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.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of Sept. 11 - 17:
Lily Tabellione - Portland High School (Cross-Country): Tabellione, a senior, picked up right where she left off last year, winning the Blue Dragon Invitational at Veterans Memorial Park on Sept 15. Tabellione, who won a state championship in the 1600 meters during the outdoor track and field season in the spring, ran a 20:29 at the latest invite to defeat runner-up Abigail Van Hoof of Avon by 50 seconds.
Troy Miller - RHAM High School (Soccer): Miller scored the only goal of the match as the Raptors defeated Tolland 1-0 on Sept. 14. Miller, a senior, scored on a bicycle kick in the second half and goalie TJ Machowski made a handful of saves throughout the match to preserve the shutout, improving the team to 2-0 this fall. The Raptors, who began the season with a 3-0 win over Bacon Academy, now began a three-game road trip at Hall High School in West Hartford this Saturday, Sept. 23 at 10 a.m.
Delaney Russell - East Hampton High School (Volleyball): Russell had a career high nine kills as the Bellringers swept Morgan in three sets (25-8, 25-11, 25-15) at East Hampton High School on Sept. 15. Russell, a senior, added two aces and a pair of blocks as the team improved to 4-1 this fall. The Bellringers next host Haddam-Killingworth today (Friday, Sept. 22) at 6 p.m.
Alyssa Blanchette and Audrey Palmer - Bacon Academy (Soccer): Blanchette and Palmer provided a bulk of the offense, each scoring two goals and dishing out two assists as the Bobcats beat Fitch 4-0 in their home opener on Sept. 15. The pair of scoring threats are helping power a Bacon Academy bunch that is currently on a four-game road trip, heading to Lyman Memorial tonight (Friday, Sept. 22) at 6:30 p.m.
To nominate an athlete as a Rivereast Standout or with sport-related comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel DiTunno - Rocky Hill High School (Cross Country): DiTunno ran a 17:12 to finish as the runner-up as the Terriers won the Blue Dragons Invitational on Sept. 15. DiTunno, a junior, led and impressive set of Rocky Hill runners with six Terriers placing in the top-13. Brian Smith (17.32) finished 6th, Ayden Collura (17:38) placed 7th, Corey Christensen (17:40) finished 8th, and Logan Simons (18:08) finished 13th. As a team, the Terriers finished 71 points ahead of runner-up Lewis Mills.
Julian Tuminski - Cromwell High School (soccer): Tuminski scored a pair of goals, both off penalty kicks, as the Panthers won 2-0 on the road over conference rival Westbrook on Sept. 12. Tuminski, a sophomore, is slated to be one of the main offensive threats this fall for a Panthers team headed to Portland High School this Saturday, Sept 23 to take on the Highlanders at 6 p.m. Cromwell returns home on Wednesday, Sept. 27 to host Rockville at 3:45 p.m.
Miranda Dominguez - Wethersfield High School (Cross Country): Dominguez ran a 24:21 to win the junior varsity race at the Blue Dragons Invitational on Sept. 15. Dominquez, a sophomore, finished 16 seconds ahead of the runner-up Casey Utzler of Sacred Heart Academy to comfortably win the race at Veterans Memorial Park.
Kyle Klimas - Newington High School (Golf): Klimas shot a 37 to finish as the medalist in the Nor’easters match against New Britain at Stanley Golf Course on Sept. 15. Klimas, a senior, shot par on seven of nine holes to finished three strokes ahead of the competition and atop the leaderboard.
David Czubat - Rocky Hill High School (Soccer): Czubat led the charge as the Terriers defeated Newington 2-1 on Sept. 14 on McVicar Field at RHHS. Rocky Hill head coach Paul Horta called his senior defender’s performance “outstanding” as the Terriers earned their first win of the season. Rocky Hill has a road test at Glastonbury this Saturday, Sept. 23 at noon, before returning home to host Wethersfield on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m.
To nominate an athlete for The Starting Five or with sports-related questions, email email@example.com.
Vaughn Payne catches a touchdown over Chauncey Jones during the Panthers 22-20 victory over SMSA on Sept. 14. Photo credit – Robert Dzurka @Dzurka.flics on Instagram.
It took a half to settle in, but once they did Randell Bennett’s team showed the grit and determination that have become synonymous with the Cromwell/Portland football program.
The Panthers defense stopped a two-point conversion late in regulation, holding on for a 22-20 victory over Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA) co-op at Pierson Park on Sept. 14.
“We were just preparing ourselves to go into overtime if they got in, but the defense came up with the stop,” said Bennett.
Following a late touchdown, the visiting Tigers from Hartford threatened to extend the game, but speedy cornerback Paul Wimbish led a contingent of Panthers that tackled SMSA’s quarterback Zahkeer Kerr short on the goal line.
The win also marked a successful home debut for junior quarterback Jess Elfreich, who threw for a touchdown and ran for another, both in the second half.
“It’s great — I’ve been dreaming about this ever since I can remember,” Elfreich said of playing under the lights. “The atmosphere here is better than ever and there’s nothing more I can ask for.”
Following a nine play drive to open the game, the Panthers drew first blood when sophomore sensation Tyler Cipolla jetted around the left and scored from eight yards out.
SMSA would score the next 14 points on a pair of touchdowns from junior TJ Thompson, who ran into the end zone from eight yards out in the second quarter and then scored on a screen pass from Kerr with 17 seconds left in the first half.
But as they have done so many times before, the Panthers took control of the game over the final two quarters.
“It was just about stepping up and correcting the easy mistakes that we were messing up on,” said senior captain Jack Williams, who starts on the line on both sides of the ball. “They were easy fixes, we just had to come out and play harder.”
Along with facing a second half deficit, the Panthers were also confronted with the challenge of a limited kicking game.
Senior captain Alex McKiernan, an all-conference player who is also the team’s kicker and punter, suffered an injury in the first half, forcing him to miss the rest of the game.
Losing McKiernan forced Bennett to gamble on fourth down, often in his own end.
The mentality paid dividends in the second half as both touchdowns were set up by four and long conversions.
Facing fourth and 14 from their own 25 in the third quarter, wide receiver Jack Nolan drew a pass interference penalty on a bomb down the right sideline, extending the drive.
Elfreich seemed to settle in after that and complete his next five passes, including a 29-yard scoring strike to junior Vaughn Payne, who high-pointed the ball in the end zone.
An Elfreich to Nolan connection on the two-point conversion knotted the game at 22 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
Facing a 4th and 20 from his own 35 in the final quarter, Elfreich again delivered with a high-arching ball down the left sidelines which was hauled in by Cipolla, who was able to tap his right foot before going out of bounds.
On the ensuing play, Cipolla then took a screen pass 44 yards down to the one yard line before Elfreich called his own number and scored on a quarterback keeper from a yard out.
Nolan caught another two-point conversion to make it 22-14 with 5:35 to play in regulation.
Elfreich said the offense was unfazed during the difficult fourth downs.
“I trust my guys. I know anyone out there can make a play at any time. If they want to key on one guy, we have another guy coming,” said Elfreich, who threw for 307 yards, 102 of those yards to Cipolla.
With 1:41 to play in regulation, the Tigers finally stopped the Panthers on a fourth down, which would have sealed the game.
SMSA then converted their own fourth and long when Kerr hit Thompson down the seam from 33 yards out, bringing the visitors within two points with 1:10 to play
However, similar to when they earned a home victory by stopping a two-point conversion against Valley Regional a season ago, the Panthers defense was again up to the task on the two-point try last Thursday.
“We knew we needed a stop and that’s what we did,” said Williams, who finished with a handful of tackles and a pair of sacks from his defensive end position. “We sent everybody and we got that stop when we needed it.”
Senior Noah Decker preserved the victory by recovering the ensuing onside kick attempt by SMSA.
Coming into the season, the Panthers had won 23 of their last 25 games, including a state championship in 2021, but graduated an influential senior class last season that included starting quarterback Cole Brisson and all-state linebacker Ryan Rozich.
Elfreich spent the last two seasons learning from Brisson and if his home opener is any indication, Bennett has another gem behind center.
“He’s a tough kid and he understands that it is on his shoulders now,” Bennett said of his first-year starter, who completed 22 of 36 passes. “He watched a guy for two years put it on his shoulders, so it was his time to step up and he did a great job tonight.”
The successful home opener marked the Panthers first official win this fall. They opened the season of the road against Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton, a game that was postponed midway through due to inclement weather. At the time of the postponement, the Panthers led 28-13 and the game is slated to conclude on Nov. 11.
Bennett is hopeful that the thrilling home opening victory could be a springboard for a team with an abundance of talent, yet short on experience.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played this season,” added Bennett. “We have a lot of young guys and they just need reps.”
Next up is a conference test at Pierson Park against Valley Regional/Old Lyme this Friday, Sept. 22, kicking off at 6 p.m.
Cromwell/Portland football players get amped up before kickoff of the team’s home opener at Pierson Park last Thursday.
Glastonbury’s Jack Shaheen competes for the ball with Conard’s Aidan Policelli during the Guardians 2-2 tie at GHS last Thursday.
Trailing 2-1 in the 72nd minute, Glastonbury junior captain Tim McGuire headed in a corner kick from Shane Keenan to tie the game before the boys soccer teams from GHS and Conard High School settled for a 2-2 tie on Sept. 14
Head coach Chris Vozzolo said the home-opening tie was a stepping stone for his team, which was coming off a 1-0 loss to Hall in West Hartford to open the 2023 season.
“I thought we played a little better [today]. We came out on the road the other day with a little bit of nervous energy and today we looked a little more settled in,” noted Vozzolo. “We want to come out here with a better result, but it’s early in the season and we have a lot of work to do.”
Not only did the game end in a tie, but the first and second half were mirror images of one another.
In the first half, GHS senior Drew Stranko scored with an assist from Keenan and senior Chris Roberts scored for Conard.
Glastonbury out shot Conard in both frames, threatening to score early in the second half with eight shot attempts, but each shot was either saved by Conard goalie Ben Hammond or wide of the mark.
“One of the themes of the game was not being able to finish,” stated Vozzolo. “Maybe it’s about having more composure in the box or maybe it is putting a couple of more shots on frame, but we will continuously work on our finishing and hopefully later in the season we will be burying some of those chances we had.”
Senior captain Collin Martin was particularly aggressive in the second half, attempting four straight shots over a five minute time span, including one that ricocheted off the post and into the side of the net.
With nine minutes left in regulation, Conard’s senior captain Colin Scrimgeour scored on a penalty kick before McGuire bounced in his header less than a minute later to even the score again.
McGuire, Martin, and junior goalkeeper Patrick Butler are the team’s three captains, leading a team on the field that graduated four all-conference players a season ago.
Butler made a handful of saves, including a spectacular sliding save in the first half and heading away a desperation kick by Conard with less than a minute to play.
Vozzolo was hoping for a victory to counter the loss in the opener, yet was happy with his team’s effort.
“It is a little disappointing — we want to come away with a little more than just a tie, but overall we think it is a step forward with our play from the other day,” added Vozzolo.
The Guardians next travel to Hebron (today) Thursday, Sept. 21 for a match with RHAM at 3:45 p.m. before returning to GHS on Saturday, Sept. 23 to host Rocky Hill at noon.
“We are still trying to complete the puzzle with our personnel and putting the right guys on the field,” stated Vozzolo. “We’ve got a couple of things to work on going forward.”
GHS sophomore Brynn Barbieri readies to fire a shot on goal during the Guardians home open on Sept. 12.
It wasn’t the result, or effort, that head coach Mark Landers envisioned, yet the Glastonbury High School girls soccer team managed to tie Hall (0-0) last Tuesday at GHS.
The scoreless stalemate in the Guardians’ home opener came on the heels of a 5-1 loss to St. Joseph in Trumbull to open the season on Sept. 9.
“Pretty disappointed in our intensity after coming off a big game Saturday against St. Joes, in which we worked really hard. Our effort was there on Saturday –– we just got dominated by a really good team,” stated Landers. “Today we just didn’t really bring a lot to the table. Not sure if that game took a lot out of us or what, but we have a lot of work to do.”
The Guardians possessed the ball for a majority of the game, particularly in the second half when they had a handful of opportunities to break the game open.
But each and every time, Hall’s senior goalie Gabriella Deslauriers rose to the occasion.
Two minutes into the second half, Corey Anderson — a returning all-state junior — fired a long distance shot, which Deslauriers jumped to save. Deslauriers then made saves on shots from Emily Smith and Angela Chavez.
Glastonbury’s best scoring opportunity came in the 58th minute when Chloe Mastrangelo fed Anderson in transition, but again Deslauriers deflected the shot.
“We [put together] three or four passes, but it was the same thing like the other day when we couldn't find the penetrating pass to get behind and get a good shot on goal,” stated Landers, who has eight sophomores and five freshmen in his rotation. “We are young and technically we just aren’t there right now.”
With five minutes left in regulation, Deslauriers once again turned away a scoring threat when Anderson set up Audrey O’Hare.
On the other side of the field, the Guardians were just as impressive defensively behind sophomore goalie Faith-Anne Grunwald.
In the 56th minute, Grunwald had a highlight-reel save when she thwarted a breakaway shot from Hall senior Sally Kritzman. Kritzman had gotten behind the Guardians defense and Grunwald ran out to make a sliding, ending Hall’s best threat.
Helping protect the backend with Grunwald is a stout defense led by senior Caleigh Sullivan and junior Maddy Handrahan. Sophomores Brynn Barbieri and Avery Tabellione, along with junior Celina Rodriguez, are also making impacts on that end.
Sullivan prevented a shot on goal in the first half by sacrificing her body to stop a scoring opportunity for Hall.
Landers said that Sullivan displays “energy, enthusiasm, and toughness on the field every single day.”
With three minutes left in regulation, Tabellione helped preserve the shutout when she stuck her leg out to send a shot wayward.
Landers added that he was impressed with his defensive unit, which will be an area of strength for the team while the offense works on manufacturing goals.
The veteran coach is looking to replace an influential senior class from a year ago that included a half dozen players who are currently on college rosters.
After winning a conference title and advancing to the state semifinals last fall, Landers said the young team is trying to plug in the pieces on the fly.
“We have a lot of work to do and learning to do,” stated Landers. “We have room to grow everywhere and we’ll work at it and keep going and try and get better.”
Two days later, Landers’ squad responded with a 4-0 win over Conard in West Hartford, earning the Guardians win No. 1 this fall.
Next up is a road test at Wethersfield on Saturday, Sept. 23 in a rematch of last season’s Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) title match. The conference tilt starts at 6 p.m.
The team will return home for a game under the lights when they welcome Farmington to the turf on Friday, Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Keith Veronesi, who was born and raised in Glastonbury, holds up the Stanley Cup after the Vegas Golden Knights won the franchise’s first NHL championship. Veronesi is the director of scouting pperations for the Golden Knights.
In June, Keith Veronesi achieved a lifelong goal of winning a Stanley Cup, celebrating on the ice as the Vegas Golden Knights cemented the franchise’s first National Hockey League (NHL) title.
Veronesi, who was born and raised in Glastonbury, is the director of scouting operations for the Golden Knight.
The 32-year old called the moment “surreal” and said it was a culmination of all the blood, sweat, tears, and late nights that the entire organization has sacrificed over the years.
“I’ve been working in the NHL for seven years and a lot of the guys on our staff have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive, so I’ve taken this ride with a little bit of a grain of salt,” he noted.
Veronesi’s journey to the front office of a team that reached ice hockey’s ultimate peak has not been linear, featuring many twists and turns since leaving Glastonbury.
After playing hockey locally as a youth, he attended Berkshire School in Massachusetts in preparation for college hockey.
Veronesi said the experience of moving away from his hometown at the age of 15 forced him to grow up quickly, developing him as both a player and person.
“You could say it was the best four years of my life,” he added.
Following his graduation from Berkshire in 2010, Veronesi hit the ice for Connecticut College, serving as a team captain for the Camels and eventually obtaining a degree in sociology/American studies from the New London-based institution in 2014.
It was at this point that Veronesi’s transformation from hockey player to front office personnel began.
He got a job in sales with the Utica Comets, an American Hockey League team who at the time was the affiliate of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks (and are now an affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.)
Veronesi called working in the minor leagues the best education he could receive, crediting his time with the organization as his springboard to the next level.
During his time in Utica, he wore multiple hats, starting on the business side and eventually working his way through the ranks and becoming the vice president of the organization in 2015.
“From a professional standpoint it was the best thing that ever happened to me and was a really good opportunity to learn a bunch of different things,” recalled Veronesi. “I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to get on the hockey side of things and I got lucky, which is half of it. I was in the right place at the right time.”
His experience in Utica opened the door to the NHL, where became the Hockey Operations Assistant for the Knight prior to the franchise’s expansion season in 2017-18.
Seven years later, Veronesi was hoisting the Stanley Cup on the ice of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas after the Golden Knights defeated the Florida Panthers in game five, wrapping up the series.
Veronesi called his time in the NHL “a wild ride” because of the “wave of success” that the Golden Knights have had, which included the team miraculously making the Stanley Cup Final (before falling to the Washington Capitals) during the franchise’s expansion season.
He added the sting of the championship defeat in the team’s initial season paved the way for future success.
“In the moment you are devastated that you’re not able to close it out, but you can reflect on it a few weeks later once your wounds have started to heal and think that it’s pretty impressive,” Veronesi recalled.
After qualifying for the playoffs five times in six seasons, the Golden Knights sealed the deal this year after finishing as the top seed in the Western Conference before eliminating three conference opponents in the playoffs and taking down the Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights left no doubt in the game five cup-clincher, taking an insurmountable lead into the final period before winning 9-3.
“To be there on the bench as time expires, you see all the smiles on everyone's faces and then you’re standing on the ice with 19,000 fans screaming their heads off,” recalled Veronesi. “It was a unique experience and it might have been different if it was a 3-3 game and we won in overtime, but we were up 6-1 after the second period. You kind of know what is going to happen, so you can take it all in.”
In his role with the team, Veronesi’s daily activities involve watching and studying hockey players all across the globe as he and the hockey operations team plan their next moves to bolster the roster.
Whether it’s helping the team prepare for the draft, bringing in free agents, or planning for possible trades, Veronesi’s days are never the same.
“You don’t come to the office with a checklist of things you have to do, because it is ever changing,” said Veronesi, who lives in Nevada with his wife Jillian, also born and raised in Glastonbury, and the couple’s young son.
Veronesi added that his role in helping the Knights win a Stanley Cup back is a credit to his entire family, also thanking his parents for their support locally---allowing him to follow his dreams.
“Everyone sees me on the ice celebrating with the Stanley Cup, but they are the ones that have to make the sacrifices that allow me to do what I love every single day.” he stated.
Cromwell/Portland’s Cole Brisson (top left) and Wethersfield’s Kaleb Garcia and Cam Righi (top right), along with Newington’s Paddy Brown (bottom left) and Rocky Hill’s Frankie Guerrera (bottom right) are the first five selections in the 2023 Rare Reminder Bizarro Draft.
The National Football League draft starts tonight! Here is what the first round of the draft would look like if we entered The Land of Make Believe, in which NFL teams selected from the pool of talented players from the five local public schools that starred on the gridiron. Welcome to the 8th annual Bizarro Draft. The Carolina Panthers are now on the clock…
1. Carolina Panthers: Cole Brisson (QB-Cromwell/Portland): Exceptional leader with a championship pedigree. Fierce competition with a smooth delivery and touch, and added ability to push the ball deep. Ideal fit in Carolina under new head coach and former quarterback Frank Reich.
2. Houston Texans: Kaleb Garcia (DE-Wethersfield): Dominant force that finished with an eye-popping 27 tackles for loss in 11 games this past fall. An alpha on defense that could potentially be the next J.J. Watt in H-Town for DeMeco Ryan’s attacking defense.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Frankie Guerrera (WR-Rocky Hill): A long, lean, and mean touchdown machine. Rare athlete with all the physical traits. A ball magnet that can play multiple positions and is a matchup nightmare regardless of where he lines up.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Paddy Brown (QB-Newington): Tough as nails competitor who will stand strong in the pocket and deliver the goods. Top-notch character and a sneaky good athlete with a lacrosse background and broad build for rigors of position. Makings of Colts next legendary signal caller.
5. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Righi (Athlete-Wethersfield): Pure playmaker that takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Taysom Hill-type athlete that will contribute in a multitude of ways and wants the ball in his hands in pressure situations. Division I baseball talent with sky-high ceiling on the gridiron.
6. Detroit Lions: Ryan Rozich (LB-Cromwell/Portland): A warrior who brings the juice on every play and is always around the ball. Exceptional sideline-to-sideline ability with a fantastic football IQ. Athletic ability to cover slot receivers and has receiver hands himself.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Evan Christian (MLB/Edge-Wethersfield): Unique defensive standout that excelled on the edge and as a middle linebacker. Engulf ball carriers and explosive on contact. Position flexibility made him an every down player.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Zy’Kie Askew (RB-Middletown): Explosive first step with leg-churning power and incredible balance. Three-down back that has receiver type hands out of backfield and never gives up on a run. Will remind Falcons fans of Warrick Dunn.
9. Chicago Bears: Alex Peruta (LB-Rocky Hill): Has the heart of a lion and an A+ character. Suffered multiple knee injuries, but rehabbed and came back stronger and better than ever each time. Workout warrior with a positive, infectious attitude and energy.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Jack Williams (OL-Cromwell/Portland): Reliable grinder that can play multiple positions along both sides of the line. Strong like an ox with a great center of gravity. Perennial Pro Bowler at the next level.
11. Tennessee Titans: Josiah Ross (WR-Newington): Lightning quick in-and-out of breaks with strong, tacky hands. Mature route runner who is quarterback-friendly and his baseball prowess could allow him to become the next Bo or Deion in the professional ranks.
12. Houston Texans: Eddie Strong (WR-Middletown): Wins off the line and plays bigger than his frame. Confident and makes contested catches look routine. A sleeper who will give defensive coordinators nightmares.
13. New York Jets: M.J. Torres (LB-Rocky Hill): Foundational player that is powerful at point of contact. Has the feet of a running back, balance of a wrestler, and mentality of a defensive captain. The total package.
14. New England Patriots: Amari Rosemond (OL-Newington): Unique prospect that can play both sides of the line. Imposing frame and a worker bee from the opening snap to the last. Position versatility will suit him well in Foxborough.
15. Green Bay Packers: Felipe Lozano (LB-Wethersfield): Pursues the ball like a puma and easily sheds blocks. A legit three-down linebacker that provides pop on contact and is a special teams' standout.
16. Washington Commanders: Christopher Adamczyk (OL-Rocky Hill): Mauler with ideal size and pure power from wrestling. Can play both sides of the ball and is willing to do whatever to get on the field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Emeka Yearwood (EDGE-Cromwell/Portland): Physical game-changer that plays with a purpose and an edge. A special talent that is perfect fit in the Steel City and will do whatever it takes to win.
18. Detroit Lions: Elijah Smith (OT-Newington): Great feet with tremendous base. Always finishes blocks and is solid as a rock paving the way for the run and protecting the passer.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Colin Skene (QB-Middletown): Under the radar talent that throws a tight spiral and picturesque deep ball. Polished leader that can make any pass with both touch and accuracy.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Daryl Asante (LB-Rocky Hill): A thumper that plays every snap with effort and grit. Sure-tackler with a burst off snap and on contact. Reminds scouts of Nick Bolton.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Luke Whitaker (DB-Wethersfield): Supreme recognition allows him to be near the action at all times. A heady ball-hawk with mentality of a linebacker in run support.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Chase Leonard (LB-Newington): Hard-nosed disruptive ball attacker that Baltimore craves. Quickly diagnoses play and eliminates runners. Charismatic with a great locker room demeanor.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Ethan Lemos (WR-Wethersfield): Precisely runs the entire route tree and is blessed with fantastic body control. Hands catcher with a vast radius and will compete for every ball.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Yost (OL-Wethersfield): Stands ground and finishes blocks. Ideal size and physicality and will provide Jacksonville’s offense a much-needed edge.
25. New York Giants: Edward Kocaqi (C-Rocky Hill): Has all the tools and plays beyond his years. Just reaching his potential.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Alex Hair (DE-Cromwell/Portland): Powerful, explosive talent with leg-drive of a thoroughbred. Battled back from injury last season and didn’t miss a beat upon his return. Added value as a goal line back.
27. Buffalo Bills: Alexander Muniz (DL-Rocky Hill): People-mover that plays with incredible leverage. Wrestling background gives him added technique and allows him to push the pocket.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Jaiquan Hill (OT-Middletown): Intriguing prospect with a long and strong frame. Light feet and fluid with exceptional arm pop. Day-one starter.
29. New Orleans Saints: Ben Fagan (WR-Cromwell/Portland): Polished receiver with smooth hips and deceptive speed. Finds the ball in flight and will move the chains.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Vrisan Kuttin (CB-Rocky Hill): Natural athlete with good eye discipline. Supports the run support and tracks the ball well. A potential steal late in first round for NFC champs.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Hayden Fish (LB-Newington): Underrated athlete that is a difference-maker on every down. Another championship attitude heads to KC.
23 Day-Two Prospects for 2023 (alphabetical by last name)
Yazdan Aftab (WR/CB-Rocky Hill): Great length and strong frame allow him to be a physical man-to-man corner or a red zone receiving threat at the next level.
Tamoor Ahmed (S-Rocky Hill): Can play near the line and cover slot receivers. Rangy and impactful at point of contact.
Ben Caulfield (CB-Wethersfield): Fundamentally sound corner with a knack for knocking down passes. Size and willingness to help defend the run.
Tyler Cipolla (Athlete-Cromwell/Portland): A star in the making. Dangerous in the return game and can be used all over the offensive formation. Sneaky speed and strength.
Allen Cohen (K/P-Cromwell/Portland): Strong, accurate leg and lives for the clutch kick. Unique athlete with added power from playing along both the offensive and defensive lines.
Luca Corvino (RB-Newington): Solid, long strider with low center of gravity. Always moving forward and has soft hands out of backfield.
David De’Leon (WR-Middletown): Electric with ball in his hands and makes defenders whiff on a consistent basis. Perfect gadget player with blazing speed and ability to change direction on a dime.
Matt Gish (LB/S-Cromwell/Portland): Blossoming talent with power to play linebacker and athletic ability to play in defensive backfield. Wrestling technique and mentality on tackles.
Nick Guglielmo (DE-Wethersfield): Feisty competitor and exceptional leader. Productive grinder who will find his way onto the field at the next level.
Jayzair Hall (DL-Rocky Hill): Budding star that lives in the opposing team’s backfield. A day-two steal.
Jova’n Hill (RB-Wethersfield): Dynamic and explosive. Shifty with exceptional breakaway speed from his first step.
Caden Huddleston (S-Rocky Hill): Developing dynamic athlete with a nose for the ball. Great hip movement allows him to easily play in all four directions.
Oleg Korotykk (WR-Rocky Hill): Imposing threat on the outside with sticky hands. Suffered knee injury early in the season last fall but is a healthy and is first round talent with tremendous upside.
Alex McKeirnan (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Stout, fierce tackler that drives through ball carriers. Confident in coverage and the physical traits to become a Pro-Bowler.
Joey Moats (QB-Rocky Hill): Maturing signal caller with a live arm. Good athlete with tremendous touch and naturally steps into throws.
Dhallas Morgan (RB-Wethersfield): A stud with sudden speed and elite burst. Potential is through the roof and added value as a returner.
Justin Nardella (CB-Wethersfield): Team-first player that is disciplined on the corner. Solid in run support and has tools to play both man and zone.
JD Nazario (MLB-Newington): Great pre-snap recognition and sacrifices body entire whistle. Effort player that has a natural knack for nullifying the run.
Alexander Pushkar (DT-Newington): Imposing backfield wrecker with a 6’6” powerful frame. Engulfs ball carriers. One scout glowingly referred to him as the next Michael Bankston.
Noah Pasquaretta (LB-Wethersfield): Emerging talent that plays with a never-give-up attitude. Displayed mature patience and play recognition for young prospect that is just coming into his own.
Brandon Rose (CB-Cromwell/Portland): Long corner with tremendous upside and ability to be a shutdown corner. Tracks the ball well and packs a punch on contact.
Akari Rosemond (WR-Newington): Supreme talent and an absolute steal in the second round, similar to Anquan Boldin. High-ball specialist that uses his body well. Long, productive career ahead.
Derek Wilson (DB-Cromwell/Portland): Exceptional in pursuit and sure-tackler upon contact. Sees the entire field and could play multiple positions on back-seven.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the week for April 3-9:
Grace Baran - RHAM High School (Tennis): Baran has assumed the role as the team’s No. 1 singles player this spring and is thriving, winning her first two matches in straight sets. Baran, a senior captain, won her first match (6-4, 6-3) during the team’s season opening win over Bolton at RHAM High School on April 4 and then won (6-0, 6-1) as the Raptors swept Bloomfield, winning all seven matches, at RHAM on April 5.
“She has great game sense and adjusts her play throughout the match when necessary,” RHAM head coach Carol Fish said of Baran. “Her consistency, patience, and strong net game make her a formidable opponent.”
Olivia DeMartino - East Hampton High School (Softball): DeMartino opened the spring season by going 4-4 from the plate, scoring four runs and driving in four more as the Bellringers beat Valley Regional 11-5 at East Hampton High School on April 3. DeMartino, a sophomore, powered a line-up that cemented the game with a five-run fifth inning. Jocelyn Gustavson and Emily Jovel each scored a pair of runs, while Kendall Jump, Alison Hebb, and Allison Jacobsen also crossed home plate in the season opener.
In the following game, a 2-1 win over Cromwell in extra innings, DeMartino was clutch. She connecting on three hits and scored both runs, including the game-winner in the eighth inning to seal the upset of the defending state champs at Cromwell High School on April 5.
Mason Pingree - Bacon Academy (Baseball): Pingree earned his first varsity win, striking out seven over final four innings of relief duty as the Bobcats defeated Stafford 7-3 to win their first game of the season on April 4. Pingree, a sophomore, also had a pair of hits, including a double, and drove in two runs. Senior A.J. Blanchette walked three times and scored two runs as the Bobcats piled up five runs over the first two innings, thanks to six walks and three wild pitches.
Ryan LaPila - Portland High School (Baseball): LaPila went 2-3 from the plate, slapping a double and scoring a pair of runs as the Highlanders earned an 8-4 win over Old Saybrook, the reigning Shoreline Conference champs, on April 5. Harrison Collins also connected on two hits and scored a pair of runs, while Austin Vess drove in two more.
Glastonbury girls lacrosse senior captain Alicia Choquette attempts to split Greenwich’s Emma Abbazia and Kaitlyn Kelly during the Guardians’ season opening loss on April 4.
In the team’s season opener, Glastonbury High School girls lacrosse lost to Greenwich 16-2 on April 4 at GHS.
But the discrepancy on the scoreboard was not what GHS head coach Kris Cofiell wanted her team to take away from the game.
“I told the team that the team we are today is not going to be the team we will be,” Cofiell said after the defeat.
Cofiell added that she purposely schedules tough out-of-conference games and the game against Greenwich—a program that plays in the highly-competitive Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC)—was a good lesson for her young team, featuring only four seniors.
Greenwich, a team with 10 seniors, scored two quick goals courtesy of Cece Tauber and Aubrey Roth within the first four minutes of the game.
In the early stages, Glastonbury went shot-for-shot with the visiting Cardinals, but the home team’s attempts were just off the mark as Kate McKiernan and Stephanie Koppy had shots ricochet off the post.
At the 17:09 mark of the first half, Glastonbury senior captain Alicia Choquette cut the deficit in half with a goal before
Greenwich reeled off nine straight points, a run that bled over into the second half.
Greenwich’s Emma Abbazia, a junior, scored a game-high six goals and senior Kiera Young added four more.
Cofiell said the Cardinals repeatedly beat the Guardians to loose balls, which ultimately put them in an insurmountable deficit.
“That is a gut-check-type of game,” said Cofiell, who added that the team can learn from the 14-point defeat.
Helping steady the ship for Cofiell is a trio of captains in Choquette, fellow senior Sydney Norman, and junior Avery Olschefskie.
Cofiell said her field generals have been “awesome” and “great leaders for this young group.”
Several sophomores are playing pivotal roles, including Lola Espirito-Santo, the team’s starting goalie.
Greenwich’s high-powered, efficient offense peppered the first-year goaltender with shots throughout the game, particularly in the first half when they scored 11 goals.
Following a shaky start, Espirito-Santo settled in and made a handful of saves in the second half, showcasing poise and
toughness in goal.
Espirito-Santo began playing lacrosse only a year ago and is replacing Bridget Clarke, who made all-conference as a senior
a year ago.
Cofiell said Espirito-Santo learned the ropes under Clarke and praised her new goalie for not wavering after the rough start.
“She didn’t give up; she kept her head up,” added Cofiell. “I’m really proud of her. The maturity that she showed today was awesome.”
Sophomore Abigail Kasper also showcased her talents in the second half, scoring a goal at the 20-minute mark. Cofiell called Kasper “tough as nails” and praised her athleticism.
Cofiell added that her sophomore class, which also features McKiernan, Francesca Gionfriddo, and Cora Cwiertniewicz—-a crossover athlete from basketball that is playing lacrosse for the first time—will play a big role this year and beyond.
Many of the younger players have excelled in other sports and Cofiell said they are just learning of the nuances of lacrosse.
“We have good athletes, they just have to learn the game,” added Cofiell. “We don’t have the fundamentals right now, but that will come. Right now we are just trying to iron some things out.”
While the team goes through some growing pains, Cofiell added that it will be important for the younger players to soak up the knowledge of the captains.
“It’s that team that listens, and works, and plays with sportsmanship and builds those friendships that comes together,” added Cofiell. “That is my hope with this team, that we keep taking steps forward.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin