girls.
“There are a lot of new girls on the team, so it’s been important to jell on and off the field,” added Gove. “We are all friends and most of us have played together since middle school. It’s a big group of friends.
Budaj said her captains have embraced the added responsibilities, crediting McKenna for being a vocal leader that sees the entire field. The veteran coach praised Tomaino for her defensive prowess and Gove for her versatility.
The Eagles next travel to Newington for their annual rivalry game against the Nor'easters on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The game will take place at Clem Lemire Turf Field at 150 New Britain Avenue, starting at 3:45 p.m.
Veronica McKenna, Maddie Gove, and Bella Tomaino guided the Eagles to a 6-0 win over East Catholic on Senior Night last Tuesday.
When Glastonbury High School football visited South Windsor last Thursday night, both the scoreboard and stadium lights at Rye Street Park weren’t working.
That didn’t stop senior Jack Petrone from lighting up the scoreboard with another phenomenal performance, rushing for 233 yards and three touchdowns as the Guardians tamed the Bobcats 31-21 on Oct. 20.
“It’s pretty awesome to have him on our side. He’s just a grinder; he shows up and works,” head coach Eric Hennessy said about the ultra-productive Petrone. “He doesn’t act like a star; he’s not a big time. He thinks of himself as just one of the average guys that happens to run the ball really well.”
Petrone’s punishing rushing style was on full display in South Windsor, plowing through defenders at will during his 27 carries. He also starred defensively, racking up 10 tackles and a key fourth quarter sack.
On his first carry, Petrone ripped off a 48-yard run before scoring two plays later on a 10-yard blast up the middle.
He duplicated his scoring feat on the team’s second possession when he plunged in from a yard out, providing Glastonbury a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
“Our o-line was just firing, we were making the right blocks and, and everything was clicking in the first quarter,” Petrone said of the quick start.
After South Windsor cut the lead in half on an Ethan Laguardia to Devin Decker 32-yard touchdown connection in the closing second of the first half, Petrone and the offense went to work again on the opening possession of the second half.
Luke Shannon returned the opening kickoff of the second half 42 yards, setting up the Guardians with great field position. Seven plays later, Petrone was in the end zone again after breaking several arm tackles and scoring from 11 yards out.
The team’s traded big plays over the next two quarters with Laguardia scoring on a 14-yard quarterback keeper and hitting Sam Meleshenko down the left sideline for a 54 yard scoring strike for South Windsor.
Glastonbury countered when quarterback Drew Curto connected with Derek Thomas on a 45-yard scoring strike.
Kicker Alexander Hernandez also split the uprights on a 32-yard field goal for the Guardians in a wildly entertaining second half.
The home Bobcats threatened to cut it to a one-score game with four minutes left in the regulation, but Petrone shut the door defensively when he sacked Laguardia on fourth down to end the drive just outside of the red zone.
Petrone got most of the glory, yet it was an “unsung hero” that put the finishing touches on the win.
Senior Kevin Delbon, who plays as both the offensive and defensive lines, rumbled eight yards on fourth down to put the game on ice.
On the play, dubbed “Pizza Boy West”, Delbon lined up in the personal protector position on punt formation and took a direct snap before sweeping to the left.
“We have a 280 pound kid that can move his feet pretty well,” Hennessy said of the fake punt call. “When we saw [South Windsor] didn’t have many people to the short side of the field, I said ‘let’s run it’.”
Petrone said it is Delbon and the rest of the line blocking up front that has allowed him to have the success that he has had this season, adding, “I couldn’t do it without them. It’s all because of them that I can do what I do.”
Hennessy agreed, saying that the players in the trenches are leading the way on both game day and in practice.
“We have a saying at practice. We want to get 1% better every single day. They have been able to stack those 1% bricks on top of each other and they have been able to build that foundation,” added Hennessy. “They are doing a great job at being servant leaders. Their job is to serve other people and they do it with a lot of leadership and sacrifice, and it’s impressive.”
Hennessy added that his team entered South Windsor with “a chip on their shoulder.”
After winning the first five games this fall, the Guardians were coming off a loss to winless Hall on Oct. 7 prior to the team’s bye week.
“[The players] had 24 hours to feel disappointed about the Hall game and we should feel disappointed,” Hennessy said of the 21-3 loss.
Petrone added that the 18-point loss gave the team extra motivation heading into South Windsor, saying. “That was a very disappointing loss for us. I think we ended up underestimating them and that came to bite us in the butt.”
Through six games, Petrone has already surpassed his season totals from his all-conference campaign a year ago. He has rushed for 1,281 yards (213.5 average per game) and 13 touchdowns.
Petrone, who is also a standout baseball player and champion downhill skier, admitted that even he’s been surprised by his gaudy number and hopes that the rest of the season is just as fruitful for both him and the team
“We have 22 seniors on this team. We are all fired up,” added Petrone. “We want to do well for our last year.”
So far, so good for the Guardians (5-1), who next have a tough test against the undefeated Knights of Southington (6-0) at Southington High on Friday, Oct. 28. The Central Connecticut bout kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
Glastonbury resident Angie Rafter crosses the finishes line to win the Hartford Marathon 5k race on Oct. 8. Rafter shattered the woman’s course record, running a 16:15. Photo credit Steve McLoughlin Photography.
Glastonbury resident Angie Rafter broke the women’s 5k record at the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 8.
The 23-year-old ran the 5000 meters in a blistering 16:15, averaging 5:14 per mile to shatter the previous record of 16:47 held by Amy Nedeau since 2003.
A standout runner at Central Connecticut State University, Rafter used her experience and training from the years of collegiate running to take an early lead and never look back.
“I just wanted to go out and go as hard as I could,” said Rafter, who beat the runner-up by nearly two minutes and fueled her lead over the field by keeping pace with a handful of the top-ten finishers in the men’s race.
This was Rafter’s first time finishing under the arches during the annual event in downtown Hartford, which hosts a full marathon, half marathon, and 5k.
Rafter said she always wanted to be involved with the marathon weekend in the state’s capital, but she was normally competing with her cross-country team at The New England Championship in Boston when the local races take place the second Saturday in October.
It is her time at Central that she credits for her personal growth as both a runner and person.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life coming to CCSU,” said Rafter, who attended Killingly High School and followed her best friend in high school, Katie Stevens, to the New Britain-based college.
Since joining the Blue Devils running program, Rafter has etched an impeccable running resume and set the school’s record books of fire as a three-season runner.
She owns the program’s indoor and outdoor 5k marks, along with the 800-meter records in both indoor and outdoor, the 1000 and 3000 meters in indoor, and the 10,000 meters in outdoor.
Rafter won individual Northeast Conference (NEC) cross-country championships in 2018, 2019, and 2021 and has captured ten NEC gold medals on the track. She has also been named the conference’s Most Outstanding Performer twice during cross country season and three more times in track.
All the accolades are something that Rafter said she could have never dreamed of while growing up in Danielson, CT.
She started running cross-country in the fifth grade after she was cut from the school’s cheerleading team. She joked that cross-country was the only sport that did not make cuts.
Rafter called college coach Eric Blake a “driving influence.”
“I wasn't a standout runner in high school and Coach Blake took a shot on me,” recalled Rafter. “The coaches believe that I had this potential as a runner.”
Blake, the head coach of the women’s running program at CCSU, said that Rafter’s dedication is second to none, saying she will wake up at 5 a.m. to go for a run and later do her normal training with the team.
“When she came in as a freshman, she believed in our program from day one,” added Blake. “She’s an extremely hard worker and a talented runner. She thinks big; she has big goals.”
Now working on her master’s in health and psychology, Rafter is out of eligibility in cross country and outdoor track. However, she does have a season left of eligibility in indoor track and will be running again with the Blue Devils this winter.
Rafter, who got her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in psychology, is hoping for her best season yet at CCSU and would like to continue to run competitively, either professionally or semi-professional after college.
With a passion for mental health advocacy, Rafter’s long-term plan is to become a mental health counselor, specifically for student athletes.
“When I entered grad school I was really struggling with my mental health and everything that I had put on my plate during my undergraduate years. Talking about mental health was one of the things that helped me,” said Rafter. “Advocating for mental health and talking about it is one of the most powerful things that we can do.”
Rafter, who focused her thesis on mental health and the resources accessible and utilized by student athletes, added that CCSU has exceeded her expectations.
“Our campus has done a great job at allowing us to think of who we are outside of being a student athlete.” added Rafter. “I really can't say enough amazing things about CCSU and our athletic staff.”
As she prepared for her final season at Central and works toward her graduate degree, Rafter and her boyfriend, fellow CCSU runner Alex Norstrom, are living their best life after moving to the community this year.
“We love it here,” Rafter said of Glastonbury.
RHAM’s Max Nylen broke the program’s single game rushing mark and touchdown total during the Raptors 69-39 win over Farmington on Oct. 1. Through five games, the senior captain is on pace to break more records this fall.
507 total yards and eight touchdowns is a solid season’s worth of statistics for a high school football player.
But putting up those numbers in one game is otherworldly.
RHAM’s senior captain Max Nylen pulled off the phenomenal feat, dominating from start to finish during the Raptors 69-39 victory over Farmington on Oct. 1.
Playing in front of family and friends at RHAM High School, Nylen ran for 375 yards, scoring seven touchdowns on the ground and hauling in a receiving touchdown from 29 yards out. He added 103 return yards—31 on kick returns and 72 more on an interception.
Once the dust had settled he had obliterated the RHAM record books and his eight touchdowns are the third highest in the history of Connecticut High School football.
“Throughout the game I was just focused on winning, because those touchdowns would be for nothing if we didn’t come out on top,” recalled Nylen.
The 30-point margin on the scoreboard may have been lopsided, but that wasn’t the case throughout the first three quarters.
Playing in rainy conditions, the high-octane teams traded touchdowns throughout the first three quarters and Raptors led by only two points in the fourth quarter before scoring the game’s final 28 points to cap off a record-breaking 69-point day for the offense.
Nylen was an equal opportunity end zone visitor, scoring three times in the first half and added five in the second half.
“I knew at halftime I had three, but it didn’t feel like I had three because we were only up seven points,” recalled Nylen. “Going into the second half we kept scoring, but they kept scoring too, so I wasn’t paying too much attention to what I had. Once we started pulling away in the fourth quarter I began to realize the history that I was making.”
All told, the teams combined for 15 touchdowns with RHAM crossing the goal line ten times.
Offense was king, yet it was a defensive play by Nylen that permanently swung the momentum in favor of the Raptors. Leading 41-39, Nylen intercepted a pass and returned it 72 yards to set up his fifth rushing touchdown.
Nylen’s eight scores came from 70, 60, 55, 45, 29, 16, 4, and 2 yards out. His long runs provided the highlights, but the productive running back credited the guys leading the way.
The offensive line—known as The Junkyard Dogs—featuring starting linemen Jack Smith, Thiago Delacruz, Caden Bellmore, Brody Magnanini, Lino Amodeo, and tight end Tommy Puetzer opened sizeable running lanes for Nylen.
“They did a tremendous job. I firmly believe that their names belong on this record just as much as my name does,” stated Nylen. “Because of the work those guys did in the trenches I was able to make those long runs and score as many touchdowns as I did.”
Backfield mate and fellow captain Michael Marques added 185 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also served as a lead back on many of Nylen’s scoring scampers.
Nylen and Marques have been playing together since the seventh grade and have become RHAM’s version of Thunder and Lightning, with Marques providing the thunderous booms and Nylen supplying the lighting strikes.
“On the field, we complement each other well,” said Nylen, who called Marques a “fantastic run blocker.”
Prior to the game, the backfield tandem knew they would have to shoulder a bigger bulk to the load because starting quarterback Brady Hulland was sidelined with an injury.
Backup quarterback Chris Ford filled in admirably, throwing the 29-yard scoring strike to Nylen in the third quarter.
The end result was 589 scrimmage yards, resulting in a new program-high 69 points.
“I never expected us to score that many points,” Nylen said of the team's scoring record. “We have a young offensive line and a young offense in general without a lot of varsity experience. So to go out there and have that performance, I was blown away.”
He was also surprised when he found out his final rushing total. While celebrating with his teammates, his coach came up and told him the gaudy total of 375 yards.
“I said ‘are you sure you counted that right?,” recalled Nylen, who touched the ball 32 time and joked that the only thing sore after the game was his hamstrings, “It’s probably the most cardio I’ve done in a while.”
He followed up the record-breaking day with another masterpiece, totaling 254 yards and four scores in a win over Plainville on Oct. 7.
Coming into the season, Nylen aimed to topple his performance from a season ago when he had 1228 scrimmage yards (rushing/receiving) and 14 touchdowns in nine games.
Through five games this season, he already has 975 scrimmage yards and has matched his 14 touchdowns from last fall.
Nylen’s goal for the rest of the season is simple, saying, “I hope to continue playing the way that I’ve been playing.”
If he does that, he’ll shatter even more records as he in on pace to eclipse 2,800 all-purpose yards and tally 28 touchdowns.
RHAM (4-1) is riding a three-game winning streak and is on a bye this week before returning to host East Catholic on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Portland senior Cole Bates controls the ball in a game against E.O. Smith on Oct. 4. Bates and Andrew Johnson are the captains for the Highlanders, who are in their first season under head coach John Discenza.
After coaching at the middle school for three years prior to the pandemic, John Discenza is thrilled to be back coaching soccer in Portland as the head coach of the boys’ program at Portland High School.
Discenza described his return to Portland as “excellent” and added “it’s been a dream.”
After a slow start to the season, the Highlanders are starting to find their groove, ending last week with shutout victories over Westbrook and Valley Regional
Even in defeat, Discenza has liked what he’s seen out of the team.
In an Oct. 4 loss to E.O. Smith, a Class L school from the Central Connecticut Conference, the Class S Highlanders played to halftime draw before surrendering three goals over the final 40 minutes on a rain-soaked field at Portland High School.
“I thought at times we outplayed them and went toe-to-toe with them,” said Discenza, who replaced Michael Searson in the offseason. “We had a few miscommunications with the goalie and our defense, which cost us two goals, but other than that I couldn't be more proud.”
Senior captains Cole Bates and Andrew Johnson are helping carry out Discenza’s vision on the field.
Discenza, who previously coached at Portland Middle School, said that his senior leaders have been invaluable as he implements his stamp on the program.
“They have been phenomenal,” Discenza said of his captains. “I couldn't ask for better leaders and they give everything they have on the field.”
Bates and Johnson are two of the team’s four seniors, joining Brandon McPhee and Ryan Clarke.
Johnson said there is a family-feel on and off the field, adding, “Now I’m the bigger brother that has to look after my teammates. They are family members to me; we build our team around that.”
Joining the four seniors are a talented group of younger players that feature junior starters Alexander Dawson, Benjamin McGrew, Giovanni Discenza, Benjamin Sorrell, Cooper Beck, along with sophomore starters Parker Thompson and Raymond Lin.
“The younger guys bring in a new perspective,” said Bates, “They bring a new energy.”
Bates added that the seniors learned the ropes from an influential senior class a season ago and went to work in the summer league, helping prepare the younger players and get ready for the coaching change.
The time spent together is beginning to pay dividends. After struggling to put the ball in the back of the net over the first six games—scoring only seven goals— they matched that season's scoring output in the Shoreline Conference (SLC) wins over Westbrook and Valley Regional last week.
In a 4-0 win over Westbrook on Oct. 6, Bates netted a pair of goals. Thompson and junior Kadir Hamidovic also found the back of the net. Two days later, they blanked Valley Regional 3-0.
Discenza said that the team always had the right mindset and now it appears the team is starting to play to their full potential.
“I love the attitude, the hustles, the way they come out to play. They never give up,” said Discenza. “They are a scrappy team; they give you all that they got. The way they play the game gets me really fired up.”
Defense has been a key for the Highlanders, who have shut out four opponents this season.
Protecting the backend is goalie Erik Medvecky, a first-year starter.
Discenza said he wasn’t exactly sure what to expect out of Medvecky, but he has been pleasantly surprised, crediting the junior net minder with picking up the positions quickly and for his powerful leg.
“He has been an anchor back there,” added Discenza. “He is still learning the position, but he’s coming along very well. Every game you can see the improvements.
The Highlanders next visit Cromwell this Saturday, Oct. 15 for a primetime game against the SLC rival Panthers, starting at 6 p.m.
They return home for their annual grudge match with East Hampton under the lights at PHS, starting at 7 p.m.
Newington soccer captains (l-r) Jack Stair, Tyler Ferreira, and Beckham Alderucci have led the way as the Nor’easters won their first six games this fall.
It is said that iron sharpens iron and, if so, Newington High School boys’ soccer got a little sharper last week.
Despite a 1-0 road defeat at Glastonbury on Oct. 6, the Nor’easters battled valiantly until the final whistle and showcased what they could do against one of the best teams in the state.
Both teams entered undefeated and even though the Nor’easters came away one in the loss column, head coach Jeff Brunetti liked how his team responded to the adversity.
“We lost to a very good Glastonbury team. I thought we got outplayed by them, especially in the first half, but we played much better in the second half and I love that,” added Brunetti. “It is a great measuring stick. We know that we can play toe-to-toe with them and that excites me more. It shows the spirit of this team and the energy that we have.”
Prior to the game with Glastonbury, Newington had dominated their previous six games — outscoring the first half dozen opponents by a combined score of 23-2.
On Oct. 3, they earned win #6 with a 5-0 shutout of Wethersfield on Cottone Field at Wethersfield High School. It was the fourth time the Nor’easters had blanked an opponent this fall.
“It’s amazing,” senior forward Beckham Alderucci said of beating the Eagles, who are the defending Class L state champions. “It always feels good to beat your rivals.”
Alderucci and Jack Stair are leading the offensive change, each tallying seven goals over the team’s first seven games.
Stair said it’s a collective effort on the offensive end, adding “There is not just one guy on this team that sticks out; it’s a bunch of guys that are willing to make that extra pass. It doesn’t matter who scores at the end of the day, as long as we get the win.”
The senior scoring duo is captaining the team with Tyler Ferreira, who saw his first action of the season against Glastonbury after missing the first six games with a hamstring injury.
“It feels great, there is only so much you can do from the sidelines,” Ferriera, a center midfielder, said of being able to compete again, “I could give guys words of encouragement or advice, but being out here I can help with my actions.”
Brunetti praised Ferreira for his willingness to help during his rehab, adding, “Tyler has been fantastic on the sidelines. He’s doing leadership things that go above and beyond and I think from that role he has learned a tremendous amount.”
Senior Bryce Cordeiro, junior Adam Eley, along with sophomores Anthony Napoletano and Christian Rosado are manning a defensive front that has only allowed three goals in 560 minutes of action
“We are strong. I am really happy with the way that they are playing and with our consistency,” Brunetti said of his defensive front. “All the players are willing to win headers and do the necessity work it takes to play good defense”
Protecting the net are rotating goalies Dakota Hawes and Gavin Williams.
Hawes, a senior, was the incumbent starter and played the first half against Glastonbury, surrendering a goal to Adam Molusis in the 36th minute. Williams is a sophomore who played the entire second half in the loss, stopping every shot he faced.
Brunetti likes Hawes’ height and ability to win balls in the air, while complimenting Williams for his quick feet and ability to come out to challenge attacks.
“Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I’m confident with our defense and with either one of them in goal,” added Brunetti.
With a bevy of talent, the Nor’easters have the makings of a team that could make a deep tournament push this season. Along with the impressive victory over Wethersfield, they also have quality wins over New Britain (5-1), Bloomfield (3-0), Middletown (3-1), Wilton (2-0), and New Britain (5-0).
Brunetti said the key to the hot start was the work the team was doing behind the scenes.
“We bring a lot of energy in our training session. This group comes and competes in training sessions and everyone has bought into that,” said Brunetti.
Even in the loss to Glastonbury, Brunetti’s squad showed the same fight they have all season.
After getting outshot in the first half, Newington was the more aggressive team over the final 40 minutes and had several chances down the stretch to tally the equalizer, just missing on several shots.
“We are going to face adversity and that will show us the team that we really are,” added Brunetti, who has been coaching the program since 2011. “This was a tough stretch of games and we’ll continue to play hard.”
With experience and maturity on his side, Brunetti believes his team has the mental makeup to shake off the loss to Glastonbury and finished the season strong.
There is also a possibility that Newington and Glastonbury could meet again in the postseason. Both play in the ultra-competitive class LL, which features also features Trumbull, Hall, South Windsor, and Shelton—all of whom are undefeated enter the week.
Newington is entering an important three-game home stand, starting with Bristol Eastern on Friday, Oct. 14 under the lights at Alumni Field, starting at 6 p.m.
Stair said that remaining positive during difficult situations, adding “When a mistake happens, we just have to move on.”
“We just have to keep practicing and playing hard,” added Alderucci. “We have a lot to do and a lot to prove. States is what we are going for now.”
Newington’s senior defender Bryce Cordeiro looks to pass as Glastonbury’s Nathan Infante pursues during the Nor’easters 1-0 loss to the Guardians on Oct. 6.
Rocky Hill cross country hosted a tri-meet, welcoming both Wethersfield and Bloomfield at Elm Ridge Park on Oct. 4. The Terriers won the boys race as a team and the Eagles finished in the top spot in the girls race.
On the boys’ side, Rocky Hill’s Brayden Bayek broke a course record, crossing the finish line with a time of 16:28 to win. Wethersfield’s Ryan Gagne (17:29) finished as the runner-up.
The rival schools took the top dozen spot—until Bloomfield had a runner cross— and traded barbs throughout the top ten with the Terriers coming away with a narrow victory (27-28). Both teams beat Berlin by the same score (15-49).
Wethersfield’s Gabriel Frazzini (17:37) took third, followed by Rocky Hill’s Daniel DiTunno (17:43) and Joseph Caruk (18:20), of Wethersfield, to round out the top five. Rocky Hill’s Corey Christensen (18:21) and Ayden Collura (18:34) took the next two spots before Wethersfield’s Dennis Gega (18:37) crossed in 8th place. Rocky Hill freshman Brian Smith (18:49) then placed 9th to hold off Wethersfield’s Colin Shanley (19:02), securing a team victory for the Terriers.
On the girls’ side, junior Olivia Moretti (22:31) of Wethersfield (22:31) edged Bilal Zara (22:41) of Rocky Hill to capture first place overall.
Wethersfield’s Julia Webster (23:26) and Eliza Polmatier (23:30) placed 3rd and 4th before Berlin’s Kiylah Williams finished 5th. Rocky Hill’s Marilena Vieira (24:03) placed 6th and Wethersfield’s Stella Shurdho (24:51) placed 8th. Candice Edmunds (25:02) and Zoe Fagan (25:04), both of Rocky Hill, rounded out the top ten.
Overall, the Eagles beat the Terriers (23-33) and the Redcoats (21-34) in the girls’ race, while Rocky Hill took down Berlin (25-30).
Next up is the Central Connecticut Conference Championships on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The meet was originally slated to be held at Wickham Park in Manchester, but is scheduled to be moved to Willow Brook Park in New Britain. Check ciacsports.com for official times and locations.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin