It was a special night at Pierson Park in Cromwell. A giant American flag rippled in the breezy, brisk air as it hung from an extended ladder of a town fire truck. The local senior football players and their immediate families received well-deserved recognition in front of a packed stadium prior to kickoff. It seemed like a picture perfect setting for the hometown Cromwell Panthers to upset the visiting and undefeated Valley Regional/Old Lyme Warriors.
Unfortunately after the pre-game ceremonies concluded the Panthers had their Senior Night spoiled, 49-2, by the visiting Warriors.
Cromwell knew they had to play a flawless game in order to beat the Warriors, who remain the only Class M team without a loss, but things did not start well for the Panthers. The home team had troubled handling a frozen football on the opening kickoff and their first possession started from their own nine-yard line. The bitter cold weather affected all aspects of the game and the wind chill dipped into the low 30’s at kickoff. After a three and out by Cromwell, the Warriors took advantage of good field positions and marched 37 yards in seven plays. The drive concluded with a one-yard scoring plunge by Justin Cheverier. Cheverier, along with his brother Tyler, were two of a handful of Warriors players that gave the Panthers fits all night. The junior halfback finished the game with 113 yards and three touchdowns.
Cromwell’s offense had trouble moving the ball for most of the game and were unable to get beyond midfield in the first half. However, their defense kept the game close until midway through the second quarter. With 7:23 left in the half, the Panthers’ defense forced the Warriors into a 4th and five from the Cromwell 30-yard line. The visiting Warriors decided to forgo a long field goal and quarterback Phil Cohen heaved a deep pass down the right sideline that receiver Chris Jean-Pierre nabbed with one hand in the back corner of the end zone. The miraculous fourth down conversion extended the Warriors lead to 21-0 and the floodgates opened from that point on. On Cromwell’s next possession, Warriors’ safety David Peck stepped in front of a pass from Panther quarterback Marvic Pelletier and returned it for a 23-yard touchdown. Pelletier was again intercepted on the next possession and Cheverier scored two plays later to give the Warriors their fifth touchdown of the half.
Pelletier had a rough night, but he showed signs of the great leader and playmaker that will be in charge of the Cromwell offense over the next couple of season. The sophomore quarterback was constantly hounded in the backfield and threw four interceptions, but showed a lot of poise and maturity in the second half. He made several nice throws and runs despite taking several devastating hits from the aggressive Warriors defense. Even late in the game, with the score lopsided, he was very encouraging towards his teammates and showed the relentless effort that is a staple of the Cromwell football program.
Coming out of the locker room trailing 35-0, Cromwell coach Chris Eckert tried to give his team a spark by kicking an onside kick to start the second half. The surprise kick nearly worked, but an alert Brian Wolfe pounced on the awkwardly bouncing ball for the Warriors, giving the visiting team excellent field position at midfield. On the ensuring play, Jean-Pierre out jumped a pair of Panther defensive backs en route to his third touchdown reception, giving the Warriors a 42-0 lead less than a minute into the second half. After an unsuccessful fake punt by Cromwell, the Warriors again were the benefit of fantastic field position and Cheverier galloped into the end zone from 18 yards out to finish off the Warriors scoring.
Cromwell’s offense starting finding a rhythm late in the third quarter when Pelletier complete a slant to Cole Bradley who was hit and fumbled the ball into the night sky as he turned to run up field. Fellow receiver Jarius Bailey snatched the loose ball out of the air and turned the zany play into a good old fashion 36-yard quick-slant fumble-roosky. It was Cromwell’s longest play from scrimmage and set up a 42-yard field goal attempt from kicker Mike McNally. The kick strayed to the right, but the miss inadvertently set up Cromwell’s only score of the night. Following the missed kick, the Warriors bobbled the next offensive snap and were forced back to their own 1-yard line. Two plays later, Jean-Pierre mishandled a punt snap and the ball went out of the back of the end zone for a safety. The capacity crowed erupted, showing support for the young Panthers. In spite of the major discrepancy on the scoreboard, the Cromwell faithful remained enthusiastic for the entire game and nearly all in attendance stayed until the final whistle.
The Panthers look to snap a three game losing skid next Saturday when they travel to Avon to take on the soaring Falcons. Avon (6-3) has won four of their last five games and are currently in a three-way battle for first place in the Pequot-West. The two teams last played in 2009, when the Falcons edge the Panthers 37-31 in an offensive extravaganza. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Avon High School.
Rocky Hill Gets Sweet Revenge
The Rocky Hill Terriers only loss last season was to their cross-town rival Berlin Redcoats. On Friday night, the Terriers emphatically avenged that loss by rolling the Redcoats 41-13. The victory was made even sweeter by the fact that it was Rocky Hill’s Senior Night and final home game. Connecticut Player of the Year candidate Chris Young had another magnificent night for the home team, rushing for 173 yards and four touchdowns on only 15 carries.
Rocky Hill now travels to Vernon to take on the winless Rockville Rams. Rockville’s defense is surrendering 40 points per game this season and their offense is averaging only seven point per game. The Terriers have won the last two contests verse the Rams, having outscored them 98-24 in two blowout victories. Kickoff is Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Wethersfield Finishes Perfect in Conference
The Wethersfield Eagles are officially the king of the Central Connecticut II East after dismissing the Bulkeley Bulldogs 46-22. The win wraps up a perfect conference record (5-0) for Wethersfield and improves the team to 6-3 this season. Eagles quarterback Matt Sanzaro threw for 242 yards and five touchdowns in the victory. The junior signal caller has left no doubt that he is fully recovered from his midseason shoulder injury and in the two games since returning from the injury he has tossed nine touchdowns, compared to only one interception.
Wethersfield will look to keep the momentum going when they travel north to battle the East Hartford Hornets. East Hartford (3-6) is coming off a crushing loss to Southington and Wethersfield beat the Hornets (37-16) the last time the two teams met. Kickoff is Friday at 7 p.m.
Newington Holds Off Simsbury
The Newington Indians shook off last week’s tough home loss and defeated the Simsbury Trojans 28-21. Newington used a well-balanced offense led by quarterback Jake Hedberg, who threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Isaiah Young added 96 rushing yards and a score for the victorious Indians. The Newington defense finished the game by stopping the Trojans inside the 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Newington (4-5) returns home to take on rival New Britain this Friday night. The teams have split the last two contests with the Indians edging the Hurricanes in dramatic fashion last season, 24-21. Kickoff for the boarder battle is at 6:30 p.m.
Carbone’s Last Second Score Sinks Shelton
The Xavier Falcons edged the Shelton Gaels 15-12 at Palmer Field in Middletown. Xavier trailed 12-0 after three quarters, but Falcons’ quarterback Joe Carbone scampered for two fourth quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner from nine yards out with nine seconds to play. Xavier (7-2) came into the game tied with Shelton and Fairfield Prep atop the Southern Connecticut I West.
As fate would have it, the Falcons next travel Fairfield to take on the Jesuits. The winner will assume sole possession of the conference lead and should earn a playoff berth. Xavier has won the last four games against Fairfield Prep, outscoring them by a combined 139-21 in the four meetings. Kickoff for the important conference tilt is Friday at 6:00 p.m.
New London stuns Middletown
The Middletown Blue Dragons may be the best team in the state, but on Friday night they ran into a motivated New London Whalers team that refused to roll over. New London used an efficient game plan on both sides of the ball and freshman kicker Garrett Burdick booted a 22-yard field goal as time expired to help the Whalers pull the shocking upset. Middletown came into the game outscoring their previous eight opponents by an average of 30 points per game and led 14-0 after the first quarter, but they where outscored 23-7 the rest of the way. Whalers quarterback Danny Maranda played one of the most efficient games in the history of football, completing all 19 of his passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Middletown will look to rebound this Friday when they travel to play the Simsbury Trojans. Simsbury (2-7) has struggled this season having lost six of their last seven games, but they do have multi-threat Brad Helmkamp. Helmkamp leads the Trojans in total yards, touchdowns, tackles, interceptions, and quarterback hurries this season. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin