WEST HARTFORD — The Maloney football team came into West Hartford and spoiled Conard’s Senior Day on a chilly Saturday morning.
And with their 40-22 CCC interdivisional win over the Division I Chieftains, the Division II Spartans improved to 8-1 and clinched their second straight trip to the Class L state playoffs.
It’s the first time in program history Maloney has reached the postseason in consecutive years.
Against Conard (3-6), the Spartans rode the legs of running back James Tarver. The sophomore piled up 202 rushing yards and ran for four touchdowns.
The Spartans were also safe in the hands of Victor Marquez. The senior wide receiver had seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown, which makes him Maloney’s all-time leading receiver.
Marquez actually had nine catches Saturday. He twice intercepted Conard quarterback Matt Langevin as the Spartans limited him to 97 yards on 7-for-16 passing.
Still, even though Maloney scored on the opening possession of the game and Conard was playing catchup throughout, the game did get tight in the third quarter. Conard scored back-to-back TDs to narrow a 26-6 halftime deficit to 26-22 before the Spartans pulled away on two more touchdown runs from Tarver.
“We knew what we were getting into today. These guys played hard, they are well-coached and have great coaching schemes on offense,” said Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick. “I told our guys they will fight and not back down, so we knew that the game was far from over.”
Maloney started with the ball first and took little time to get the offense going. On the first play of the game, Elliot Good found Marquez for a 60-yard reception. Marquez capped off the drive with a catch in the back of the end zone from a few yards out.
The two-point conversion was no good, leaving Maloney up 6-0.
The defense, in turn, did not give the Chieftains any breathing room, forcing a three-and-out on the home team’s first possession, which promptly led to the Spartans going up 12-0 on a 28-yard run up the middle by Tarver.
With 2:47 left in the first quarter, Good found Maurice Brackett in the back of the end zone on a fade route to extend the lead to 18-0. (A third two-point try was not successful.)
Maloney shut Conard out until halfway through the second quarter, when John Calcaterra rushed for a 3-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good and the gap stood at 18-6.
Late in the second quarter, Tarver rushed for his second touchdown of the day, finding space on the left side for 33 yards.
Bonus: The Spartans finally nailed their first two-point conversion of the day on a pass to Marquez in the corner. Their lead was 26-6 at halftime.
In the second half, Conard put up a better fight. On their opening drive, the Chieftains scored on a 29-yard rushing touchdown from Calcaterra. They converted the two-point conversion to cut Maloney’s lead 26-14.
Conard capitalized on the momentum swing and caused a fumble on Maloney’s first possession. Marquez could not control the ball and got it popped out as he was hit.
On Conard’s drive after the turnover, Langevin connected with Zack Cohen for a 31-yard touchdown. Another successful two-point conversion cut the lead down 26-22 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Maloney did not panic. On the following drive, the Spartans marched down almost half the field to set up another Tarver touchdown from 4 yards out. They also converted the two-point attempt to extend their lead 34-22 with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Tarver would get another rushing touchdown with 7:18 to play to ice it, pushing the final margin to 40-22.
Maloney will now be idle until the Stoddard Bowl with Platt on Thanksgiving morning at Falcon Field. That game will decide the CCC Division II-West championship. Platt, at 4-0 in the league, holds the top spot. Maloney, at 3-1, can earn a share. The Spartans are the reigning division champs.
Beyond that, Platt will be battling to join Maloney in the Class L playoffs. With Bristol Central having to forfeit its 21-20 win over Platt due to the use of an ineligible player, the Panthers are now 7-2 and No. 8 in the Class L playoff points. Maloney stands at No. 5.