MERIDEN — Following last week’s last-second loss on a field goal to No. 1-ranked Greenwich, the Maloney Spartans looked to bounce back with a CCC Tier 1 win against the Simsbury Trojans on Friday night at Falcon Field.
The Spartans won the battle in convincing fashion with a 35-0 shutout.
Relying heavily on the run on a night of torrential rain, the No. 4 Spartans got rushing touchdowns from Zakkai Moore, Donald Highsmith and Donte Kelly to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Tier 1.
Simsbury fell to 0-4 and 0-1.
The rain and wet field conditions posed a challenge to the Spartans on their opening drive. Maloney moved the chains behind Highsmith, but after a missed snap, the Spartans were forced to punt from their own 32-yard line.
The rain caused mishaps for both offenses. Simsbury senior running back Jacob Isabel took a handoff and immediately lost control of the football, but recovered it quickly to maintain the drive until the Maloney defense stood tall and forced a punt that was returned for 43 yards by senior Donte Kelly.
Kelly was moved from wide receiver to running back Friday due to the conditions. He was a one-two punch with Highsmith on the ground, one that proved too tough for the Trojans to contain. The duo consistently moved the chains in the first quarter.
“We’ve got to establish the run game, especially when we’re playing in the torrential rain,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “Those guys ran hard.”
And yet Maloney’s first touchdown came on a pass — a 27-yarder from Ethan Nedinsky to fellow junior Jesus Martell on the second drive. With the extra-point, the Spartans took a 7-0 lead with one minute left in the first quarter.
Maloney junior kicker Mark Whittington continued to show off his leg as he placed a 42-yard punt inside the Trojans 5-yard-line.
“I think the kicking game has been very valuable for us,” Frederick said. “Mark is a great punter and flips the field really nicely for us when we need him to punt. It makes it hard for the opposing offense to have to drive 80 or 90 yards, especially on our defense.”
The Spartans added to their lead after senior running back Zakkai Moore punched into the end zone from one yard out.
Back on the 1-yard line with under two minutes to play in the first half, Highsmith powered his way into the end zone to reinforce the lead to 21-0.
Maloney senior outside linebacker Nick Arroyo pounced on a loose ball, giving the Spartans another opportunity to score before the end of the half. The recovery paid off as Kelly juked around defenders and took a 22-yard run to the house for six.
The Spartans took a 28-0 lead into halftime.
From there, Maloney held possession for over nine minutes in the third quarter following an unsuccessful Simsbury drive. The Spartans took the ball inside the 20 after a twirling catch by Moore, keeping two feet in bounds, for 21 yards.
Moore finished the drive with an easy 3-yard touchdown, untouched, to make it 35-0.
The Trojans stuck to the ground game for the remainder of the fourth quarter and moved the chains every three downs. Eventually, the progress was put to a halt by the Spartan defense, which forced a turnover on downs in the red zone to solidify the win.
Next Friday, Maloney travels to Glastonbury (2-2). The Spartans will be looking for a bounce-back win there, as well. Last year, after the Spartans became Connecticut’s No. 1-ranked team with a win over Southington, Glastonbury knocked them off at Falcon Field.
“Glastonbury is always a tough team,” Frederick said. “They ruined our Senior Night last year, so we’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. We're looking to go into Glastonbury and take what they took from us last year.”