WALLINGFORD – Choate’s run of perfection continues through another year as the Wild Boars put a cap on their fourth straight unbeaten season and New England Class A championship in the title game at Avon Old Farms on Saturday.
Choate typically relies on a stingy defense to keep opponents off the board. In Saturday’s 48-27 victory over the Beavers, it was the offense that took centerstage in a battle of unbeatens.
“This was a game spearheaded by our offense,” Choate football head coach L.J. Spinnato said Monday. “They were able to score enough points to allow our defense to figure it out a little bit. Our quarterback, running backs and receivers played well behind the offensive line and carried us in the first half. We were still trying to figure out how to tackle those guys. But our defense figured it out in the second half.”
Spinnato said the Boars had their hands full with the Beavers, coached by former Southington High head coach Bill Mella. The game plan was to keep quarterback Taisun Phommachanh contained.
“We knew they would be scary in the passing game and their quarterback getting out of the pocket,” Spinnato said. “In preparation for the game, we found if the quarterback went out of the pocket, they averaged about 23 yards a play. When they stayed in the pocket, it was eight yards a play.
“In the first half, we didn’t do as well. We got behind early and we coudn’t punch it in a few times,” he added. “In the second half, we did it one play at a time and, as soon as we got up, they started to tire.”
Spinnato said his team wasn’t worried about trailing 20-14 at the half.
“I was impressed that I really didn’t see any fear in their eyes at haftime for a team that hasn’t been behind much in games,” Spinnato said. “They were relishing the moment in a championship atmosphere.”
Avon Old Farms (8-1) had more two-way players and Choate’s depth became a factor in the second half. Choate outscored Avon Old Farms 28-7 in the final two quarters.
Choate QB Joe Young accounted for total five touchdowns. The Pennsylvania product was 10-for-14 passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he carried 15 times for 131 yards and three scores.
”He was the heart and soul of the game offensively,” Spinnato said.
Junior running back Rashaud Conway churned out 84 yards on 15 carries to keep the Wild Boars offense on the field.
When Young put the ball in the air, he found Michael Monios and Mikey Speca for touchdowns.
“We don’t pass it a ton, but we did when we needed it,” Spinnato said. “We wanted to pound them with the run. We hit some good passes. Each pass averaged over 20 yards. We will take it.”
Many of the big plays through the air came off play-action.
Tight ends Caden Dumas and Shane Sweitzer drew the praise from Spinnato for their run-blocking. Spinnato added that left tackle James McCarthy, left guard Cameron Polemeni-Hegarty, center Luca DiLeo, right guard Flynn McGilvray and right tackle Zach Thomson had their best games of season in the championship.
Choate linebackers Jovan Nenadovic and Noah Pope paced the defense with eight tackles apiece. Pope’s total included two tackles for a loss and a sack. He rushed for a touchdown on the other side of the ball.
Shane Sweitzer registered five tackles.North Peters and Peter Fitzgerald made two sacks apiece.
Junior Sean Dennehy came off the bench and picked off a pass to seal the game. Jaiden Cruz, Hunter Burns and McGilvray also were strong defenders for Choate.
The Wild Boars finished the season at 9-0 and extended their winning streak to 39 games. They have yet to lose a game in their four seasons under Spinnato.
“It’s a very special group of four-year seniors to go through their entire career undefeated,” Spinnato said. “They learned as freshmen and have continued the tradition. I’m proud of them and the rest of the seniors for the character they have shown. This is a group of incredible human beings on and off the field. Their football careers are just a small part of their lives. The team GPA is nuts and this has nothing to do with coaching. Any coach would be honored to coach them. I’m so proud of them.”
Choate’s college commits to this point are Sweitzer (Penn), Pope (Yale), Jaylan Sandifer (Yale), DiLeo (Dartmouth) and McGilvray (Amherst). Kicker John Tessitore is heading to Boston College.