MERIDEN — Maloney football made its mark on football in the state last year with its Class L crown, the first ever in school and Meriden history.
Now, in 2022, the Spartans are back in the state spotlight as they travel to state power Darien, the reigning Class LL champion, on Friday night at 7 p.m.
The out-of-conference game is a part of the 2022 CTHS Football Alliance series.
Maloney is on a 14-game winning streak that dates back to Week 2 in 2021 after the season-opening loss to Southington. Darien enters 1-1 after a 14-0 opening night loss against St. Joseph that was followed by a 47-0 win over Bridgeport Central.
Maloney is 2-0 with wins over East Hartford and Simsbury. The Spartans are ranked No. 5 in the GameTime CT media state poll and No. 7 in the Day of New London coaches poll.
“This is where our program is now,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said this week. “We are in Tier I of the CCC and we are playing some of the best teams in the state. We want to play the best and you want all eyes on you. It’s developing our guys into better football players.
“We are so excited to play a team like this,” Frederick added. “A game like this puts us on the map even more.”
And yet, Frederick said, the Spartans aren’t just happy to play at Darien. They expect to win.
“If we don’t win we will be extremely disappointed.” Frederick said. “There are some things we need to work on to get better. We don’t want to take any steps backwards. We want to continue to get better every day at Maloney.
“I like what I’m seeing, especially from guys in new positions,” Frederick continued. “We graduated a bunch of guys at key positions and guys are stepping in who played freshman and JV last year and doing the job.”
The returning players with experience are wide receiver/defensive back Joziah Gonzalez, running back Josh Boganski and linemen Howard Stedford, Raf Rodriguez, Sean Finn and Brendon Borak. Outside of them, pretty much everyone else is brand new.
Among those who have stepped up this year are first-year starting quarterback Kyle Valentine, who is 21-for-35 for 373 yards. Jo-Jo Gonzalez (7-94) and Donte Kelly (6-137) have been his top receivers.
Jaden Vasquez has also played well at receiver and DB. He’s got two receptions for 55 yards and two interceptions.
“Vasquez played JV last year as a junior and he was never about himself; he was always about the team,” Frederick said. “He’s going to be very productive this year.”
Other first-year senior starters are right tackle Jayden Guilavogui, center Marcos Gomez and WR/DB Amir Phillips.
Maloney has also gotten contributions from its sophomore class in the early going behind guard Kaleb Marquez, WR/DB Jesus Martell and WR/DB Messiah Abrahante.
“Those guys are getting better and better,” Frederick said. “It’s a credit to all of my assistants who have gotten these guys ready when they were called upon. That’s what it means to be a solid program where you lose guys, but we aren’t going to back down from where we started from. We are always going to be a contender and in the mix for the playoffs.
“The biggest thing is about the preparation in the offseason and preparing our bodies for the tough schedule. We also spend a lot of time working on football IQ and watch a lot of film.”
Frederick said his team expects to face a well-coached, well-disciplined and aggressive team on Friday. Darien QB Simeon Doll comes in at 17-for-42 for 292 yards. RB Jake Wilson, who goes 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is 33-215 rushing.
“We want to replicate their success and we want to be considered amongst the Dariens of the world,” Frederick said. “We want to be mentioned with them. We’ve are ranked No. 5 in the state poll. We’ve gotten notoriety and now we want a signature win against on of the top teams in the state.”
Frederick said he wants his team to go into the game with a “tough man’” mentality and a chip on its collective shoulder.
“We build our kids up like that. They could be the best team on our schedule, but they may not be. We play a lot of good teams and we will have our hands full all season,” Frederick said. “It’s going to be a great game, a great day for Maloney and a great day for Meriden.
“It’s a great time for Connecticut football. We know all eyes will be on us on Friday. We want that. Our program deserves that. Now we just have to take care of business.”
Here are the other area matchups for Week 3.
■Wilcox-Kaynor Tech (1-1) at Northwest United (1-0), at Nonnewaug HS, 6 p.m.
The Wildcats are coming off their first win over Prince Tech in 10 tries, 28-16, while the Wolcott Tech-Wamogo-Nonnewaug co-op hasn’t seen action since thumping VG Techs 52-16 on Sept. 9.
Wilcox was 4-0 straight up against Wolcott Tech, which began combining with Wamogo and Nonnewaug last year. It made a difference. Northwest beat Wilcox-Kaynor 50-6.
■E.O. Smith (1-1) at Lyman Hall (1-1), at Fitzgerald Field, 6:30 p.m.
This will be E.O. Smith’s second game against a SCC program in as many weeks. The Panthers, out of the CCC, beat East Haven last week, 30-20. QB Connor Ouellette (16-132) and RB Tyler Holcomb (13-123) had 100-yard rushing games.
LH is looking to bounce back from last week’s 35-7 loss at Foran. QB Tyler Casey is 30-for-62 for 414 yards, with 12 completions going to Cam Pragano for 162 yards. Ethan Saez is 8-110.
■Cheshire (2-0) at Conard (1-1), at McKee Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
A quality SCC-CCC matchup on the Alliance grid. The Rams are off to a 2-0 start and the newly renamed Red Wolves are coming off a 36-33 win over Newington.
■Platt (1-1) at North Haven (1-1), at North Haven MS–East Turf Field, 7 p.m.
This Alliance game is a rematch of the 2013 Class L state quarterfinal, won by North Haven 35-0.
Coach Anthony Sagnella’s Nighthawks opened 2022 routing Simsbury 49-0, then falling to Notre Dame-WH 14-7. Opposite for Coach Jason Bruenn’s Panthers, who rebounded from a 38-28 loss to Berlin with a 29-23 victory over Bristol Eastern.
Platt RB Corey Rogers was one yard shy of 100 on 18 carries vs. Eastern. QB Avery Robinson is 28-for-41 on the season for 464 yards. He’s spread it out to Vittorio Church (5-159), Deante Torres (7-106), Kevin Acosta (7-89) and Zack Baker (7-87).
■Sheehan (1-1) at Amity (0-2), at William Johnson Stadium Field, 7 p.m.
The Spartans have taken a 1-2 combination to start the season, falling to Bunnell (42-20) and West Haven (59-14). Sheehan, coming off a 48-0 rout of Harding, will be looking for its second SCC Tier 2 win in as many weeks.
In that Harding game, Sheehan QB Paul Gorry completed 12 of 17 passes for 161 yards and touchdowns to Anthony Sutera and John Gogliettino. Freshman RB Brady Rossacci rushed for 69 yards and two scores.
Sheehan beat Amity 15-13 in overtime a year ago. Amity leads the all-time series 24-12.
Bryant Carpenter contributed to this story