MERIDEN — Backup quarterback Ethan Nedinsky was thrust into Maloney’s CIAC Class L state quarterfinal game with New Milford on Tuesday night with the season on the line.
Only a sophomore, Nedinsky had a few appearances this year. None of them were in meaningful situations.
But on Tuesday, after senior starter Kyle Valentine took a hit late in the second quarter that forced him from the game at halftime, the sophomore was needed.
And he delivered. With a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, Nedinsky helped the No. 3 Spartans secure a 27-7 victory over the No. 6 Green Wave.
“I’m not sure when the hit on Valentine happened,” said Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick. “I know he wasn’t feeling well. We have to take that very serious. He wasn’t feeling well and we had to take him out of the game.”
Then Frederick turned to Nedinsky.
“They told me at the half that I was playing, and I just went in and did my best,” Nedinsky said. “I didn’t expect to be playing tonight. I didn’t expect this at all. I just wanted to do my part ot help the team.
“It was nice to get my first playoff win and we are moving on.”
Prior to Tuesday night, Nedinsky had thrown just nine passes in varsity action this season. He completed seven of them, but they were of the short variety, going for 23 total yards.
“We told him to play with confidence,” said junior wide receiver Donte Kelly. “He did play with confidence and had fun. He gave us what we needed.”
Kelly caught a skinny post from Nadinsky that was right on the money for a 21-yard touchdown. That play, coming on the first snap of the fourth quarter, put the Spartans up to stay, 14-7.
Nedinsky later threw a second TD pass to senior Joziah Gonzalaz to push the lead to 21-7. That was on a 17-yard out route and, again, the pass was right on the money, this time going across the field.
“It’s great he made those big throws, but we aren’t surprised,” Frederick said. “The coaches see how it he plays in practice. He doesn’t take any snaps off. He’s very focused and knows our plays inside and out. We are proud of him.”
Now the question is who will play quarterback for the Spartans (10-1) when they host No. 7 Shelton (7-4) in the semifinals on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Valentine is in concussion protocol and considered day-to-day. Frederick hopes to have Valentine back, but he still is confident with Nedinsky running the offense.
“Sure we are confident with him,” the head coach said. “We will have to go back to the drawing board and dress some things up, but it’s ‘next guy up.’ We hope Kyle is ready, but if he isn’t, Ethan will be ready for sure.”
One factor in Maloney’s favor heading into Sunday is home-field advantage. The Spartans got another home game when Shelton knocked off No. 2 Newtown, 21-20.
“You can’t ask for anything more than two home games,,” said Gonzalez. “We will have a bunch of fans here cheering us on.”
Frederick said the Spartans will have plenty to work on before Sunday.
“We didn’t do well in the beginning, with the ball in the red zone four times with no points,” Frederick said. “That was very disappointing.
“The glorious thing about it is we get another opportunity to improve before Sunday. We survived. We are going to take this win and celebrate. It’s not easy to get wins in the playoffs. We’re back in the semifinals again and a trip to the state finals will come through Falcon Field.”