PLAYOFF FOOTBALL: Maloney puts the wraps on Rosa and BC; Masuk up next in Sunday semifinals

MERIDEN — In its quest to be one of Connecticut’s best high school football teams, Maloney had to get past one of the state’s most dynamic players Tuesday night.

Mission accomplished.

The No. 3-seeded Spartans frustrated BC senior standout Victor Rosa into making four first-half turnovers en route to a 49-14 victory Tuesday night at Falcon Field in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals.

With the convincing win, and an upset elsewhere, Maloney (10-1) will host Sunday’s semifinal against Masuk, the No. 7 seed. Masuk beat No. 2 Naugatuck 20-17 in another Class L quarterfinal Tuesday night.

Maloney’s Angel Arce threw four touchdown passes — three on his first seven completions — to pace the Spartans’ offense and, in doing so, broke the Maloney record for career touchdown passes with 48.

Arce finished 10-for-12 for 159 yards. His fourth touchdown — a 15-yard fade to Ian Graham in the end zone — four plays into the third quarter gave the Spartans a 42-14 lead.

Josh Boganski’s 7-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the frame accounted for the final score. Boganski led the Spartans with 152 yards rushing.

“It felt good; we knew what we needed to do (against Victor),” Arce said. “We just came out and knew every time he scored, we had to answer back or it would be a ballgame. We didn’t want it to get to that.”

Rosa finished with 128 yards on 29 carries. But he had just 99 through three quarters against the Maloney starters.

Rosa came into the game with 2,598 rushing yards and 39 rushing TDs. He’d also thrown for eight TDs and nearly 737 yards.

However, against Maloney, the UConn commit — playing in front of new UConn head coach Jim Mora, who was at Falcon Field on Tuesday — was forced to throw the ball more than he wanted to. 

And while the running quarterback, who took direct snaps out of the Wildcat formation, did score his 40th and 41st rushing touchdowns of the season to keep the Rams (9-2) within striking distance in the first half, his three first-half interceptions fueled the Spartans.

Maloney’s Rashawn Shelton picked off Rosa twice in the first half. One was a pick-6 on the second play of the second quarter, and it gave the Spartans a 28-6 lead.

“He’s a great athlete; all respect to him,” Shelton said of Rosa. “But when he threw the ball, I knew I was the one who had to get it. That was a key to the game.

“He makes things happen with his feet,” Shelton added.

Rosa also fumbled on the game’s second play, as the Spartans’ forced four turnovers in the first half. On the season, Maloney now has 27 interceptions.

“Our defense has been lights-out all year,” Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick said. “Nobody ever talks about (the defense), which is kind of good for us. The defense has been under the radar.”

And as far as containing Rosa?

“We had to get 11 hats to the ball,” said Frederick. “He’s a dynamic player; he’s the best high school football player I’ve ever seen.”

Maloney scored on its only two possessions of the third quarter to lead by 35 and institute the CIAC’s running clock throughout the fourth quarter.

Arce threw two touchdowns to both Graham and fellow senior Austin Studley.

Both of Studley’s catches in the first half went for scores, while Graham scored his first touchdown on the Spartans’ fourth play from scrimmage.

Maloney led 14-0 with 3:59 to play in the opening period on a 1-yard run by Kenny McMillian.

Rosa threw two interceptions before his first completion.

His third interception was picked off by Shelton and returned 34 yards for a 28-6 Maloney lead with 10:50 to play in the first half.

Maloney turned three first-quarter turnovers into a 21-6 lead. Arce threw two touchdown passes in the frame, while McMillian scored from one yard out.

Rosa scored on a 59-yard touchdown run to get the Rams within 14-6.

Rosa’s first completion was a big one. He hit Damion Glasper for a 50-yard completion on third down, setting up the Rams at the Spartans’ 10. He then scored from two yards out to get the Rams within 28-14 with 3:59 to play in the half.

Arce, however, found Studley from 28 yards out to put the Spartans back up 35-14 with 1:31 left in the half.

Tuesday night was the 61st meeting of the long-time Central Connecticut Conference foes, who didn’t play during the regular season.

Taking direct snap out of a Wildcat formation, much like previous BC standouts Tim Washington and D.J. Henderson did, Rosa was a one-man offense as BC averaged 37.8 points and over 400 yards of offense a game in the regular season.

The Spartans were up to the task of containing Rosa from the opening kickoff. Maloney won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half and put its defense on the field.

Graham and his defensive mates started what would turn into a long night for Rosa and the Rams. Graham had three tackles for loss, as the speedy Spartans continually forced Rosa to run laterally.

The Spartans took a 7-0 lead after Rosa collided with a teammate on a botched play and fumbled on the game’s opening possession.

Graham caught Arce’s first touchdown pass, a 28-yarder just under three minutes into the game. Graham caught the ball at the 15 and shook off two would-be tacklers to score.

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