MERIDEN — It’s been a long, challenging road, but Platt and Maloney will be playing 11-on-11 tackle football on Saturday.
Independent from the Platt and Maloney athletic departments, the rivals will kick off at Falcon Field at 4 p.m.
A maximum of 150 fans will be allowed to attend. The vast majority of the tickets will be sold in advance, Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said a small number may be available at the gate.
“Obviously, it’s an exciting time for football in Meriden,” Platt football coach Jason Bruenn said Friday. “We’re excited to play football in Meriden. It’s weird to play Maloney in the first game, but that’s not going to take anything away from us playing.”
Last month, the CIAC, acting on the recommendation of the state Department of Public Health, canceled its traditional football season for the fall of 2020 and later set up a potential alternative season that would run from mid-February to mid-April.
The Meriden football teams, in pursuing an independent route for tackle football this fall, needed to get approval from the city to hold football games, then needed approval from the Board of Education to use school equipment and facilities. They were successful in getting approval for both.
“We are looked at as leaders now,” Frederick said. “I’ve had coaches from New York and New Jersey calling me and planning ahead in case they have to move on independently.
“We called our city officials and Board of Education members and we were able to show our plan and make it safe,” the Maloney coach continued. “They listened to us. Other places didn’t take that approach. We ruffled some feathers, but this has been a lot of work. Outside of my job, it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. It has consumed me, but we’ve gotten results.”
Frederick said the support from the city, the school board and Superintendent Mark Benigni has been invaluable for the football players to be taking the field.
“It takes a team effort,” Frederick said. “The support from the Board of Education and the support of the superintendent has been huge. This wouldn’t have been possible without that. We are all in debt to them. The kids are thankful. They’ve been through a lot. We are trying to make things as normal as possible for the kids. This is valuable experience for the kids to have.”
On the field, it should be a good one. Both squads are celebrating Senior Night and the contest features two of the best running backs in the state in Platt’s Roberto Salas and Maloney’s James Tarver. Both were All-State Class L and Walter Camp All-Connecticut Second Team as juniors.
Salas set single-game Platt records with six TDs and 36 points last Nov. 15 at Manchester en route to a 2,062-yard season, which ranks second in the city record book to the 2,134 Tyzhan Leatherwood gained for Platt in 2014.
Tarver rushed for a single-season Maloney record 1,955 yards a year ago He was the MVP of the 2019 Stoddard Bowl with five TDs and 287 yards in a 42-6 Maloney win.
Bruenn said his Panthers look strong.
“The team looks very promising,” Bruenn said. “We have 65 players, freshmen through seniors. But I’m just happy we get to play.”
Salas and senior center Clayton Bruenn are the team captains.
Platt’s projected starters on offense are: LT Andres Salas, LG Ryan Baustein, C Clayton Bruenn, RG Roy Almanzar, RT Chris Peach, RB Roberto Salas, QB Blaise Lanoue, TE Seth Morris, WR Antwone Santiago, WR Theo Watkins and WR Isaiah Felton
Platt projected starters on defense are: DE Noah Chambers, DT Andres Salas, NT Ryan Baustein, DE Isaiah Felton, MLB Seth Morris, LB Jasiah Cooper, OLB Reggie Darkah, OLB Shamar Mason, CB Theo Watkins, CB Brandon Carrion and S Antwone Santiago.
Trent D'aniello will do all of the kicking for the Panthers.
“It’s exciting to do something we should be able to do,” Bruenn said. “The kids see other kids playing football in other states. We should be playing football. It’s great to get the kids on the field.”
This is the second game for Maloney. The Spartans downed Amity 33-10 last Friday night at Falcon Field.
“We look good,” Frederick said. “I thought we were sloppy last week. We had the ball in the red zone three different times and didn’t score. That’s something we will look to improve on. We want to go out and get it against Platt. I’m so excited that our seniors will get a chance to play their cross-town rivals.”
The Maloney captains are Josh Pelletier, Damian Vargas, James Tarver and Ethan Hicks.
Maloney’s projected offensive starters are: LT Ethan Hicks, LG Damian Vargas, C Josh Pelletier, RG Jose Rosado, RT Luke Falis, QB Angel Arce, RB James Tarver, WR Ian Graham, WR Rayshawn Shelton, TE Jack Fitzgerald, WR Jeremiah Williams and WR Joziah Gonzalez.
Projected starters on defense are: DT Tristhan Garib, DT Travis Wright, DE Nathan McCabe, DE Daejon Nixon, DL John Veras, LB Anthony Hawkins, LB Xavian Brown, LB Sean Finn, OLB Kuron Wiggins, CB Tylee Flowers, CB Johnny Rosado, S Josiah Gonzalez, S Ian Graham.
Jaden Myles will handle the kicking.
“We have some really good senior leadership,” Frederick said. “The team commitment has been phenomenal through this. We learned how to deal with adversity and how to communicate with others that may disagree with your opinion. The whole situation is a life lesson. It’s not just about football. These guys will take some of those lessons when they graduate to the real world.”