#1: Sullivan, Eagles Baseball Triumph
Wethersfield baseball won the Class L championship, defeating Windsor 16-4 at Palmer Field in Middletown on June 8. All-state senior slugger Jimmy Sullivan cranked two home runs and added a pair or triples, and pitcher Tim Blaisdell held the top-seeded Warriors lineup at bay to bring a title to WHS. It ended a remarkable turnaround for the Eagles, who lost 14-4 to Windsor in the regular season and entered the Class L tournament as the #7 seed. Things turned once the tourney started thanks to the hot bats of Sullivan, Tyler Fote, Mark Bagdasarian Jr, and Derek Tenney, who helped propel the program to their first championship. Photo: Kelly Blaisdell
#2: Stockman Gets the Triple Crown
Rocky Hill’s Elizabeth Stockman had a year that many runners can only dream about. It started when she won the 1600 and 3200 meters at the Class M Indoor Track championships on Feb 9 and a state title in the 3200M at the State Open on Feb 17. Her success continued during outdoor track season when she again took home first place in the 1600 and 3200 at the class meets on May 29 and captured the championship in the 1600 at the State Open on June 4. Rocky Hill’s running prodigy polished off her magnificent year with another title at the Class M Cross Country finals on October 26. She’s currently adding to her running list of accomplishments as 2018 comes to a close.
#3: Cromwell Basketball Adds Another Championship Banner
The basketball programs at Cromwell are synonymous with winning and the boys’ team took home the ultimate prize in 2018, defeating Wamogo 58-40 to capture the Division V state title at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 17. Senior Noah Budzik scored a game-high 22 points and sophomore Gabe Charleston added 10 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of blocks to help the program win their first title since 2009. The Panthers were down at the half but controlled the tempo in the second half, which included a dominant fourth quarter when they outscored their counterparts 18-4. They say you can’t spell championship without CHS.
#4: Business as Usual for Newington Volleyball
Newington boys’ volleyball captured their fourth state championship in the last five years, downing Joel Barlow in five sets on June 7. Louis Egbuna had 23 kills and seven aces, and Leonel Caceres added 21 kills as the Indians ended the marathon match by winning the decisive fifth set 15-13. Senior setter Dan Cloutier dished out 54 assists, libero Collin Liedke had 20 digs, and Teddy Fravel added six blocks in the title tilt at Shelton High School. The scary news for the rest of the state…Egbuna, Caceres, Liedke, and Fravel will all be back on the court for Newington this spring.
#5: Rocky Hill’s Road Dawgs
The story of Rocky Hill’s boys’ basketball team ended at Mohegan Sun with a 55-40 loss to Kolbe Cathedral in the Division IV championship game on March 18. But it wasn’t the loss that defined their season, it was the journey. The Terriers limped into the tournament as the #26 seed, following an 8-12 regular season, but flipped a switch once the tourney started and won four road games to reach the title game. The tourney wins included a come-from-behind 70-67 overtime thriller against #2 St. Bernard in the quarterfinals and a convincing victory over #3 Wilcox Tech in the semifinals. Seniors Ryan Robinson, Will White, Jordan DelMastro, and Andrew DiMatteo led tourney run, which head coach Josh Dinerman simply defined as “special”.
#6: Francis Finishes First
Wethersfield’s Abigail Francis closed out her illustrious high school swimming career in style, winning the 200 Individual Medley and the 100 Breaststroke at the Class L finals on November 13 at SCSU and then placed second at the 200 IM during the State Open on November 16 at Yale. The record-breaking and All-State swimmer also teamed with Alanna DePinto, Olivia Thompson, and Alyssa Pearce for a state championship in 200 Freestyle Relay at the class finals. Davison College is getting one of the most accomplished swimmers to ever come out of the area and someone that helped take an excellent swimming program to another level in 2018.
#7: Local Leapers Reach New Heights
Wethersfield’s George Stoughton and Middletown’s DeAaron Lawrence both jumped into another stratosphere in 2018. Stoughton won the high and long jumps at the Class L Indoor Track & Field finals on February 8 at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. Lawrence nearly pulled off a state championship jumping trifecta at the Class L Outdoor Track & Field finals on May 29, winning the high and triple jump, and finishing third in the long jump. The jump men have, literally, set a very high bar for the next generation of leapers.
#8: Terriers Baseball Shocks the State
Rocky Hill baseball pulled off the biggest upset of the baseball season in the first round on the Class M tourney, knocking off Haddam-Killingworth 4-1 on May 29. The Terriers won only six games during the regular season and where the last team (32nd) to qualify for the tourney, but sent shockwaves through the baseball community when they eliminated the top-seeded Cougars, who had finished the regular season 18-2. Matt Rados earned the win on the mound and Matt Sevigny had two hits and a pair of RBI in arguably the biggest upset in Connecticut high school athletics during 2018.
#9: Three’ing is Believing for Eagles Basketball
Wethersfield girls’ basketball hit 15 three pointers and survived with a 71-69 overtime win over East Lyme, advancing to the Class L semifinals on March 8. Alice Kelly and Isabella Samse each knocked down five shots from beyond the arc, and Nicole Gwynn registered a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. The win was extra special because the Eagles erased a large halftime deficit in front of their home fans and advanced to the semis for the first time since 2010.
#10: Karstetter and Wright’s Big Night
The quarterback-wide receiver combo of Bryce Karstetter and Nick Wright wasted little time lighting up the skies this fall, hooking up for three touchdowns in Cromwell/Portland’s season-opening 35-21 win over Rockville on September 7. Karstetter finished with five total touchdowns, throwing for 300 yards and four scores and adding another touchdown on the ground. Wright, who was playing in his first organized high school football game, hauled in nine passes for 199 yards and the three scores. The senior duo would go on to set state highs and break program records in 2018.
#11: Seventh Heaven for Robidoux
Scott Robidoux was a consistent force for Newington lacrosse this season, but it was his effort in a 16-4 win over Lyman Hall on April 14 that put his name on the map. Robidoux scored seven goals and added an assists as the Indians won their fourth game in their first five contests to start the 2018 season. The junior attacker ended up leading the team in goals as Newington won 10 games in the regular season. There’s no telling what he has in store for 2019.
#12: Lukens Nets 1000
Nikki Lukens helped Rocky Hill girls’ basketball reach the semifinal round for the first time in the program’s history and even though they came up short in the semis, Lukens surpassed the 1000-point barrier during her 19 point performance in defeat on March 9. What makes it even more impressive is that Lukens achieved the accomplishment in her junior year and is currently adding to her impressive point total as 2018 winds down.
#13: Upset Special for Middletown Soccer
Middletown boys’ soccer pulled off a shocker in the first round of Class L, defeating East Lyme 3-2 on November 6. The Blue Dragons were the last team to qualify for the tourney, entering as the #27-seed, but upset the 12-win Vikings behind a pair of goals from Gael Badibanga and another from Joao Oliveira.
#14: Rally Kids in Rocky Hill
Rocky Hill softball has made its living coming back from large deficits since Tyler Catlin took over as head coach, and 2018 was no different. The Terriers had two crazy comebacks over a five-day span in the spring, starting with a 9-8 win over East Hartford on May 10. Rocky Hill trailed 8-1, but rallied with eight straight runs, capped off by Sophie Kurdziel’s walk-off RBI. On May 14, Kurdziel had two hits, a run, and an RBI in a comeback victory Wethersfield. The Terriers fell behind the Eagles 6-0 after two innings but Kurdziel, Rachel Roncaoili, Melanie Tejeda, and Megan Khanna had timely hits as Rocky Hill again rallied for a 9-6 victory. The bottom line is that no lead is safe at Elm Ridge Park.
#15: Fulton Freestyles
Wethersfield senior Blake Fulton finished his high school career with a state title, winning the Class M 100 Freestyle on March 13 at Cornerstone. Fulton was also the runner-up in the 100 Backstroke and was part of the 200 Medley relay team that finished second. The Eagles finished third overall thanks to Fulton’s strong effort and a well-rounded team. Who said that Eagles weren’t strong swimmers?
#16: Budzik Blanks Coginchaug
Noah Budzik always saves his best stuff for the biggest moments, including striking out 10 during a complete-game shutout of Coginchaug to win the Shoreline Championship on May 25. Budzik allowed only four hits and Jared Valentin drove in Nick McCaleb for the game’s only run. Cromwell being crowned as conference champs has a nice ring to it.
#17: High Five for Rocky Hill and Wethersfield Volleyball
Rocky Hill and Wethersfield treated local fans to a five-set volleyball showcase on October 22 at WHS. The home Eagles won two of the first three sets, but the Terriers stormed back to take the final two sets behind Julia O’Connor, who finished with 19 kills. Amanda Schuman added 33 assists for the Terriers, and Megan Kelleher had 12 kills and seven aces for the Eagles. The rivalry match had added implication as it qualified Rocky Hill for the state tournament and eliminated Wethersfield from postseason contention.
#18: Eagles Field Hockey Downs Goliath
Wethersfield field hockey always circles Glastonbury on their schedule and on October 3 they added a W next to the circle. With just over three minutes left in a scoreless game, Logan Lisella came off the bench and scored on an assist from Kate Anzidei. Goalie Anna Kallajian and the Eagles fierce defense secured the 1-0 shutout in front of the home faithful. It was yet another step in the right direction for a blossoming program.
Bonus: Frazier Steals the Show
Junior Ashanti Frazier was tenacious on both ends of the court as Newington girls’ basketball defeated New Britain 52-38 on December 13. Frazier scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it was her 10 steals that stole the spotlight.
Rocky Hill's senior goalie Chris Conlan was selected All-CCC in soccer. Photo credit- RHHS Soccer Booster Club / Wethersfield junior Zoe Kleetblatt earned an All-CCC selection in field hockey. Photo credit- Jo-Ann Campbell
Boys Cross Country
Cromwell – Mark Rodriguez, Connor Daly
Middletown – Sean Ahern, Matt Lecky
Newington – Michael Bohlke, Samuel Geisler, Aiden Toth
Rocky Hill – Ethan Arcata
Wethersfield – Mike Dunn, Owen Gagne
Girls Cross Country
Cromwell – Emma Drzewicki, Ally Arling
Middletown – Ariana Monarca, Nicole Nenninger
Newington – Samantha Gorski
Rocky Hill – Lilah Devine, Elizabeth Stockman
Wethersfield – Meghan Gregorski, Isabella Samse
Newington - Maya Gajowiak
Wethersfield - Zoe Kleeblatt, Lorien Touponse
Cromwell/Portland – Bryce Karstetter, Nick Wright, Kevin Hinkle
Middletown - Jontae Dempsey, Stephen Hill Jr, Dajaun Lomotey, Tyreece Lumpkin, Xzavier Reyes, Osbourne Richards, Nygel Smikle
Newington - Izayah Ciarcia, Julian Mulero, Dylan Nees-Fair, Rasheed Patterson, Eric Sims
Wethersfield - David Colon, Luke Kelleher, Mitchell Quadrato, Connor Pace
Rocky Hill - Matthew Sevigny
Cromwell – J.J. Tracy, Luke Ayotte, Brett Sena, Carter Newman
Middletown - Gael Badabanga, Connor Vogel
Newington - Jack DeGirolamo, Trey Sadler, Aslan Tate
Rocky Hill - Alex Burke, Chris Conlan, Riley Donovan
Wethersfield - Dino Alihodzic, Justin Biraci, Riley Carlson, Max Karkos, Kenan Mujic
Cromwell – Erika Person, Olivia Belcourt, Olivia Pendl, Sannon Morrill, Jordan Pare, Jenna Liseo
Middletown - Kaylee Allegretti, Madison Fletcher, Tyler Stocking
Newington - Maggie Callahan, Gabby Gray, Abby Molloy, Olivia Mullings, Giuliana Stolfi, Zoe Walk
Rocky Hill - Izzy Califiore, Emma Molloy, Isabella Montalvo, Annie White
Wethersfield - Paige Contenta, Sierra Judson, Megan Keleher, Alexis Szymecki, Gabi Villagra
Cromwell – Sadie Budzik, Kaitlin Lewkowicz, Aijha Caccio
Newington- Azya Bass, Maddie Massaro-Cook, Carelys Benitez, Alaysiah Hall
Rocky Hill- Julia O’Connor, Amanda Shuman
Wethersfield- Megan Kelleher, Alice Kelly
Ashanti Frazier- Newington (Basketball): Frazier has been unstoppable as Newington has won their first three games, including last Thursday’s 52-39 victory over New Britain. In the win over the Golden Hurricanes, the junior guard messed around and nearly got a triple-double; scoring 25 points, dishing out eight assists, and racking up an eye-popping 10 steals. In the Indians season opener, a 59-42 victory over South Windsor, Frazier scored 10, grabbed six rebounds, and had three steals.
Ben Mroczka- Middletown (Hockey): Mroczka scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in the WMPR Eagles season-opening 2-1 victory over the Eastern CT Eagles. The senior tallied another goal in a 3-1 victory over Bolton/Conventry/Rockville and prior to the start of the season he was named one of the team’s captains after leading the team in goals as a junior a season ago.
Julia DiBattista- Rocky Hill (Basketball): DiBattista nearly averaged a double-double last week, averaging 10 points and nine rebounds as Rocky Hill split their first two games of the season with a win over Enfield and a loss to Glastonbury. The senior has already formulated a great one-two punch with returning all-state guard Nikki Lukens.
Najla Cecunjanin- Cromwell (Basketball): Cecunjanin had a terrific all-around game to help Cromwell open the season with a 56-32 victory over Old Lyme, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, three assists, and three blocks. The versatile junior is one of a handful of young stars that head coach Kelly Maher has on the court this season.
Jake Peckrul- Wethersfield (Hockey): Peckrul is back in goal for the Eagles, helping preserve two victories over the first two games of the season. The senior captain had 10 saves in a 2-1 victory over Eastern CT and then sent back 11 shots in a 3-1 win over Bolton/Coventry/Rockville.
(Above) Abby Francis commits to swim at Davidson College, accompanied by her parents David and Caroline Francis, and WHS swim coach Lee Schwartzman
(Below) Zoe Adams commits to swim at Assumption College, accompanied by her parents Brett and Carla Adams, sister Sophie Adams, and WHS swim coach Lee Schwartzman
Wethersfield seniors Abby Francis and Zoe Adams will continue their swimming careers at the next level, making it official at WHS in November.
Francis signed a national letter of intent to swim at Davidson College in North Carolina next year.
She had a remarkable swim career at WHS, earning CCC all-conference honors in each of her four seasons with the Eagles and served as captain of team during her senior year and was an integral part of four straight CCC divisional crowns. She has also earned CHSCA All-State accolades seven different times and was a member of the 2018 Class L champion 200 freestyle relay team and was the individual Class L state champion in the 2017 200 Freestyle, the 2018 200 Individual Medley, and the 2018 100 Breaststroke.
Francis excels in the classroom and is a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, and National Social Studies Honor Society. She has volunteered her time in the ALS program and with the Bridge Program while also serving as a peer tutor, member of the Interact Club, and president of the Skills21 club.
Outside of school, Francis has been a participant with the LEHY swimming club. This year she was honored as a CT Swimming Scholar Athlete and a Scholastic All-American by USA Swimming. In addition, she was a YMCA Nationals Finalist, Junior National Qualifier, and CT Senior Championship finalist.
Adams announced that she will continue her swimming career at Assumption College next year in Worcester, Massachusetts.
She was a four year member of the swimming and diving team which won four straight CCC division titles, serving as captain during her senior year. She was a three-time all-conference award winner and was also named to the CCC all-academic team in each of her four seasons swimming at Wethersfield.
In addition to swimming, Adams is a three sport athlete at WHS, also lettering in basketball and outdoor track. This season she was named a captain for the basketball team, which reached the class L semifinals last year. She is also a member of the defending CCC North girls’ outdoor track divisional championship team. In 2018 she participated in the heptathlon and was a State Open qualifier in the triple jump.
Outside of athletics, Adams has been involved in many other activities. She has been a DARE peer role model, volunteered in the ALS program, and participated in the Bridge Program, and is also a town lifeguard and youth basketball referee.
Next year at Assumption, Adams plans to major in biology with future aspirations to work in the medical field.
*Information provided by Wethersfield’s Athletic Department*
Cromwell Football/Cheer Community Outreach
On Wednesday, November 21, before their Thanksgiving Eve football game, the Cromwell/Portland Panthers football team and cheerleaders made "care baggies" for Streetfire Ministries. The students donated items and put together more than 200 baggies that were distributed by the ministry. Each year the two teams have come together before the game to do a service project for people in our neighboring town, this has been a long standing tradition.
#12 Bryce Karstetter and $5 Nick Wright watch from the sidelines during the Panthers 41-6 playoff exit last Tuesday night. Despite the loss, the senior QB-WR duo broke records in 2018
Cromwell/Portland's season came to an emotional end last Tuesday night, losing 41-6 to undefeated Stafford/East Windsor/Somers in the first round of the Class S playoffs at Enfield High School.
“It’s tough, I feel bad for our seniors,” head coach Randell Bennett said following the defeat, “We really hadn’t been tested in the month of November. The last real test was the Valley game and I think that you saw that tonight. We were a little tentative to make a play. In the first and second drive we just looked a little nervous out there tonight.”
Bennett’s team enter the postseason 9-1 and riding a four-game winning streak, which included consecutive shutouts over Woodstock Academy (41-0) and Rocky Hill (30-0) to close the regular season, but the Bulldogs of Stafford dominated time of possession from start to finish, scoring six rushing touchdowns to advance to the semifinals.
Quarterback Colton Engel led the charge, racking up 150 yards on the ground and three scores, including a pair in the first half to provide the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead at the break.
Each of Engel’s touchdowns came from a yard out. Coincidentally, his first score was at the 1:18 mark of the first quarter and his second at the 1:18 mark of the second quarter.
The playoff bout was billed as a game of contrasting offensive styles. The Panthers entered with a prolific aerial attack and the Bulldogs ground game was equally impressive this season.
In the end, quarterback Bryce Karstetter and the Panthers offense were unable to create the chunk plays they had relied on all season and the Bulldogs thrived in all three phases of the game, also creating five turnovers on defense and blocking a punt.
Julien Rivas, Jeff Kology, and Caleb White each intercepted passes, and Will Spellman blocked the punt.
“We took the first series to see how they were going to play us. They hadn’t seen too many passing offenses on film so we were trying to get a feel for them,” Bennet said of the slow start, “We just never really got the ball back and they just chewed up the clock in the second quarter. Before we looked up it was halftime and it was 14-0,”
Stafford’s momentum bled into the second half, scoring on the opening possession when Engel tallied his third rushing touchdown.
Rivas, who finished with 126 total yards, scored from three yards out later in the third. Kology and Cody Gebo each found the end zone in the fourth
As a team, the Bulldogs amassed 288 yards on the ground and had an impressive 5 to 1 run-to-pass ratio.
Guiding the Bulldogs’ offense is current Wethersfield girls basketball coach Jeff Russell, who was the former offensive coordinator for the Eagles’ football team before bringing his formation concepts and wizardry up north.
Russell’s up-tempo offense found creases all night and the Bulldogs defense hounded Karstetter from the opening snap, including sacking him on the game’s first snap.
The Panthers offense had some chances, but untimely turnovers and penalties killed most drives. Their lone score a 19-yard toss from Karstetter to Matthew Pepe, narrowing the deficit to 27-6 late in the third quarter.
Inexperience, and a lingering ankle injury to senior captain Ismar Kandic, hampered the Panthers on both sides of the line.
“They’re still learning out there. We had some good things to build on this year but we just have to go back to the drawing board and getting better,” Bennett said of his young linemen, “The biggest thing for them is that I hope they understand that we have to get stronger. We need to get stronger, we need to hone in on our techniques. When you win all the time you can tune your coaches out sometimes when they’re on you about technique.”
Sophomores Cam Latronica, Brandon Lockwood, Marc Treglia, and Ian Conway all had solid seasons in the trenches and earned valuable experience for the coming years.
Bennett will have several starters returning in 2019, which includes the large group of sophomores and freshman sensation Owen Brunk.
However the playoff loss was the end of the road for a dozen seniors, including Karstetter.
The three-year starter had his best statistical season, throwing for 29 touchdowns and adding four more on the ground.
First-year phenomenon Nick Wright will also be departing after breaking the program’s all-time receiving yardage mark, finishing with 1495 yards (a state high) and scoring 17 touchdowns.
“Can’t put into word how thankful I am to have been able to play for such a great organization. Love my brothers and everyone who supported us,” Wright stated following the playoff exit.
Leading rusher Bryan Lockwood, leading tackler Zac Cyr, the takeaway tandem of Kevin Hinkle and Devon Kilham, along with Kandic, Dudley Salmon, Jordan Flores, Carter Graves, Jaylen Jenkins, Deniz Pine, and Chase Lopes will also be moving on.
“I feel really bad for those guys, because our seniors carried us this year,” stated Bennett, who was an assistant coach prior to taking over as the head coach a season ago, “They are just an integral part of what I think is going to be a great program. Last year we got right to the line and Rocky Hill knocked us out and this year we got in and we ran into Stafford. We lit it up with stats and scoring but at the end of the day those things don’t necessarily matter when you want to win the championship as a team. I know looking forward this is something that everyone will look back on and say we had a great group.”
Over the last four years the seniors helped compile an impressive 35-8 record, which included a playoff win over Bloomfield in 2016.
Next fall Bennett and his staff need to replace some key weapons, but the pieces are in place for another postseason run.
“We just have to stick together and get our younger guys better. Hopefully in two years we’ll be talking about this while we’re laughing with the trophy under our arm,” added Bennett, “These guys will be back and we’ll be the same old Cromwell.”
Stafford’s season came to a conclusion in the semis, losing to Haddam-Killingworth 21-14 in overtime last Sunday.
The Bulldogs battled back from a 14-0 second-half deficit to send the game into overtime on touchdowns from Rivas and Engel, but H-K scored on their first possession of the extra session and made a defensive stand to advance to the Class S championship game.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin