Sophomore running back Danny Mantilla scores one of his three rushing touchdowns during RHAM football's home opener against Lewis Mills. The Raptors defeated the visiting Spartans 35-7 on Sept. 15.
It didn’t take long for the RHAM football team to find the end zone in their home opener last Friday.
On the second play from scrimmage, sophomore running back Danny Mantilla broke through the heart of the Lewis Mills defense before sprinting for a 63-yard touchdown.
Mantilla’s quick strike within the first minute of the game opened the floodgates as the Raptors reeled off the first 35 points, coasting to a 35-7 victory over the visiting Spartans last Friday at RHAM High School.
After having their season opener postponed midway through a game at Avon due to inclement weather on Sept. 9, RHAM head coach Dakota Fleming said he was impressed with his team’s focus in the home debut.
“The kids did a good job and prepared well,” added Fleming. “They came out and saw exactly what we needed to do and they got it done.”
Senior quarterback Brady Hulland noted that the team’s mindset was to start fast, adding, “We wanted to send a message from the jump, so what better way than going out and scoring early.”
All five of RHAM’s touchdowns were scored by the backfield tandem of Mantilla and Joey Fahey. Mantilla scored three on the ground and Fahey added a rushing touchdown and caught another from Hulland.
Mantilla took his trio of trips to the end zone within the first 15 minutes of the game, providing the Raptors a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before Fahey scored his first when he hauled in a rollout toss from Hulland and found pay dirt from nine-yards out with 4:24 to play in the half.
With 9:01 to play in the game, Fahey added a 48-yard touchdown run around the right end to complete the Raptors’ rout.
“We just wanted to set up the blocks and the o-line opened the holes,” said Fahey, a senior. “We got the runs working and keep moving forward with it.”
Mantilla and Fahey are filling the void left by 2023 graduate Max Nylen and Mike Marquez, who combined for nearly 3,500 all-purpose yards and scored 32 touchdowns as the team’s starting running backs last fall.
So far, the Raptors ground attack has continued that trend, amassing nearly 300 rushing yards as a team in the home opener.
“They have done a great job at taking on the role of leaders on this team and everyone respects them,” Fleming said of Mantilla and Fahey. “They also have great respect for each other and that helps them out a lot.”
Fleming noted that having four of five starters returning along the offensive line has allowed the offense to have cohesion in the trenches
Jack Smith, Brody Magnanini, Thiago Delacruz, and Lino Amodeo are all back with starting experience and sophomore center Cayden Caplette has joined a unit that Fleming says is an area of strength for the team, crediting his linemen for their dedication in the weight room over the last couple of off seasons.
Captaining the ship is Hulland, a senior in his second year behind center. Despite playing in windy conditions, he showcased his ability to be a dual-threat quarterback, coming up with key runs and throws to extend drives.
“Brady has improved a lot — we made the decision that we can run our offense through him,” added Fleming. “Teams are going to have to prepare for not only our running backs and o-line, but they have to prepare for Brady. He has done a great job for us; we’re excited for what he’ll look like as the season progresses.”
Hulland took over the helm a season ago, helping guide the team to seven wins and a playoff berth for the first time in the history of the program.
The second-year starter says he feels more comfortable this fall, crediting the players around him, adding “we have a great o-line.”
The offensive supplied the fireworks, yet it was the defense that did the dirty work.
Lewis Mills was unable to generate a fist down in the first half and didn't score until a minute to play in regulation when quarterback Alex Weaver connected with receiver Mateo Dolzadelli on a 45-yard touchdown to prevent the shutout.
Delacruz, also a defensive tackle, had a pair of sacks and two more tackles for loss.
Fahey, who also had a pair of tackles in the backfield, said the defense has a simple, yet effective approach.
“It’s 11 wolves to the ball — wolves hunt for fun,” said Fahey. “We don’t want them to gain an inch.”
Fleming credited assistant coaches Glenn Doughty and Shane Doughty for implementing a defensive scheme a year ago that they have continued to carry out this fall.
“The kids have really bought into [the system],” added Fleming. “They trust their teammates and trust their coaches.”
The Raptors are now aiming to start for 2-0 for the first time since 2018 when they travel to Guildford to visit the unbeaten (2-0) Grizzlies tonight (Friday, Sept. 22). Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Joey Fahey (#3) and other members of the Raptors defense celebrate after making a tackle in the backfield during the team’s home opener against Lewis Mills on Sept. 15.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin