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FOOTBALL: Maloney lowers quick boom in East Hartford, looks to finish job Saturday

EAST HARTFORD — To be continued …

The Maloney football team’s season-opener started Friday night, but will finish Saturday morning. 

After two weather delays due to persistent thunderstorms, and with the Spartans up 14-0 midway through the second quarter, Maloney’s 2023 opener at East Hartford was postponed until Saturday.

The CCC Tier 1 teams will return to East Hartford’s turf field at 10 a.m. and pick up where they left off. Having just scored to take a 14-0 lead, Maloney will kick off to the Hornets with 6:57 left in the first half.

“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick said. “But this is a different type of element. We’ve never started a game and then had to come back and finish it.

“We just have to keep grinding,” Frederick added.

The game was affected by Mother Nature all night. Originally scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., Maloney and East Hartford had to wait in their respective locker rooms during a 95-minute delay due to impending thunderstorms. 

The Spartans, however, showed in less than a half of action why they are considered one the state’s top teams. Maloney, which returned to the CIAC Class L title game last season a year after winning it all, was ranked No. 5 in the GameTime CT preseason Top 10.

On Friday, after waiting out a thunderstorm, the Spartans needed all of 47 seconds to strike.

Junior quarterback Ethan Nedinsky hit senior captain Donte Kelly on a perfect fade to the corner of the end zone. The touchdown came after East Hartford fumbled on its first possession.

“It was pretty hard (to wait),” Kelly said. “We were hyped up in the locker room for all that time. We wanted to come out in the first game and show what we were about.”

Kelly, one of the Spartans’ returning All-State players, nearly scored again in the first quarter. But after hauling in another Nedinsky pass and breaking a pair of tackles, Kelly was tripped up from behind while running free across the middle of the East Hartford secondary.

Kelly caught three Nedisnky passes for 50 yards.

“Donte is a stud; he’s a hard-worker,” Frederick said. “He’s put the work in during the offseason and he’s a special, dynamic player.

“We wanted to get him the rock, and he got us off to a great start,” Frederick added.

The game finally started at 8:05 p.m., but was again delayed in the second quarter when lighting returned. It was during the second delay, when persistent lightning in the area continued to flash around the East Hartford field, that officials decided to postpone the game until Saturday.

Per CIAC rules, high school football games are stopped for at least 30 minutes once lightning is seen in the area. On Friday night, lightning returned around the Hartford area during Maloney’s second touchdown drive.

Maloney weathered a few opening-night mistakes, but was in control of the game when Mother Nature interrupted things.

Maloney senior cornerback Marquise Ward provided the defensive highlight by jumping an out-route to intercept a pass. Donald Highsmith also came up with a big sack on fourth-and-goal.

A steady rain returned midway through the second quarter and preceded the lightning.

After East Hartford was stopped on downs, Maloney went 45 yards on just four plays (all on the ground) to take its 14-0 lead on Zakkai Moore’s 4-yard touchdown run.

Two touchdowns on four possessions. Scoring both through the air and on the ground. The way Maloney scored wasn’t lost on Frederick.

“I always say we want to be as balanced as possible,” Frederick said. “We pride ourselves on that.” 

The Spartans will continue their quest Saturday to reach a third straight state championship game and fourth in five seasons. Maloney played in the 2018 state title game, won the city’s first state title in football in 2021 and lost to New Canaan 16-13 in last year’s Class L championship game.

The Spartans are 71-22 under Frederick, who started his ninth season Friday night in charge of Maloney. The Spartans were 11-2 last season.


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