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CHESHIRE — Championship Monday was a crowning night for the St. Joseph, Killingly and Daniel Hand football teams.
The game of the night was in Class S, at Cheshire’s Alumni FIeld, where St. Joe’s denied Ansonia its 21st state title with a thrilling 42-36 come-from-behind victory. The Cadets trailed 28-7 in the third quarter, rallied to tie in the fourth, then out-dueled the Chargers in an exchange of big plays.
A touchdown pass from David Summers to Jared Mallozzi with 5:55 left, mere seconds after Markell Dobbs had broke free for a 75-yard score, proved to be the game-winner.
In Class L, Daniel Hand won its 12th and first since 2012, overcoming a pick-six on the first play to top Masuk 35-21 at Trumbull.
And in Class M, Killingly captured its third state crown and first since 1996 with a 41-14 victory over Joel Barlow at Veterans Stadium in New Britain.
For Killingly, the state title capped a day that began with its star running back, 3,000-yard rusher Spencer Lockwood, being named Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Lockwood got Killingly going Monday night with a 63-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
The victory also capped an undefeated season for the 13-0 Redmen, the only team to go undefeated this season in Connecticut.
Ansonia seemed on the verge of also going unbeaten and winning its seventh state championship under head coach Tom Brockett of Wallingford (and 21st overall). After falling behind 7-0 on a high punt snap, the Chargers took control 22-7 by halftime on touchdown runs by Dobbs and Darwin Amaya.
Quarterback Justin Lopez made it 28-7 in the third quarter, following up a 60-yard run with a 2-yard score. That’s when the St. Joe’s rally commenced behind Summers, who threw TD passes to William Diamantis, Phillip Pasmeg and Jesse Bike to tie it 28-28 early in the fourth quarter.
Ansonia drove to the St. Joe’s 9 only to throw an interception on an option pass. That turnover opened the door to the go-ahead TD for St. Joe’s, a 58-yard burst by Jayden Shirden.
Dobbs cutback to his 75-yard score on the very next play and converted the two-point try to put Ansonia up 36-35 before Summers hit Mallozzi for the game-winner. Ace Luzetti’s second interception of the quarter sealed it for St. Joe’s.
In the Class M final, Killingly fell behind after Lockwood’s initial score. A 76-yard TD run by Alex Stillman put Barlow up 14-7 late in the first quarter.
Killingly tied it back up off a fumble recovered by Nsaiah Hamlet at the Barlow 16 that set up 1-yard TD run by Lockwood, then scored twice more in the final five minutes on QB Luke Desaulnier’s 3-yard run and 8-yard TD pass to Vasileois Politis.
Killingly extended its 27-14 halftime lead to the 41-14 final on a 26-yard run by Zach Burgess and an 86-yarder by Zach Caffrey.
In Class L, Hand shook off the early pick-six to build a 35-14 lead by halftime. Sophomore quarterback Phoenix Billings threw a 6-yard pass to Matt Maxwell and a 21-yarder to Chris Iannuzzi. Billings later scored on rushing TDs of 1 and 55 yards.
In between, the Hand defense raised havoc. Ryan Coady returned on a fumble for a touchdown and an interception by Delvantae Hutton set up the Billings’ TD pass to Iannuzzi.
Masuk, held without a first down until the waning minutes of the first half, pulled to within 35-14 on a 25-yard screen pass 15 seconds before halftime. The last gasp for the Panthers came on a blocked punt returned for a TD with 64 seconds left. Hand recovered the ensuing kick to seal the victory and a 12-1 season.