EAST HARTFORD — It is a different day, different season, but the same result.
The Maloney Spartans proved that they have the talent for another dominant football season after defeating the East Hartford Hornets 55-38 Saturday in a CCC Tier 1 game that was suspended the night prior due to inclement weather.
The game was highlighted by dominant performances by junior quarterback Ethan Nedinsky and senior wide receiver Donte Kelly.
Kelly scored four touchdowns, including two on kickoff returns — one to end the first half (80 yards) and the other to start the second (86 yards). Kelly also had touchdown receptions of 20 and 70 yards
“Donte only needs a little bit of a crease and he goes,” said Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick. “He’s explosive and he’s the best player in the state of Connecticut. I’ll say that to anyone.”
Kelly started the scoring Friday night on a 20-yard pass by Ethan Nedinsky and, when the game resumed Saturday, caught another TD pass, this from 70 yards.
Over the span of the two days, Nedinsky completed 12 of 16 passes for 311 yards and five touchdowns, which tied the school single-game record. Along with the pair to Kelly, two scoring passes went to Marquis Ward (62 and 13 yards) and the other to Jesus Martell (80 yards).
“Their defense was pretty decent up front, but their defensive backs weren’t as strong, so I got the ball out to my playmakers and they did their thing,” Nedinsky said.
When the game was halted Friday night in the immediate wake of Zakkai Moore’s 4-yard TD run, Maloney led 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
When the game resumed Saturday, the rain held up, but the Spartans did not, scoring on their first drive on the 70-yard connection from Nedinsky to Kelly.
Trailing 21-0, East Hartford would not back down. Wide receiver Isaiah Tripp nabbed a 19-yard scoring pass from quarterback Drayvn Roberts to get the Hornets on the board with 15 seconds left in the half.
But then the Hornets made a mistake. They kicked off to Kelly, and the senior took it 80 yards for a touchdown, creasing the end zone with 1 second left on the clock for a 27-8 Maloney halftime lead.
“I just knew I had to bring it back to the end zone,” said Kelly. “That’s all we talked about as a team: We gotta take one back to the crib; our offense doesn’t need to go on to the field.”
Kelly doubled down on his words by taking the opening kickoff of the second half for an 86-yard touchdown.
The only time Kelly did not have an answer for the Hornets’ special teams was when he was asked why they continued to kick to him.
“I don’t even know,” he said. “I was thinking that myself.”
Frederick credited his special teams as a whole for its performance.
“As a unit, everyone did their jobs,” Frederick said. “As far as our scheme goes, I’m happy with the way that they performed.”
Following a failed fourth-down conversion attempt by East Hartford, Nedinsky connected with Martell for an 80-yard touchdown to make the score 41-8. Martell broke a few tackles on his way to the end zone.
“Ethan did a good job getting the ball out to his playmakers,” Frederick said. “He’s got guys who can run fast, and he knows how to get those guys the ball. I was really pleased with his performance today.”
Following an East Hartford touchdown, Nedinsky threw a 62-yard touchdown to Marquis Ward.
“Our playmakers are crazy; their speed is insane,” Nedinsky said. “All I’ve got to do is give the ball to them and they do the work.”
Despite Maloney dominating for much of the game, East Hartford’s offense woke in the fourth quarter, when the Hornets outscored the Spartans 22-7. The outburst was fueled by big runs by running backs Yaxier Rivera and Dallas West, who scored one touchdown from 63 yards out.
Frederick was not happy with what he saw.
“We’ve got to tackle better,” he said. “We came out here sluggish as far as tackling goes, so we’ve got to go back and assess the film and clean up some of our mistakes.”
Maloney goes on the road again to face Newington on Thursday. Frederick made it clear that they intend to win — in Week 2 and beyond.
“Our goal is to win a championship,” he said. “Every year at Maloney our goal is to win a championship. We play in a Tier 1 conference and play some good teams down the road, but we are going to take it one day at a time and keep getting better.”