MERIDEN — Special teams were front and center in Maloney's 41-14 CCC Tier I football win over Hall on Friday night at Falcon Field.
After Hall won the opening coin toss and deferred, Maloney muffed the opening kickoff and Hall recovered at the opposing 30. The Spartans defense stood their ground and forced a quick turnover on downs.
The second half started with an onside kick by Maloney which the Spartans successfully recovered. Six plays later senior Joziah Gonzalez was in the end zone on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
About a minute later, Gonzalez found himself in the end zone again, this time on a 67-yard punt return. On the play, Gonzalez made a series of jukes to get out of trouble and raced down the right sideline followed by a wall of Maloney blockers. It made the score 27-7.
Each side of the ball contributed to continue Maloney’s perfect start to the season. The Spartans now stand at 4-0.
“We have a great kicker. The onside kick was something we were looking at all week. We saw some things on their kick return that we wanted to exploit and attack,” Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick said of his special teams unit. “[Gonzalez] made a big spark play with that punt return. He's special. When the ball is in his hands, good things happen.”
After the opening stop on downs, the Spartans’ defense forced five more turnovers on downs and halted two more Hall possessions with interceptions.
In the first half, the only Hall drive that didn't end on a turnover was a 36-yard touchdown pass on a streak down the right sideline in which the Hall receiver made an acrobatic diving catch against his defender to cut the score to 13-7.
A 70-yard touchdown pass on a deflection in the second half was the other Hall touchdown. Other than that, the Maloney defense made every play it needed to.
“Speed kills,” Frederick said of the continued success of the defense. “We have good team speed. Guys know their assignments and they get to the football.”
Gonzalez had a huge night, adding an 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 34-7. In addition, he intercepted a pass and had a few noticeable big hits.
The Maloney offense in the first half was kept moving primarily by senior running back Josh Boganski and his offensive line.
On the Spartans’ opening drive, Boganski carried the ball six times for 45 yards and capped it off with an 8-yard touchdown run.
Then, on the second drive, Boganski did it again with six more carries and a 4-yard touchdown run up the middle.
He ended the night with 27 carries for 117 yards and two TDs.
“It was like a party out there,” Boganski said. “Every single play the offensive line had a wide-open gap for me.”
Maloney quarterback Kyle Valentine had an efficient, but quiet first half with just 58 passing yards. He got louder in the second half, throwing 33- and 80-yard touchdowns to Gonzalez as well as a 54-yard touchdown on a perfectly placed deep ball over the secondary to senior Amir Phillips.
That last touchdown sealed the victory with about eight minutes left after Hall scored the 70-yard touchdown on the previous drive.
Valentine has had an inconsistent start to the season, but looked confident against Hall, throwing it deep often to try and extend the lead in the second half.
The Spartans have won 16 straight games dating back to last season’s run to the Class L state championship. They look to continue their success in Newington next Friday.