CIAC Class M State Championship Game (2013)
St. Joseph wins Class M state championship
Richard Gregory, CTPost.com
NEW BRITAIN -- The seniors on this year's St. Joseph football team were eager, wide-eyed freshmen in 2010 when the Cadets won their last state championship, and they've spent the three years that followed relentlessly climbing to reach the football summit the way their predecessors had.
On Saturday, they stood alone atop the snow-covered peak.
Jordan Vazzano threw four touchdown passes and Mufasha Abdul Basir ran for two touchdowns and scored on a 54-yard screen pass as the Cadets defeated Brookfield 54-16 in the Class M state championship game, played in a snowstorm at Central Connecticut State University's Arute Field.
"There's no better feeling than winning a state championship in high school," said St. Joseph senior offensive lineman Steve Hashemi. "I've been dreaming about this, and the dream came true."
The climb back to the top wasn't exactly an easy one for the Cadets, who basically had to rebuild after that 2010 title.
"In 2011, we lost a lot of players and a lot of these kids had to play as sophomores. We got beat up a little bit," St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. "To make the playoffs last year and get knocked out early (with a 34-14 quarterfinal loss to Hillhouse), we had a little bit of an attitude coming into this season that we were better than that and we were going to finish it off."
The victory caps a remarkable run through the state tournament in which the second-seeded Cadets piled up an eye-popping 200 points in three games. Much of the Cadets' horsepower is generated by their massive and athletic offensive line, led by Saturday's starters Chris Taylor at left tackle (6-foot-2, 298 pounds), Troy Vazzano at left guard (6-2, 252), Tom Adzima at center (6-1, 243), Pete Mestre at right guard (6-6, 295) and Hashemi at right tackle (6-6, 265).
"It was a great game for them," Abdul Basir said. "They were just moving people out of the way and they made great running lanes for me. They work hard all week and they were really serious about this game. They wanted to leave with a big statement, and they made it today."
For Brookfield, it was a disappointing ending to a magical season. The fifth-seeded Bobcats reached the championship game by pulling out back-to-back last-minute wins in the first two rounds of the state tournament. On Saturday, however, the magic simply ran out.
"We got beat by a better team," Brookfield coach Rich Angarano said. "They were as advertised. There was not much we could do as an offense, and they ran the ball down our throats."
St. Joseph set the tone from the outset, feeding the Brookfield defense a steady diet of Abdul Basir on the game's opening drive, which was capped by a 3-yard run by the explosive junior running back. He finished the Cadets' second drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and finished the game with 166 yards on 19 carries.
The Cadets scored on each of their five first-half possessions to take a 38-0 halftime lead. They stretched that lead to 54-0 with two third-quarter scores. In total, St. Joseph scored touchdowns on its first six drives and added a defensive touchdown, all while holding the Brookfield offense scoreless until the waning minutes.
That's a tough hand to beat.
"It was a great team effort," Abdul Basir said. "The defense did their job, and on offense, we did what we've done all season."
In the second quarter, Vazzano hit Lars Pedersen with a 30-yard touchdown pass and Mark Hirschbeck with a 21-yard scoring strike, then dumped a quick screen pass off to Abdul Basir, who raced 54 yards for another score.
On the third play of the second half, Jack Yerxa scooped up a Brad Westmark fumble and rumbled 40 yards for a touchdown. St. Joseph finished its first offensive drive of the second half with another score, this one a 46-yard touchdown pass from Vazzano to Shane Miller.
Vazzano completed just five of seven passes for 168 yards, but four of those completions went for touchdowns. Miller led the receiving corps with two catches for 63 yards. Cameron Ryan led the Cadets on defense with 11 tackles and Pedersen chipped in with eight.
Brookfield got on the board with two touchdowns in the final minutes, as Westmark ran one in from 27 yards out and Bobby Drysdale scored on a 50-yard run. Drysdale finished with 167 rushing yards on 21 carries. Westmark ran for 52 yards on seven carries and Austin Reich gained 44 yards on nine carries. Westmark completed three of 12 passes, one each to Liam Clancy, Drysdale and Nick Seis. Gabe Pompette and Reich led the Bobcats on defense with five tackles apiece.
St. Joseph's only two losses this season came against New Canaan, which was busy defeating rival Darien in the Class L title game at Boyle Stadium in Stamford while the Cadets were hard at work against Brookfield.
St. Joseph 54, Brookfield 16
BROOKFIELD 0 0 0 16 -- 16
ST. JOSEPH 16 22 16 0 -- 54
SJ--Mufasha Abdul Basir, 3 run (Basir run).
SJ--Abdul Basir, 1 run (Mark Hirschbeck pass ordan Vazzano).
SJ--Lars Pedersen, 30 pass from Vazzano (pass failed).
SJ--Hirschbeck, 21 pass Vazzano (Hirschbeck pass Vazzano).
SJ--Basir, 54 pass from Vazzano (Hirschbeck pass Vazzano).
SJ--Jack Yerxa, 40 fumble return (Joey Civitella run).
SJ--Shane Miller, 46 pass Vazzano (Civitella run).
B--Brad Westmark, 27 run (Austin Reich run).
B--Bobby Drysdale, 50 run (Drysdale run).
Records: Brookfield 11-4; St. Joseph 13-2.
Click here for CTPost.com's coverage...
Click here for photo gallery...
Click here for New Haven Register's coverage...
Click here for MSGVarsity.com's coverage...
Click here for more of MSGVarsity.com's coverage...
Click here for TrumbullTimes.com's coverage...
Photo courtesy of H. John Voorhees III, CTPost.com
Photo courtesy of H. John Voorhees III, CTPost.com
Photo courtesy of H. John Voorhees, CTPost.com