MIDDLETOWN — The seventh-seeded Maloney football team defeated No. 2 Middletown on Tuesday night to set up perhaps the most highly-anticipated rivalry game in Silver City history.
The Spartans rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat the Blue Dragons 20-14 in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals at Rosek-Skubel Stadium.
With the win, Maloney takes on No. 6 Platt, a 12-6 win over Naugatuck on Tuesday, in the state semifinals on Sunday at Falcon Field.
Forget the Stoddard Bowl. Sunday’s game is for a berth in the L state finals.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “We’ve been down in games before. We were just trying to play one play at a time and trying to claw our way back in the game. We had to make a couple of adjustments to stop the run.
“Middletown is a well-coached team. They have got some good athletes. We’re fortunate to come out with the win.”
The Spartans offense sputtered at the start, but senior quarterback Elliot Good (15-30 for 137 yards, 3 TDs) and company got their legs under them in the second quarter to tie the score 14-14 at halftime.
“It feels great,” Good said. “We were down 14-0 and to come back with a victory is huge. We go right back at it on Sunday.”
Maloney, which forced three first-half turnovers, was not done disrupting the Dragons. Lineman Toby Canales pounced on a Middletown fumble at the start of the third quarter and the Spartans marched 46 yards on five plays to
go ahead 20-14 when Good lofted a 5-yard touchdown pass to Victor Marquez (6-55, 2 TDs).
James Tarver, who was unstoppable on the ground in wearing out the Middletown defense, had a 29-yard run during the drive and finished with 92 rushing yards for the game.
The Spartans chewed up 6:04 on the clock with a drive that encompassed the third and fourth quarters, but were unable to find the end zone.
Middletown answered with a lengthy drive of its own, but Maloney’s defense held tight and turned the Blue Dragons over on downs at their own 14 with 2:47 left to play. A 26-yard first-down pass from Good to Jaylon Nixon all but sealed the deal for Maloney.
Maloney punted on its first possession of the game. Middletown went right to work. Xzavier Reyes carried the ball three times leading to pay dirt, giving the Blue Dragons a 7-0 lead with a 37-yard rumble.
It could have been worse for the Spartans. Middletown had a touchdown called back due to a hold and Maloney’s Vincent Martinez had an interception in the red zone later in the first quarter, but the Blue Dragons kept their foot on the gas pedal. Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown’s 35-yard touchdown missile to Anthony Pappa increased Middletown’s lead to 14-0.
It was déjà vu all over again in the second quarter as the Dragons had another TD negated because of a hold and Martinez had a second interception, this time at Middletown’s 42.
The pick seemed to energize Maloney, which amassed an 11-play drive — capped by Good’s 5-yard scoring strike to Marquez — as the Spartans cut their deficit to 14-6. Marquez’s two-point run failed.
There was a distinct momentum shift in the air. Sergio Muniz’s interception with a minute until halftime set the Spartans up at midfield. They drove to Middletown’s 15, where Good fired a touchdown pass to Maurice Brackett to make the score 14-12 with 1.3 seconds until halftime. Good and Marquez hooked up for the two-point pass to knot the score 14-14 at the intermission.
Maloney is making consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in program history. The Spartans rebounded from their 36-20 loss to Platt on Thanksgiving eve and hope to get revenge on Sunday. Middletown finished its season 9-2 overall.
“We’re excited,” Frederick said of playing Platt. “It’s good for the city and its good for us because we still have that sour taste in our mouth. We are going to come ready to play.
“After the Thanksgiving loss, we learned a ton from that game about us as people and football players. That is why this game is so great. It teaches you a lot of valuable things about life and it teaches you how to fight through adversity. These guys picked themselves up. They didn’t sulk or hang their heads. We just came down here and beat a really good Middletown team.”
Maloney is seeking its first-ever state crown. The Spartans made appearances in the state finals in 1989 and 2006, falling to St. Joseph and New Canaan.
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