Senior Night is always a cause for celebration and Rocky Hill football had a senior moment they’ll never forget last Wednesday night.
The group shined brightly during the Terriers 35-7 victory over Cromwell/Portland in the third annual Shunpike Showdown.
The Thanksgiving-eve win polished off an undefeated regular season and earned them a home playoff game in the Class S playoffs.
“We were driven to go 10-0,” senior Joe Catania said of the team’s mindset prior to the game, “Nobody has done it in school history and we were really going after that. Also getting a better spot in the playoffs and winning the Shunpike Showdown.”
Win or lose the Terriers were playoff bound, but the Panthers needed a victory to secured a postseason berth.
Ultimately it was a gadget play and an aerial assault that doomed the road team’s playoff hopes.
Late in the first half, seniors Matt Osgood and Diamante Baker just missed connecting on a well-designed wide receiver double-pass, but head coach Mark Fritz gave the two another opportunity on a fake field goal and they made the most of it. Osgood kept the ball as the placeholder and rolled right before finding Baker from four yards in the third quarter, providing the Terriers a 21-7 lead.
“We originally were supposed to kick it and then coach came over and wanted us to fake it. They knew it was coming but I just trusted it and fired it right in there,” recalled Osgood, “The coaches trusted us to do it and we went out and executed.”
Osgood earned the game’s MVP after catching two more touchdown passes from senior quarterback Danny Cavallaro, showing the rest of the state that the team’s passing attack is just as deadly as their potent running game.
“We’ve been throwing the ball around since the eighth grade,” Osgood said of his relationship with Cavallaro, “We’ve played together all the way through high school and there’s a lot of chemistry there.”
The duo’s first connection came with the score tied at seven when Cavallaro lofted a high-arching dime down the seam, which Osgood dove and hauled in near the back of the end zone for the go-ahead 29-yard score.
They hooked up again early in the fourth when Osgood high-pointed a fade route down the right sidelines from 21 yards out.
It was the third annual regular season finale between the two schools, with the Terriers taking home the shiny gold Shunpike Showdown trophy on all three occasions.
“We’ve been rivals since our sophomore year when we started the Shunpike Showdown,” added Osgood, “We’re the first team to ever go 10-0 in Rocky Hill history and that's what we wanted.”
Osgood provided the scoring highlights and is also one of the team leaders on a defense, switching to linebacker this season after thriving as a defensive back a season ago.
“It's tough. I’m still a little small playing the position,” said the 5’10, 170 pound Osgood, “Coaches like fast linebackers and I do my best.”
Osgood and the defense have been a consistent force all season, allowing only 10 or more points in two games and shutting out four opponents.
They had their work cut out against the Panthers offense, who entered the game averaging 40 point per contest, but their only score came early in the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown run from Brent Robbins on fourth down.
“We all just came out aggressive and we knew exactly what we needed to do,” Catania said of the defensive mentality, “We knew they were going to pull out all their trick plays and everything they’ve got. We had to bring everything and close it down in the second half and that’s exactly what we did. I couldn’t be happier for it.”
Catania did his normal damage on the ground, along with seniorbackfield mate Joseph Ferreira, who opened the scoring when hebroke free for a 38-yard touchdown on the team’s opening possession.
The do-it-all Catania also continues to impress each and every week as a the team’s kicker and punter. He was again perfect on extra-points and had his best punt to date when he boomed and angled a kick late in the first half, which pinned the road team inside the five-yard line.
“I played soccer until the eighth grade and I switched to football coming into my freshman year, so I already had a little kicking background,” added Catania, “In the offseason I knew I was the one that had to kick so I had to step up and I worked at it.”
The converted soccer player set up the game’s final score with a perfectly placed pooch kick following Osgood’s second touchdown reception. The kick was recovered by special teams’ standout Will White, who also tackled punter Matt Pepe following an errant snap in the third quarter. It was the second straight week that White had been a punter’s worst nightmare, also tackling Berlin punter Giancarlo Tufano for a safety in the team’s previous game.
On the ensuring play following White’s recovery, Cavallaro tossed his third touchdown pass of the night when he hit fellow senior Jack Hansen in stride down the left sideline from 38 yards out.
Cromwell/Portland’s season ended with an 8-2 mark, just missing a second straight Class S postseason appearance.
Despite missing the payoffs it was a solid season under first-year head coach Randell Bennett, who will lose 11 seniors, which includes captains Matt Wolak, Jack Shauck, and Robbins.
Bennett will have several starters coming back, including quarterback Bryce Karstetter.
Middletown also wrapped up a perfect 10-0 regular season,defeating nemesis Windsor 24-7 on the road.
The Warriors from Windsor had been a thorn in the side of the Blue Dragons for years and handed them a pair of losses last year, including a 40-14 defeat in the playoffs.
Windsor led 7-0 after the first quarter, but Middletown scored the game’s final 24 points thanks to a stingy defense and three total touchdowns from quarterback Stone Belzo.
Belzo ran for two and connected with DeAaron Lawrence for the polishing score in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Hill Jr. led the team with seven tackles and James Johnson had five stops and a sack for a defense that held the previously undefeated Warriors to a season-low seven points.
Ahmir Brackett also intercepted a pass in the third quarter, which set up a 32-yard field goal from Mike Aresco.
The victory earned the Blue Dragons a home playoff game and the top-seed in Class L.
In the battle for border bragging rights, Newington ended four straight losses to rival Wethersfield by defeating the Eagles 17-14 at Cottone Field.
The Indians intercepted Wethersfield five times on the night and quarterback Robert Sanchez found Carlum Caldwell for a 43-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Newington (3-7) finished the year on a high note after winning their first two under first-year head coach Jason Pace before losing seven straight prior to last Wednesday night.
Pace will lose nearly 20 seniors, including dominant lineman Damon Stewart, defensive stud Luke Pappalardo, and Sanchez.
Wethersfield finished the season 4-6 and will graduate standouts Ro DiGiacomo, Ryan Skelly, Brendan Dowd, Matthew Gerhart, and Conor Keane.
Quarterback Craig Elliott and defensive force Mitchell Quadrato will lead a strong senior class returning to the gridiron next fall.
Rocky Hill's Anthony Feliciano tackles Cromwell-Portland's Brent Robbins. Feliciano was one of 16 senior players celebrated last Wednesday night.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin