Another year has come and gone. The local athletic landscape provided championships, incredible individual efforts, and lots of memorable moments that will live on well beyond this year. Here’s a look at the Top 16 (plus a holiday bonus) games and performances from the past 12 months. If your favorite moment didn’t make the list, consider it #18.
#1: Cromwell Crowned Champions, Again
Cromwell finished another undefeated campaign, defeating Notre Dame-Fairfield 43-20 in the Class M championship game at Mohegan Sun on March 19. The Panthers used a smothering defense to limit the Lancers of Fairfield to a season-low in points, including only four points in the final quarter. The victory marked an end to the extraordinary high school careers of Mya Villard, Alyssa Wright, Araya Lessard and Emma Belcourt, who were the four seniors on Cromwell’s roster. The foursome was part of two undefeated teams and made three championship appearances during their time in C-Town.
#2: National Championship for Wethersfield’s Blazing Four
Wethersfield’s track & field foursome of Jae-Quan Brown, Chris Manousos, Pat Hurley, and Elijah Young combined to win the 800 Sprint Medley, capturing a National Championship at the New Balance Outdoor Track & Field competition in North Carolina on June 19th. The quartet of seniors also had great individual and relay showings at the Class L finals and State Open, helping Wethersfield win state titles at both meets.
#3: RCP Defends Diamond Title
For the second straight season, both the senior and junior division RCP (Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland) baseball teams took home American Legion Baseball championship trophies. Cromwell’s Austin Roy pitched a no-hitter, helping the 17u team defeated Stamford on July 30 and Cromwell’s Tucker Lord fanned 11 in a 2-0 shutout in a series-clinching victory over Stamford in the 19u final on July 31. Pat Riley is already calling for a “three-peat” next summer.
#4: Terriers Softball Boards the ‘Ship
On June 6, Jess Greenspan pitched a complete-game shutout and scored the game’s lone run as Rocky Hill advanced to the state championship, defeating #1-seed St. Joseph 1-0 in the semifinals of the Class M tournament. It was the crowning moment for a team that won 18 of 19 regular season games and four postseason contests during skipper Tyler Catlin’s first season in the dugout. The town of Rocky Hill can’t wait to see what Catlin and his Terriers have in store for 2017.
#5: History Made in Rocky Hill
On December 5, the dynamic backfield duo of Grant Nieves and Joe Catania combined for 403 rushing yards and five touchdowns as the Rocky Hill football team thumped Seymour 42-7 in the semifinals of the Class S playoffs, advancing the Terriers to their first state championship game. The title appearance and 11-2 overall record cemented the best season in the program’s history.
#6: Panthers Shock the Football World
Playing with their backup quarterback and against all odds, Cromwell/Portland football defeated Bloomfield 28-14 in first round of the Class S playoffs on Nov 29. The Panthers entered Bloomfield as major underdogs, but handed the defending state champions their first loss in 24 games, dating back to 2014. Kristian Sapp ran for 269 yards and three touchdowns and Ethan Roy had nine tackles and a sack in the upset victory.
#7: Middletown edges Newington in Sensational Semifinal
Ahmod Privott scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in overtime as Middletown defeated Newington 73-68 in the Class L semifinals on March 15. The Blue Dragons led by as many as 20 in the third quarter, but needed Privott’s overtime-heroics after the Indians made a fierce rally to force the extra session. Jared Simmons led Newington with 24 points and nearly won the game at the end of regulation, but his 30-footer rimmed off. Dante Phillips sparked the Indians second-half comeback with 10 points, but Middletown prevailed in front of a sold-out Berlin High School.
#8: Doherty Makes a Splash
Senior swimmer Jack Doherty left a major impression at Middletown, capping his high school career with state records in the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events at the Class M finals at Wesleyan University on March 15. The 200-record had stood since 2013 and the record in the 100 had been held since 2007. Doherty, who now swims for Division I William & Mary, also won the State Open in the 100-freestyle, less than a week after his record-breaking performances.
#9: Dewey’s Dagger on Senior Night
On Feb 22, Cromwell sharp-shooter Peter Dewey had a Senior Night that he’ll never forget, sinking a go-ahead three-pointer from deep center with only seconds remaining as the Panthers defeated conference rival Coginchaug 45-44 on the final night of the regular season. Dewey’s game-winner sent the crowd at Salafia Gymnasium into hysterics and was the exclamation point on a team-high 22-point night for senior. The shot extended the Panthers winning-streak to nine games to close out the regular season, a streak that continued through the Shoreline Conference tournament, which culminated with a 52-48 victory over Old Lyme. Dewey has 25 points in the conference championship victory.
#10: Szymecki’s High Five
Wethersfield senior Lukas Szymecki scored five goals, including three in the first nine minutes of action, as the Eagles crushed Middletown 10-3 on October 11. It was a thoroughly beguiling one-man show, which helped qualify the Eagles for the Class L tournament. The Eagles would later upset Torrington 4-1 in the second-round of the tourney behind a goal and an assist from Szymecki.
#11: Fudge Sweetens Middletown’s Season
On Middletown’s final home game of the season, sophomore Amanda Fudge drained a long-range three at the buzzer as the Blue Dragons defeated Rocky Hill 67-66 on Feb 15. Fudge, who finished with 14 points, received the inbounds pass with time ticking down and heaved a high-arching shot, which found nothing but bottom of the net in front of a packed house at LeBella-Sullivan Gymnasium. It was sweet revenge for the home team, after the Terriers had blown out Middletown 64-42 less than a month earlier.
#12: Newington and Wethersfield’s Hardwood Classic
Newington outlasted Wethersfield 73-71 in double overtime on Jan 22, improving the Indians record to 12-0 for the season. The rivalry game turned out to be one of the most entertaining games played in the state last season and was an extra memorable game for Newington’s Jared Simmons, who surpassed the 1000-point barrier for his career during the contest. The junior pumped in 25 points and dished out 10 assists in the victory. Christopher Ayers scored a team-high 24 for the Eagles.
#13: Xavier Baseball’s Miraculous Run
Xavier won only eight of 20 regular season games and needed to win a qualifying game to get into the Class LL baseball tournament, but they cut some rug once they were in the dance. On May 31, the #34-seed Falcons shocked Hamden, who had won 18 of 20 regular season games and entered the tourney as the second-seed. Anthony Caramanica drove in three runs and scored another in the 5-3 victory. The next day Xavier’s storybook run continued, upsetting Newington 5-2.
#14: Double Whammy for Rocky Hill Girls Soccer
The Terriers had an up and down season, but created an unforgettable moment in the first round of the Class M tourney, defeating one-loss Wolcott 1-0 in double overtime on Nov 7. Grace Moore scored off a perfect corner kick from Allison Grover with eight minutes remaining the second overtime. Samantha Steinman was impenetrable in goal and Marisa Anderson led an aggressive defensive charge. The momentous win was a great building block for the young Terriers.
#15: Wethersfield’s Extra Special Baseball Victory
On May 18th, Jordan Laske drove in Michael Santiago for the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning as the Eagles rallied and upset the Lancers of Bristol Eastern, who entered the contest with a 15-1 record. The win was part of a much needed four-game winning streak, which included an extra innings triumph over Newington. The late-season push helped qualify Wethersfield for the tournament, where they upset Pomperaug 6-1 in the first round of the Class L tourney.
#16: Newington Stuns Middletown on the Gridiron
Newington’s shining moment on the football field this season was a 27-24 upset victory over Middletown on Oct 28. The Blue Dragons came to Newington with a perfect 6-0 record and the Indians had lost four of their first six games, but the home team rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and dealt Middletown their first loss of the season. A pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns from quarterback Roberto Sanchez, another rushing score from Aveontae Frazier, and a 97-yard kick return touchdown from Corey Pertillar helped shake up the local football landscape.
Bonus #17 for the New Year: Walker and Stefano Save the Day in Wethersfield
Trailing 19-17, Tevin Walker made a miraculous one-handed catch on 4th and 18 to extend the drive and Austin Stefano split the upright from 19-yards out, giving Wethersfield a 20-19 victory over Newington on Nov 23. The catch and kick preserved the Eagles fourth straight victory over the Indians and was the final game of the season for both squads.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin