St. Joe's states its case against Trinity
The St. Joseph football team went into Thursday night's FCIAC showdown against Trinity Catholic fully aware it needed victories in its last two games to secure a spot in the Class M tournament.
Based on the Cadets' latest performance, they seem not only poised to reach the state playoffs -- but make some noise once they get there.
Senior standout Jake Pelletier threw for a score, ran for another and tied a school record with his 13th receiving touchdown of the season as St. Joe's scored 28 unanswered points en route to a convincing 49-14 victory at Stratford's Bunnell H.S.
"It was an all-around team effort," said Pelletier, who caught four passes for 88 yards and also went 7 for 7 on PATs. "We know what's at stake in these final games, and we want to get back to Rentschler Field. That's the goal, and as a senior, it would be the best feeling ever."
The Cadets (7-2), who won consecutive state titles in 2009-10, have come a long way since a 4-6 finish last season.
Against a Crusaders squad that came in with only one loss -- a 26-20 heartbreaker to Darien last week -- St. Joe's rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense and forced three turnovers on defense.
Junior quarterback Jordan Vazzano was 10 of 18 for 202 yards with two touchdowns, and the Cadets also piled up 330 rushing yards.
Sophomore Mufasha Abdul Basir carried 15 times for 148 yards -- highlighted by an 18-yard touchdown late in the first quarter -- and senior Kyron Crawford added a pair of scoring runs from 6 and 5 yards out to bookend the statement victory.
Abdul Basir also turned in one of the game's biggest plays on the final play of the second quarter when he chased down Trinity speedster Neno Merritt 15 yards away from the end zone on a potential 100-yard interception return that could have made it just a seven-point edge at halftime instead of the 28-14 cushion the Cadets took into the locker room.
"We made a lot of big plays out there and our line blocked very well," Abdul Basir said. "Now hopefully we can carry this into next week and make states."
With the win, the Cadets moved up to seventh in the Class M playoff point rankings and they can clinch a tournament spot against crosstown rival Trumbull on Wednesday night.
The Crusaders (7-2), meanwhile, fell to seventh in Class S and will likely need a win over Wilton on Thanksgiving morning to extend a once storybook season.
Merritt cut the Cadets early two-touchdown lead in half on a 95-yard kickoff return.
After a 1-yard scoring run by Pelletier, Trinity would answer with a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped by Shaquan Howsie's 12-yard touchdown run with 2:35 left in the second quarter.
St. Joe's, which has scored 153 points over the last three weeks, was virtually unstoppable on this night though.
Vazzano connected with Pelletier on a 15-yard scoring strike 50 seconds later, and the Cadets would never look back.
It was more of the same in the second half as St. Joe's padded its lead to 35-14 on a 5-yard pass from Vazzano to Mike Pulaksi, who also helped limit the Crusaders to 232 yards and only nine first downs.
The Cadets then reached into their bag of tricks late in the third quarter as Pelletier, on a double pass, fired a 62-yard touchdown to a wide open Denzel Moscova to make it 42-14.
Trinity was led offensively by sophomore Randy Polonia, who went over 100 yards on the ground.