FOOTBALL: Another pick-6 and more happy returns for Maloney

By Robert Gullo

SIMSBURY — Maloney improved to 2-0 on the season with a 35-13 CCC Tier I football victory over the Simsbury Trojans on Friday night.

The defense and special teams produced scores for a second straight week and senior quarterback Kyle Valentine completed 13 of 20 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns as the Spartans scored the final 22 points to bust a 13-13 tie. 

“I had a good performance, but there can always be better,” said Valentine. “I can prepare better, play better — everything. And now we have to prepare for next week. This week is over and we’ve got to focus going forward and have a good practice.”

Senior wide receiver Joziah Gonzalez caught seven balls for 103 yards and two touchdowns, with scores from 27 yards and 42.

Junior Donte Kelly added two touchdowns, one on each side of the ball, with a 37-yard reception and 40-yard interception return. Marquis Ward had a kickoff return that gave Maloney the lead for good.

“Every win we get is a great win, but never guaranteed,” said Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick. “Simsbury is a well-coached team. They’re coming off of a tough Week 1 loss. We knew we were going to get a good game from them.

“We had some blunders offensively, turning the ball over three times,” Frederick added. “We can’t be a state championship team again turning the ball over that many times, so we’ve got to make some improvements and keep getting better.”

Maloney made quick work of Simsbury on defense to start the game. After kicking off, the Spartans allowed just two rushing yards as they forced the Trojans to three-and-out.

The Maloney offense took the field and had a near flawless first drive. Valentine completed three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown to Gonzalez from 27 yards.

Senior running back Josh Boganski had three carries for nine yards on the opening drive as Maloney went up 7-0 with 8:16 left in the quarter. 

Maloney forced another three-and-out on defense and scored again on its second drive. Valentine hit Kelly for a 37-yard touchdown the put Maloney up 13-0. Valentine completed all four passes on the drive for 54 yards. 

Simsbury put up a fight and produced 13 unanswered points. 

On their third possession, the Trojans used 13 plays and marched 65 yards to score their first touchdown of the game. Noble Gongon did the dirty work on the drive, carrying the ball eight times for 28 yards.

Junior Jacob Isabel capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good and the score was 13-7. 

Right before the half ended, Simsbury got a key interception. Ravi Bhamidipati corraled a tipped pass and the Trojans took over at their own 32-yard line.

On the very next play, Charles Strayer connected with Austin Coiro on a 32-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 13 apiece with 38 seconds left in the half. 

Despite the tie, Frederick said the Spartans were never worried.

“We know what type of players are on this team,” the Maloney coach said. “We know we’re the better football team than them. We just weren’t executing and we knew we had to come out a little sharper in the second half, and we got the key kickoff return at the end of the half.”

Indeed, Maloney wouldn’t allow the game to be tied for more than a play. Ward returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown, crossing the field and breaking multiple tackles.

The extra point was good and the Spartans ended the half with a 20-13 lead.

The second half began with three straight possessions that produced no scores. Maloney drove down to Simsbury’s 13-yard line, but got stopped on 4th-and-goal. Simsbury was forced to punt on its first two drives.

Late in the third quarter, Maloney would go back up by two scores. Valentine threw his third touchdown pass of the night, finding his favorite target, Gonzalez, for a 42-yard touchdown pass after mishandling the snap.

Gonzalez broke a tackle and used two jukes to find the end zone. 

“Before the play starts, I just know that if I’m touching the ball I have to score, by all means necessary,” Gonzalez said. “In a situation like that, if you get the ball, you have to score. I got the ball and I scored.”

Gonzalez ran in the 2-point conversion and Maloney was back up by two touchdowns, 28-13. 

Maloney increased the lead to 35-13 on a 40-yard pick-six from Kelly with just over three minutes left in the game. 

To seal the deal, on Simsbury’s last drive, Jaden Vasquez intercepted a deep pass to end the game. 

The Spartans will be back on the road again next Friday, traveling to Darien in a big Alliance game, taking on the Blue Wave of the FCIAC at 6:30 p.m. 

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. This is right where we want the program to be,” said Frederick. “We’re playing Darien because we’re one of the best teams in the state and we have a great opportunity in front of us to play in front of a hostile environment, against a really good football team.

“We’re ready,” said Valentine. “We’ve wanted this ever since the schedule came out, but this week in practice is what’s going to determine Friday.”


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