MERIDEN — The Angel Arce/Kam Moreno duo was unstoppable as Maloney opened its postseason with a 35-7 CIAC Class L quarterfinal win over No. 6 Berlin on Wednesday night at Falcon Field.
The QB/WR tandem combined for four touchdown connections as the Spartans (10-1) advance to the Class L semifinals on Monday to face No. 2 Daniel Hand in Madison at the Surf Club.
Moreno caught TD passes of 14, 8 and 46 yards in the first half. He added a 11-yard TD grab in the second half as the Spartans extended a 21-7 halftime lead.
Moreno finished the game with eight grabs for 126 yards to go along with the four scores, which tied a career high. He also had four earlier this season against Bristol Eastern.
Arce was 14-for-24 for 168 yards, four TDs and one interception.
“This was a great win for our football program and we are happy to be back in the Class L semifinals,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “We were happy to win this game. We just want to keep playing better every day.”
The bad news for Maloney was a right leg injury to junior running back James Tarver after a 7-yard carry with 2:43 left in the third quarter. He was carried off by two teammates and didn’t return.
“James is a dynamic player and any time he goes down you hold your breath, but he should be OK and nothing too serious,” Frederick said.
After the game, Tarver was moving around better and said he hopes to play on Monday. Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said more will be known after he’s checked out by medical staff on Thursday.
Tarver was coming off a five-touchdown MVP performance in the Stoddard Bowl. He entered the game with 1,785 yards on the season, only 84 shy of Edwin Roman’s single-season Maloney record of 1,869.
He eclisped that record with a 15 carry, 170-yard effort before leaving with the injury. He also scored on a 34-yard run.
Maloney took it to Berlin from the opening kickoff, literally. Jaden Myles booted an onside kick off Berlin upman Jake Holmes and the ball caromed back to the Maloney 48. Myles leapt on it as the Spartans started the game with a big play.
Seven plays later, the Spartans were in the end zone. Moreno began the drive with a 26-yard run. Then Tarver carried the ball three straight times.
Later, on a third-and-10 from the 14, Arce tossed a fade to Moreno in the right corner of the end zone as the Spartans went up 7-0 with 9:25 left in the first quarter.
Berlin responded with a 10-play touchdown drive to tie the game, 7-7 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
Maloney lineman Trevor Santiago had a sack on the drive to put Berlin in a fourth-and-16 situation from the Maloney 20. The Redcoats came through with a big play as Justin Skates found Joseph Caracoglia in the back of the end zone for the equalizer.
Caracoglia used good footwork to stay inbounds for the score.
After the team exchanged punts, Tarver ripped off an 83-yard run. On third-and-goal from the 8, Arce fired a quick pass on the right sideline to Moreno. The receiver made a man miss with a spin and ran in for a 14-7 Maloney lead.
Both teams exchanged big sacks early in the second quarter — Travis Wright with a sack for Maloney on fourth down and Nicholas Jutras for Berlin to force a Maloney punt.
Kody Talento came up with the defensive play of the first half with a fumble recovery at the Maloney 2 with 1:25 remaining in the second quarter. The play stalled a 12-play drive that had Berlin on the verge of tying the game.
Instead, Maloney turned Talento’s recovery into points.
Moreno made three receptions on Maloney’s scoring drive. He collected a 46-yard TD reception on a seam as Arce put it right in his hands for a 21-7 Maloney lead at the half.
“Kam was on fire today,” Arce said. “We came out with everything we had today.”
The Spartans padded their lead on the first possession of the second half. Tarver ripped off a 34-yard TD run with 10:22 remaining in the third quarter to make it 28-7. Tarver got a good block from Moreno at the end of the play to get into the end zone.
“We just came out and executed today, and Angel and I have a great connection,” Moreno said.
The Maloney defense, meanwhile, did its thing, too. Elijah Stevenson and Travis Wright made back-to-back sacks for Maloney to force a Berlin punt on its first drive of the second half. The Spartans went on to pitch a shutout in the second half.
Sergio Muniz had an interception for Maloney with 3:02 left in the third quarter to set up the final score of the game. Following the Tarver injury, Arce threw his fourth TD pass to Moreno, this one was for 11 yards.
Caracoglia added a late interception for Berlin as the Redcoats’ season came to an an end at 8-3. Daniel Roldan chipped in with a late sack for the Spartans, who now have won five in a row.