23 Jason Carducci, 33 Patrick Sullivan, 24 Ricky Montalvo celebrate defensive stand
An explosive offense provides the highlights and a dominant defense delights the fans. It is the third element of football that is often overlooked, but strong special teams play can often be the difference between winning and losing.
Rocky Hill played well in all three phases, but excelled in the kicking game to defeat East Catholic 21-12 on an unusually warm late-September Saturday. The win improves the Terriers to 2-1 and was their fourth straight victory over the Manchester-based Eagles.
Punter Alex Kocaqi was instrumental in changing field position and was the difference maker in the first half. The senior’s second punt was pooch punt, which took a friendly roll before being downed at the 14-yard line. The Terriers’ defense was unable to capitalize as East Catholic running back Josh Lambert busted free for 92-yard touchdown scamper three plays after the punt. The 6’3”, 200-pounder broke several tackles before outracing three defenders to the end zone with under a minute to play in the first quarter. The senior back finished with over 200 yards rushing, but the long touchdown was his lone highlight of the afternoon.
Following Lambert’s touchdown, the Rocky Hill front-seven began to contain the vaunted Eagles’ rushing attacked that had amassed 1093 yards over the first two games of the season. Juniors Santiago Santana and Patrick Sullivan helped stop the East Catholic Wing-T offense that had ran over their first two opponents. Santana is Rocky Hill’s nose guard and was consistently in the East Catholic backfield, registering five tackles. Sullivan also tallied five tackles and was effective at forcing the speedy Lambert to turn many of his runs back inside.
Rocky Hill’s offense went three-and-out on their next possession, but Kocaqi again pinned East Catholic deep in their own end with a monstrous punt. The punt netted 61 yards and was downed at the Eagles 9-yard line. The punting success was a combination of his Kocaqi’s great leg and that fact that East Catholic opted not to use a punt returner. The lack of a returner allowed the kicks to roll once the high-arcing punts hit the friendly FieldTurf at Cheney Tech Stadium.
The Terriers’ defense didn’t squander this opportunity and took advantage of the great punt when defensive tackle Jovan Colon recovered a fumbled snap, giving Rocky Hill a fantastic scoring opportunity at the 11-yard line. Senior captain Dave Sevigny scored three plays later with a one-yard plunge and the ensuing extra-point from freshman Joe Catania gave the Terriers a 7-6--- a lead they would never relinquish.
East Catholic nearly retook the lead after Rocky Hill defensive back Jason Carducci was flagged for a questionable pass interference penalty on a fourth down pass inside the red zone. Carducci and tight end Scott Regan appeared to accidentally get their feet tangled together, but the officials saw it differently and the penalty gave the Eagles a first down. Undeterred, the resilient Carducci intercepted quarterback Jack Droney’s pass in the end zone two plays following the controversial call.
The interception completely changed the momentum. On the following play, sophomore running back Grant Nieves ripped off a 48-yard run down the right sideline. Quarterback Ryan Lombardo then connected with Carducci on a 13-yard rollout pass to extend the drive. Nieves polished off the scoring drive with a spectacular 12-yard run that ended with him summersaulting across the goal line. The touchdown came with 42 seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Terriers a 14-6 lead at the half.
East Catholic’s defense helped the Eagles claw their way back into the game after the halftime break. Defensive captain Jack Trainor scooped up a Lombardo fumble and returned it for a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. The defensive score narrowed the gap to 14-12, but again the lack of a kicker game hurt the Eagles as they were unsuccessful on their second two-point conversion try.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, but East Catholic threatened to score early in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs inside their own 20-yard line, giving the Terriers the ball back with just over ten minutes to play.
Rocky Hill is known for their ball control, run-oriented offense and they put together their best drive of the afternoon when they needed it the most. The Terriers used short runs by Sevigny and Nieves to methodically move the ball down the field and chew up the game clock. Catania also had carries of 20 and 6 yards to propel the Terriers inside the ten-yard line. Sevigny scored his second touchdown of the game to put the game out of reach. The drive took 7:12 off the clock and Catania nailed his third extra-point to increase the Rocky Hill lead.
It was only fitting that is was a kick that finished off the scoring in a game that was so one-sided on special teams.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin