East Hampton’s Parker Gustine controls the ball as he is pursued by Cromwell’s Jack Wood during the Bellringers 1-0 win over Cromwell on Oct. 26. Gustine assisted Ethan Marshall for the only goal of the match as the team closed the regular season at home, registering their 11th victory.
After making the state championship match a year ago, the boys soccer team at East Hampton High School eyes another successful tournament run this fall.
The Bellringers closed the regular season schedule with a 1-0 win over Shoreline Conference (SLC) rival Cromwell last Thursday, wrapping up an 11-2-2 regular season.
Playing on an unseasonably warm late-October afternoon at East Hampton High School, senior Ethan Marshall scored the only goal, hamming home a shot past Cromwell’s all-conference goalie Thomas Garcia midway through the first half.
“They moved me out to right wing and luckily Parker [Gustine] saw me on the corner and set me up with a nice shot on goal,” recalled Marshall.
Marshall’s blast proved to be the difference as East Hampton’s swarming defense was flawless for 80 minutes and the team’s efficient offense controlled the tempo for much of the match.
Cromwell head coach Angelo Morello called the Bellringers “the best team in our conference” and added, “I thought we played better in the second half, but they are skilled, they are tough.”
The win earned East Hampton a first round bye in the SLC tourney and Marshall said it was important to head into the postseason on a high note.
“We wanted to play hard and put pressure on the other team and we got the job done,” added Marshall. “We want to build off it and continue to get wins.”
After winning their first nine games this fall, East Hampton ran into a few roadblocks as the season aged — mostly on the injury front.
Starting goalie Thomas Fenton missed the last five games of the regular season with a concussion and sophomore standout Colin
Marshall suffered a leg injury early in the season that has kept him out of action since September.
“We’ve had to look to our bench and see who can step up,” East Hampton head coach Rocco Christiana stated. “The players are really starting to work as a unit and the depth of our team got better this year – we are more well-rounded.”
Filling the void in net is senior captain Finn Piper, a field player who stepped up during Fenton’s absence and posted his first shutout in the win over Cromwell.
Christiana called Piper the “heart and soul of the team”, praising him for his continued sacrifice for the betterment of the program.
“All these kids have huge hearts and they all work hard,” added Christiana, who is the reigning SLC Coach of the Year in 2022 after guiding the Bellringers to a conference title.
After winning the SLC tournament a season ago, the Bellringers worked through the state tournament before falling to Old Saybrook (2-0) in the Class S state championship on an ice-covered field at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford.
Ethan Marshall said being on the cusp of a state title fueled a team featuring a pair of returning all-conference players in Fenton and Will Nafis.
“We were super motivated; we're even more motivated than we were last year,” he added. “We’re building on what we did [last season] and are playing for the players that are injured. The guys that can’t play, we are out there for them.”
East Hampton .800 winning percentage is the eighth-best in Class S with the state tourney slated to state next week.
Despite the injury setbacks and a gauntlet of a schedule, the Bellringers are again in prime position for a postseason push.
Christiana added that no matter who is on the field, the expectations are the same.
“When we lose someone, someone else steps up,” he added. “We bring some other people up and continue to play hard.”
Visit ciacsports.com for a complete list of fall’s high school sports tournament schedules and results.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Oct. 9-15:
Chelsea Woods - East Hampton High School (Volleyball): Woods, a senior, dished up a season-high 31 assists and added 20 digs as the Bellringers beat Valley Regional in four sets on Oct. 12. The following day, Woods tallied 19 more assists and served up seven aces as the Bellringers beat Portland in three sets. The Bellringers finished the regular season with a record of 15-1, winning the final 13 matches.
Josh Weers - RHAM High School (Football): Weers caught four touchdown passes as the Raptors finished what they started five weeks ago, downing Avon 30-16 on Oct. 13. The game originally kicked off on Sept. 9, but play was suspended due to lighting before the conference rivals finished the game this past Friday. Weers, a senior, hauled in scoring strikes from 13, 20, 9, and 46 yards as the Raptors led 27-8 prior to the postponement.
Audrey Palmer - Bacon Academy (Soccer): Palmer scored a pair of goals as the Bobcats earned a big divisional victory, defeating Fitch 4-0 in Groton on Oct. 11. Palmer led the way offensively for the Bobcats, who also received goals from Alyssa Blanchette and Mia Hageman. Palmer, a junior, posted two more goals last week in a 5-0 win over RHAM on Oct. 25.
Gio Discenza - Portland High School (Soccer): Discenza, a senior, netted a baker’s hat trick – scoring four goals – as the Highlanders blanked North Branford 5-0. The five goals were a season-high for Portland, who also got a goal from Ben Sorrell. Assisting in the scoring onslaught were Brody Quinn, Aidan Peterson, Alex Dawson, and Cooper Beck – each dishing out a helper.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Oct. 16-22:
Brian Collison - East Hampton High School (Soccer): Collison, a senior, scored a goal on Senior Night as the Bellringers defeated Portland 3-2 on Oct. 18. Sebby Woodson and Parker Gustine each added goals for the Bellringers, who celebrated Collison and ten other seniors prior to the match. The win improved East Hampton to 10-2.
Lilly Carroll - Portland High School (Soccer): Carroll, a senior, scored the only goal of the match on a penalty kick as the Highlanders defeated East Hampton 1-0 on Senior Night at TD Bank Oakwood Soccer Park on Oct. 20. Carroll’s goal turned out to be the difference as the team celebrated four seniors (Carroll, Ava Maselek, Camryn DiMauro, and Selena Shukis).
Troy Miller - RHAM High School (Soccer): Miller netted a hat trick, scoring three goals, and dished out an assist as the Raptors defeated East Catholic 5-0 on Oct. 16. Miller, a senior, then scored two more goals in a victory over E.O. Smith on Oct. 19. The prolific scorer finished the regular season with a team-high 18 goals.
Troy Johnson - Bacon Academy (Soccer): Johnson scored a pair of goals as the Bobcats tied Norwich Free Academy 2-2 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) divisional showdown on Oct.14. Senior captain Coby Butterfield assisted on both goals and NFA knocked in the game-tying goal on a controversial call with 14 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Oct. 23-30:
Skip Coogan – Bacon Academy (Football): Coogan recovered a state-record six fumbles, including one for a touchdown, as the Bobcats blanked Montville 61-0. Coogan, a sophomore, highlighted a dominant defensive unit that also got three forced fumbled and an interception from senior Avatar Disher as Bacon Academy registered their second shutout of the season, also blanking Bethel 21-0 in the season opener.
Lillian Tabellione - Portland High School (Cross-Country): Tabellione finished sixth overall, running a 21:17, at the Class S State Championships at Wickham Park on Oct. 28. Tabellione beat out 139 other competitors and led a talented group of Highlanders that placed seventh overall as a team with Meghan McPhee (13th) and Ariana Hettrick-Rivera (17th) also having top-20 finishes.
Gabby Wiesner - East Hampton High School (Soccer): Wiesner scored a pair of goals as the Bellringers defeated Lyman Memorial 2-1 in the team’s regular season finale on Oct. 27. Wiesner, a junior, scored both of her goals on perfectly-placed corner kicks from her freshman sister Mia Wiesner as the Bellringers ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak.
Lani Fecho - RHAM High School (Volleyball): Fecho continued to stuff the stat sheets as the Raptors wrapped up a 16-3 regular season with a three set victory over Enfield on Oct. 23. Fecho, a senior, had a dozen kills, nine digs, six aces, and a block. Sophomore Meredith Weir added 11 kills and eight digs as the Raptors closed the regular season with a perfect road record (8-0).
After dropping a pair of games last week, the boys soccer team at Cromwell High School turns their attention to the state tournament next week.
Last Friday, the team fell to East Hampton (1-0) in the regular season finale and CHS head coach Angelo Morello said his young team is fighting from the first whistle to the last.
“I thought the second half was a lot better than the first half,” added Morello, who called East Hampton the best team in the conference.
A goal by East Hampton senior Ethan Marshall midway through the first half proved to be the difference as Cromwell was unable to generate the equalizer despite having scoring opportunities throughout, particularly over the final 40 minutes.
After allowing a goal to Marshall, Cromwell goalie Thomas Fenton was spectacular, making several diving saves to keep the Panthers within a goal.
“That’s what he did a year ago and we need him to be like that as we go forward,” Morello said of his all-conference keeper. “He came up big today and he’s meant a lot to us for the last two years. The guys in front of him have been just as good.”
Fenton is captaining the team with fellow seniors Ace Kenney, Mitchell Botelho, and Darragh McNeil.
The key for the Panthers will be finding scoring opportunities. After scoring three or more goals in five straight games, Cromwell was held scoreless over the last two contests – including a 6-0 loss to Haddam-Killingworth in the Shoreline Conference (SLC) tournament last Saturday.
Morello is relying on a young cast of characters on the offensive end, featuring sophomore Julian Tuminski and Ben Burdick, a freshman who was brought up to varsity midway through the season and has made a splash by scoring seven goals.
“They play extremely well and they play together,” Morello said of his team, who finished the regular season 9-5-2. “We just have to find a way to score goals; that will be the key. Right now it’s goals by committee.”
Visits ciacsports.com for a complete list of all of the high school sports state tournaments.
Zy’kie Askew - Middletown High School (Football): Askew ran for a pair of scores, including the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Blue Dragons held on to beat Newington 21-20 on Oct. 27. Askew’s second score put Middletown up 21-14 and, after the home Nor’easters scored late in regulation, Jason Fleurejiste deflected a pass on the ensuing two-point conversion to keep it a one point advantage for the Blue Dragons. Askew cemented the victory with a first down run as Middletown drained the last two minutes off the clock, securing a fourth straight victory.
Kendall Miller - Newington High School (Volleyball): Miller had eight kills, five digs, and four aces in the Nor’easters three set victory over Wethersfield on Oct. 23. Two nights later, Miller had eight kills, five aces, and three digs in a three set victory over Hall as the Newington earned their ninth win of the season.
Katie Barber - Cromwell High School (Soccer): Barber netted a hat trick, scoring three goals as the Panthers blanked Old Saybrook 6-0 in the opening round of the Shoreline Conference (SLC) tournament on Oct. 28. Barber, a senior, led a potent offense that also got a pair of goals from senior Cameryn Hickey and another goal from junior Ellie Sbriglio.
Joey Motes - Rocky Hill High School (Football): Motes tossed three touchdowns as the Terriers beat Avon 28-6 on Oct 27. Motes, a junior captain, had 198 passing yards –103 to Jaden Veal, who hauled in two of the scoring strikes. Oleg Korotkyy, a senior captain, caught the other touchdown. Fellow senior captain Daryl Asante led the defensive charge with 16 tackles and he also rushed for a touchdown on offense.
Eliana Sipala - Wethersfield High School (Soccer): Sipala, a freshman, scored what turned out to be the difference-making goal as the Eagles defeated Newington 2-1 to win the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) North for the third straight season. Sipala scored on a through ball from Kayla Ward and the Eagles also got a goal from Alana Burnell, who scored off a corner kick from Emma Mullarkey.
Wethersfield junior Oliver Pedneault controls the ball as Plainville’s Evan Giannini defends during the Eagles 4-1 victory at Cottone Field on Oct. 24.
After allowing a goal in the first five minutes of the match, Wethersfield boys soccer dominated the final 75 minutes en route to a 4-1 victory over Plainville on Oct. 24.
WHS head coach Rob Jachym admitted he was a little worried after the visiting Blue Devils struck first blood because, prior to last Tuesday, the Eagles hadn’t won a single game this season when they allowed a goal — shutting out seven opponents in their first seven wins this fall.
“That was a streak that we wanted to break,” joked Jachym. “It was a good response by the kids. Those goals are important for their confidence and you want to have some confidence going into the tournament.”
Playing under the glowing moon at Cottone Field, Evan Giannini provided Plainville the early advantage when he netted a shot four minutes and 25 seconds into regulation to break a scoreless tie.
A dozen minutes later, Wethersfield’s Ado Alihodzic tied it up on a penalty kick, which seemed to settle down the Eagles, who thoroughly controlled possession for the rest of the match.
Alihodzic finished with two goals and an assist to lead an offense that had been blanked in their previous two contests. The senior midfielder credited the team’s 4-2-2 formation, which opened up the field and reignited the offense against a Plainville team that entered the contest having won only two games all season.
“That gave us the ability to score some more goals,” added Alihodzic “When they scored that first goal everyone kind of woke up and we came to the realization that it’s not going to be an easy game.”
In the 19th minute, Alihodzic scored the go-ahead goal after getting a perfect feed from fellow senior Sean Khan, who tapped a pass to the left wing that Alihodzic drilled into the back of the net.
Khan, the team’s leading scorer this season is the only returning all-conference player from a season ago and has led an offense that scored four or more goals for the fifth time this fall.
With 10:23 left in the first half, Alihodzic fed Ciaran Bailey for a goal to up the lead to 3-1 at the break.
In the 67th minute, Ramo Ahmetovic added an insurance goal on a penalty kick to close out the scoring.
“It’s nice to get some of that confidence back tonight,” added Jachym. “I told the boys this is what it should be like after a game – we should be in a good mood. We haven’t had this in a while because we had a couple of tough losses, so it’s nice that we can get some confidence and go into the postseason on a positive note.”
The four goals were a good sign for a team that was coming off a pair of shutout losses, falling to Bristol Eastern 1-0 and Newington 2-0 in their last two games.
Prior to those two losses, the team had only one defeat all season behind a strong defense that has allowed over two goals only once and held seven opponents scoreless.
Starting goalie Nate Morris has protected the net and, after allowing the early goal, was flawless the rest of the night, making several key saves.
Jachym said that Morris is the team’s “extra security blanket” and added that his standout keeper and a strong backline have been consistent all fall.
“Nate is great,” added Jachym. “Just his presence alone. To get a goal against him you have to do something really good.”
The team wrapped up the regular season with a home win over Somers (2-0), registering the team’s eighth shutout and finishing the regular season with a record of 9-3-4.
Next up is the Class L tournament, with the first round slated to start on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Senior Ado Alihodzic readies to send home a penalty kick to tie the match last Tuesday night.
Sam Edelheit, Becca Lavoie, and Amanda LeClair are the three seniors leading the GHS volleyball this fall.
Glastonbury High School girls volleyball celebrated their seniors in style, defeating Coventry in three sets (25-6, 25-17, 25-14) on Senior Night last Friday in front of family and friends at GHS.
On a night when the team recognized three senior players — Amanda LeClair, Becca Lavoie, and Sam Edelheit — the Guardians got contributions from a variety of sources to close the regular season with a record of 16-4, winning 11 of their final 13 matches.
Head coach Melissa Reynolds said her three seniors have “provided leadership, teamwork and spirit to help lead the team to such a successful regular season.”
“With Becca providing a formidable defense, Amanda a strong offense, and endless energy and positivity from Sam, this trio of seniors will be sorely missed next season,” added Reynolds.
The seniors have also been major contributors on the court, each playing to their strengths. Lavoie has powered the defensive charge, leading the team in digs (232) along with serving up 35 aces. LeClair is playing a pivotal role near the net, leading the team in total blocks (32) and has hammered home 97 kills (hitting .326) and 17 aces. Edelheit hit .340 and served up 22 aces while only committing five errors all season.
Behind the seniors is a deep, talented crop of juniors that have thrived on the court. Kara Shea and Alexandra Edgington have provided the punch up front, finishing with the first and second most kills on the team, as the team tallied a robust 694 total kills through 20 games.
Sophomore setter Mckenna Reynolds leads the team in aces and assists, averaging 8.3 helpers per set, and her 554 total assists ranks her top three in the state.
The Guardians .800 winning percentage is the seventh best in Class LL and once the conference tournaments wraps up, the team will turn their attention to the state tournament. The first round of the Class LL tournament is slated to start Tuesday, Nov. 7. Check ciacsports.com for all of fall’s high school sports tournament brackets.
GHS golfers (from left) Zachary Durant, Dylan Goode, Mike Litke, Gavin Kvadus, Derek Thomas, and head coach Tom Zelek after the Guardians finished as the runner-up at the Division I State Championships on Oct. 24.
Glastonbury High School boys golf wrapped up one of the program’s most successful seasons, placing as the runner-up at the Division I State Championships on Oct. 24.
Playing in picturesque conditions at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, the Guardians posted a championship-worthy score of 295, finishing behind only Fairfield Prep (287).
Glastonbury's score was the third-lowest score in nearly 100 years for a team that didn’t bring home the championship trophy. According to the CIAC State Championship records, since 1931 a team score of 295 has only been beaten three other times, across all four divisions combined.
“I couldn’t be happier and prouder of the team after posting a team score that would have easily won in most any other year,” GHS head coach Tom Zelek stated. “Regardless that they were playing under the pressure of the State Championship, they rose to the occasion and performed amazingly.”
Senior captain Gavin Kvadus led GHS with a (-1) 70, shooting an eagle on 16, while adding a birdie and 14 pars. Kvadus finished fourth overall – behind three players tied for first – out of the 84 total golfers.
Junior Derek Thomas shot a (+1) 72, sinking a pair of birdies and adding 13 pars, to finish 7th overall. Mike Litke shot a 73, draining four birdies, finishing 10th and Zach Durant rounded out the Guardians scoring by posting an 80.
Along with winning a team title, Fairfield Prep’s Caden Piselli and Robby Rosati each shot a 68 to tie Will Gregware of Conard High School atop the individual leaderboard.
Glastonbury’s Annelise Manzotti controls the ball as teammates #13 Kiernan Tierney and #15 Skylar Fiske looks on in the background during the Guardians 1-0 field hockey win at Cottone Field in Wethersfield last Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0 late in the first half, Glastonbury High School field hockey had a spectacular 98 seconds that changed the complexion of the game – scoring a pair of goals as the Guardians rallied for a 2-1 win at Wethersfield High School on Oct. 24.
“We were kind of frazzled,” senior captain Kiernan Tierney said of the slow start. “We took a step back and took a deep breath, and realized we needed to do it for each other and pushed through.”
With 2:48 remaining in the first half, Addison Infante tied the game with a laser shot into the back of the box for the equalizer.
Moments later, Allyson Collette rebounded a deflected shot before scoring the go-ahead goal with 1:10 remaining in the half.
The pair of goals turned out to be the difference as Glastonbury’s defense held strong in the second half.
GHS head coach Maureen Perkins liked how her veteran team responded to the early deficit, particularly against a tough conference opponent on the road.
“I’m just really proud of them,” added Perkins. “[Wethersfield]is a hard team to play; they are aggressive and kind of feisty and it forces us to play a way we’re not always comfortable playing, so it took us a little bit to figure it out against their style. I was really proud of how they fought, because they had to fight.”
Wethersfield drew first blood when Sadie Ruiz scored with an assist from Brynn Lisella at the 4:32 mark of the first quarter. After the early goal, Glastonbury’s defense was flawless the rest of the way behind goalie Alex Edwards (three saves) and the experienced defensive in front of her that helped thwart several late attacks from the Eagles.
Tierney and Skylar Fiske are captaining a defense that has posted seven shutouts and held their opponents to a total of nine goals through the first 13 Games.
“We are not typically a physical team, but we’re learning throughout the season how to cope with teams that are more physical,” stated Tierney. “I felt like we did a good job working around that obstacle today.”
Avery Olschefskie, who is patrolling the midfield, is the team’s third captain and is fueling a potent offense that fired 10 shots against Wethersfield.
Despite the barrage of shots, Wethersfield goalie Tess Parker made some impressive saves down the stretch to keep the Eagles within striking distance.
Perkins said that playing a close, physical game against a team like Wethersfield is good preparation for the upcoming state tournament.
“Seeing different styles definitely helps us. We also had different players step up today and that makes us better,” added Perkins.
“Some newer players also got opportunities today and I think they did a great job. It makes us stronger and it makes us deeper going into the tournament.”
The win improved the Guardians to 11-2 overall, the third-best winning percentage in Class L, and a perfect 7-0 record within the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC).
After returning 17 players from a year ago, including three all-conference players (Infante, Fiske, and Olschefskie), the team has been solid on both ends – outscored their first 13 opponents by a total of 44 goals.
“The kids that have been playing together for a while and they know what each other likes to do. There a chemistry,” Perkins said of her experienced roster. “We’re working in some newer players and we have a lot of options that we didn’t have before, so it’s all good for us in the end.”
Tierney added that, because of the continuity, the players had a built-in comfort level since the first game of the season.
“We were able to start off the season strong and we’ve kept with it,” added Tierney. “We’re learning how to fix the little mistakes we’ve made throughout the season and I think we’re progressing throughout every game and every practice.”
The team will close the regular season today (Thursday, Nov. 1) at Southington at 3:45 p.m.
It will be the final official tune-up for the state tournament, slated to start next Wednesday (Nov. 8).
Ava and TJ Machowski have helped lead both of RHAM High School’s soccer teams into the state tournament this fall. On the left, TJ and Ava are pictured at RHAM High School earlier this month and, on the right, Ava (four years old) and TJ (three years old) are pictured while playing soccer for the town of Marlborough in 2010.
RHAM High School has a set of siblings playing major roles for the school’s soccer programs this fall as Ava and TJ Machowski, a sister-brother duo from Marlborough, have the entire field covered.
Ava is the leading scorer for the girls teams that recently won eight straight games and TJ is the starting goalie for the a boys team that has held nine opponents scoreless this fall.
As of Wednesday, the two teams have a combined record of 19-5–5 with each team in line to host at least one game in the upcoming Class M tournaments, which begin in November.
“It’s nice that we both have something to feel happy about with our teams and something that we can be proud of,” said Ava, who is a year older than TJ.
Ava is in her final season at RHAM, starring as a senior striker that has racked up a team-high 22 goals and dished out a handful of assists.
Matt Cameron, the head coach of the girls soccer team at RHAM, stated that Ava’s work on and off the field is “exemplary” and that she “puts the team before herself and gives everything she has each day.”
“Ava is arguably the most coachable player, capable leader I’ve ever worked with,” added Cameron. “She sets the bar in terms of standards and pushes her teammates to be their best.”
Behind Ava’s production, which includes a four-goal performance against Platt, the Raptors used an eight-game winning streak that spanned Sept. 23 - Oct. 13 to solidify a spot in the state tournament.
“I think we’ve all clicked really nicely; we’re all very close,” Ava said of the team featuring eight seniors. “We keep it serious on the field and keep any drama off the field.”
TJ, a junior, took over as the starting goalie for a Raptors team that has been consistent throughout the season and finished undefeated (5-0-1) in the CCC - East Region.
RHAM boys soccer assistant coach Tim Berry, who works with the keepers, said TJ brings an “infectious energy” and “positivity” to the team.
“He’s extremely coachable and immediately applies feedback,” added Berry. “He’s a physical presence in net and reads his position well.”
TJ credits the chemistry with his defensive mates in front of him for the success this fall.
“The defensive backline is really good and we work together,” the first-year starting goalie said. “We play from our defense to offense and it just kind of flows – that’s how we’ve been winning these games.”
When they are not helping their respective high school teams in the fall, the siblings are playing club soccer in the offseason with Ava playing for Oakwood Soccer Club and TJ playing for Connecticut Football Club (CFC).
Their love of soccer stems from their father Todd Machowski, who played collegiate soccer at Keene State and is a graduate of RHAM High School — as if their mom, Corinne Machowski.
With the encouragement of their parents, the two started playing at an early age with Ava having a knack for making plays in the field and TJ finding his calling as a protector of the net.
Their position choices are ideal for practicing together as Ava said “it’s beneficial” having a brother she can practice taking shots against at home.
TJ added that the two aren’t necessarily competitive with one another, yet they “push each other” to be better.
“If I take a bad shot he’s not afraid to tell me or if he misses a save I won’t go easy on him,” Ava said with a smile, “We know we can make each other better.”
When the two are not playing in opposing venues, they attend each other’s games and noted that their time away from the fields are still filled with soccer, whether it’s talking about it at home or traveling for club soccer.
“It’s always a game or something,” added Ava.
With her final season at RHAM winding down, Ava noted that she is feeling a “little nostalgic”, yet is ready to see how the final month plays out.
“It’s coming to close a lot faster than I thought it would, but I’m excited to see far we can get in tournament,” she added.
Ava and her team play their regular season home finale this Saturday, Oct. 28 when they welcome South Windsor to RHAM for a match at 9 a.m.
TJ and the boys wrapped up their regular season home schedule with a 2-0 win over Middletown on Tuesday. For the ninth time this fall, TJ kept the net clean.
Now that it’s tourney time, the Machowski siblings have a chance to further leave their collective mark on the local soccer fields.
Middletown quarterback (#4) Colin Skene is joined in the backfield by (#6) Maxim Ellis and (#9) Zy'kie Askew. Askew ran for a pair of scores as the Blue Dragons beat Wethersfield 18-13 last Friday.
Senior running back Zy’kie Askew ran for two touchdowns and the Blue Dragons defense added a pair of scores as Middletown beat Wethersfield 18-13 on a rain-soaked Cottone Field on Oct. 20.
Second-year head coach Josh Rosek liked how his team competed on a wet night in Wethersfield last Friday.
“One of the key things we try and focus on is being a gritty football team. That has been one of our main mottos since I took over,” said Rosek, “I tell the kids that sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. We’d like to execute a little bit better, but when it comes down to it you have to find a way to win the football game.”
The host Eagles struck first, using a 12-play drive on the game’s opening possession that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mikel Lleshi. The lengthy drive drained nearly half the time off the clock in the first quarter.
Facing an early deficit, Middletown began to turn the tide on special teams and defense.
Blue Dragons punter Anthony Nanfito placed consecutive punts inside the ten-yard line, both eventually turning into defensive scores as Middletown’s defense registered a safety following both boots.
The first two-pointer was caused by a hit by Tyree Scharborough, who jarred the ball loose from Lleshi before Wethersfield
recovered the fumble in their own end zone, resulting in a safety. Then with 11:34 to play in the first half, Maxim Ellis sacked Lleshi in the end zone, cutting the deficit to 7-4.
Rosek said his defense “settled down” and responded following Wethersfield's initial scoring march.
“We got back to the basics and I thought [the players] did the things that we talked about at practice,” added Rosek, who credited assistant coach Andy Mulh for the team excelling on special teams. “We take a lot of pride in special teams and they did a great job tonight. They have been awesome all year”
Askew scored on touchdown runs from 19 and 3 yards out in the second quarter, giving the road team an 18-7 lead at halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Lleshi threw a 10-yard touchdown to Jova’n Hill with 6:17 to play in regulation.
Wethersfield’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the next possession, but — as the rain intensified — the home team’s last chance was foiled when they turned it over on downs near midfield with less than two minutes to play.
It was an extra special victory for Middletown, who avenged a heartbreaking loss to Wethersfield from last season when the Eagles blocked an extra-point to preserve a 7-6 victory in Middletown.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 0-6, yet head coach Matt McKinnon said the team has not lost their belief in one another.
“This group of guys have been going hard every single game and our record might not show it, but I’m proud of how hard they have been playing,” added McKinnon.
The Eagles have battled a tough schedule –– featuring three playoff teams from a season ago –– and an injury to junior captain Cam Righi, the team’s starting quarterback and strong safety who has missed the last three games.
“We have a month left to set a tone for the program going into the next season,” stated McKinnon. “They have so much heart, but we have to put it together for a whole game. I’m confident in them.”
For Middletown, it’s been a tale of two seasons this fall. After starting with three consecutive losses, the win at Wethersfield marked their third straight.
The streak started with a 12-7 win over Manchester on Oct. 6 before posting a convincing 34-7 over Conard as the Blue Dragons tallied a season-high in points behind Askew, who ran for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior quarterback Colin Skene also threw for a pair of touchdowns – both to Josh Ferguson – and ran for another.
“We had a tough stretch in the beginning, but the kids have come back and never wavered what we are trying to do here,” added Rosek, who led the team to a 6-4 record during his first season last fall. “We’re excited. We got three in a row and all we care about now is if we can get four in a row.”
Middletown aims to keep streak alive again at Newington High School when they play the Nor’easters (1-5) this Friday, Oct. 27. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
McKinnon’s squad looks to get on track the same night at Bristol Central, visiting the Rams (1-5) at 6 p.m.
“We need everybody doing their job every single game,” added McKinnon. “We just have to keep working, we just have to get it done.”
Wethersfield players look to the sidelines in the second half during a driving rain at Cottone Field on Oct. 20. The Eagles aim for their first win this Friday when they travel to Bristol Central.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin