Before each home game Ricky Montalvo leads the Rocky Hill football team onto the field carrying an American Flag.
“We started it this year,” said Montalvo, who offered a simple explanation for the new tradition, “It’s America.”
The middleclass may be the heartbeat of American, but Rocky Hill’s tenacious middle linebacker is the heart and soul of one of the hardest working units in the state.
Montalvo’s productivity and consistent play has earned him the respect of his opponents, teammates, and the coaching staff.
“Ricky's love for the game of football is evident in the way he plays the game. He is passionate and energetic, always playing with emotion,” Rocky Hill head coach Mark Fritz said about his senior captain, “Ricky has that special gift that makes others he plays with better.”
The Rocky Hill native is a three-year defensive starter and was a freshman when the Terriers last reached the postseason in 2013.
“This is best senior class that we’ve had since we were freshman and I think we’ll be remembered as one of the best classes that have come through Rocky Hill,” said Montalvo, who is one of nine seniors on team’s roster, “All of our seniors start and it’s a really close group.”
As juniors, the group came within a technicality of earning a playoff berth after defeating Cromwell/Portland in the regular season finale last Thanksgiving. Montalvo was the most valuable player of that game and is hoping for similar game results, but would love a chance to compete for a state title in December.
“That would mean so much to us, because we’ve been grinding every day since sophomore year,” Montalvo said of a potential postseason berth, “We had so many sophomore starters and we’ve been talking about this ever since youth football when we won the 8th grade championship.”
The team is off to their best start since the 2013 season, winning seven of eight games. Montalvo and his defensive mates have been instrumental in the success, shutting out three opponents and holding two others to a single score.
The 5’9”, 190 pounder is the perfect leader for a defensive corps that lacks size, but more than makes up for it with speed and tenacity. Some opponents may overlook Montalvo, but soon realize that he’s a heat-seeking missile that is capable of punishing ball carriers and quarterbacks with explosive hits.
The sure-tackling middleman has led the team in solo stops for the past three seasons and his production speaks for itself, but his coach believes that it’s his sixth sense which separates him from most other defenders.
“Ricky's best attributes on the field are his instincts. [He] has a natural feel for the game, combined with his in-depth preparation every week, “added Fritz, “Ricky plays fast, utilizing his athleticism to make up for his lack of size. [He] has a nose for the ball and often plays on the opponent’s side of the line of scrimmage.”
His incredible instincts have allowed him to flourish and he plays the game of football with a single mindset.
“You have to be able to read your reads, watch the guards and the hips of the quarterback,” he said, “But most of all you have to be aggressive and you can’t be scared to tackle.”
Montalvo comes from an athletic family. He has three sisters, one of whom is playing soccer at Conn College and his youngest sister, Isabella Montalvo, is a freshman on the Terriers’ soccer team.
Ricky too played soccer when he was younger, but switched to American football thanks to the influence of his father, who also played in high school.
He was instantly drawn to the contact sport and was primarily used as a running back, wearing #24 because of Marshawn Lynch, but he soon discovered that his aggressive nature was better suited on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite his tireless work as a linebacker, Montalvo often stays on the field for special teams and as a versatile weapon for Fritz and his offensive coaching staff to utilize.
“Ricky worked tremendously hard in the offseason. It's safe to say that no one was happy with how last season ended, especially Ricky. He spent a lot of time in the weight room getting stronger and faster,” Fritz said about Montalvo’s development, “He also took more ownership of the team, and expressed his willingness to do anything it takes to help the team win. This has been evident this season with his expanded role in the offense, playing tight end, receiver, and running back.”
Rocky Hill’s Swiss army knife would like to continue his football career in college, but he still has at least two more games remaining before he permanently unlaces his high school cleats.
The Terriers have a road game against Berlin this Friday at Sage Park (6:30) and then the highly anticipated rematch against Cromwell/Portland at Pierson Park on the eve of Thanksgiving at 6:00 p.m.
If all goes according to plan, the flag-wielding Montalvo may have some unfinished business on the gridiron beyond Thanksgiving.
“We came into the year with a lot of motivation because of what happened last year. I feel like we have so much momentum on our side,” added Montalvo, “I feel like this is the year.”
Indians Soccer Spoils Wethersfield’s Senior Night
Newington girls’ soccer closed out a solid regular season by defeating Wethersfield 2-1 at Cottone Field last Wednesday night.
“This was a bit of a battle and a tough one tonight. This is the rival game and [Wethersfield] knew they had to win this one and tomorrow night to win the conference and we knew all we had to do was win or tie tonight,” said Newington head coach Adam Wilkinson, “We went behind tonight and the girls showed a little character and I think that’s a good thing going into the tournament.”
The win clinched the Indians second conference (CCC-South) title in as many years and put the finishing touches on a 12-4 regular season.
Back on Sept 30th, the Indians also defeated Wethersfield by a single goal in Newington, but their second contest had a different vibe. The Indians controlled the first meeting from start to finish, but Wednesday night the home Eagles were celebrating Senior Night and came out firing on all cylinders, scoring the first goal.
Jane Rumley scored 19 minutes into action on a straightaway strike, providing the home a team a 1-0 advantage.
Rumley’s goal provided an early cushion and Wethersfield goaltender Mariana Carcia denied the road team’s normally potent offense for the first 38 minutes until senior Lindsey Fairbank turned the tide late in the first half. Fairbank evened the score on a deep kick, which found the top left corner on the net with 2:09 remaining before the break.
“Really I didn’t see that much, I just turned and shot it,” Fairbank said of the game-tying goal, “We just needed anything at that point.”
The teams remained deadlocked for a majority of the second half until Newington sophomore Maggie Callahan scored the go-ahead goal on a header following a perfect corner kick from Abby Molloy with 2:27 left in regulation.
The coach credited the late-half scores on the team’s conditioning and preparation.
“I’m very much a coach that if things are working I don’t change them much. I basically have my core 12 or 13 that I rely on, so when it comes to the end of a half these girls are still fit and are able to play full games,” Wilkinson said, “Maggie can run all day and she popped up at the right time.”
Wilkinson first joined the program four years ago when this year’s seniors were freshmen. He believes the experienced they’ve gain over the years have prepared them for moments like Wednesday night.
The class includes Fairbank, Karli Hellman, and Madison Lewicki, who have all played extensive minutes since their freshmen seasons. Jessica Veilleux, who joined the team as a junior, rounds out the group.
“It helps us work together as a team, because we know each other. We know how we play, we know how we work,” added Fairbank, “We’re all such good friends too and we all push each other to do better.”
Following Callahan’s goal, the home team had a few more chances to tie things up, but missed a couple of opportunities and the game officials ended the match with 17 seconds showing on the scoreboard. Apparently the clock had paused when it shouldn’t have and the head referee made the executive decision to end the game. It was yet another bizarre chapter in the bitter rival’s history book.
The Eagles played their regular season finale the following night, losing to Berlin 5-3 at Sage Park on Thursday. Despite ending the season with back-to-back losses, the team still qualified for the Class L tournament, which was a nice consolation prize for the six seniors that fell short on Senior Night.
Carcia, Madison Raposo, Aleah Livingston, Emma Peak, Megan Darrell, and Bianca Tata are the half dozen who are in their final days on the field. It’s a group that their head coach, Emily Fanelli, will not soon forget.
“This is a senior class that actually went to the semifinals with us two years ago and they were definitely the backbone and heart of the team, even being sophomores,” Fanelli said, “To see them grow for the last couple of years has been pretty awesome and I’ve enjoyed the ride with them because they’re genuine, passionate players. They play with so much heart.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin