THANKSGIVING FOOTBALL: Maloney takes the Stoddard Bowl back, and now moves on

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MERIDEN — The 2019 Stoddard Bowl belongs to Maloney.

The playoff-bound Spartans were dominant on Thanksgiving morning in coming through with a 42-6 victory over Platt on a wind-swept, sun-drenched Falcon Field.

Maloney avenged a loss to Platt in the 2018 Stoddard Bowl and broke a 30-30-1 Thanksgiving series stalemate.

Platt finished its season at 4-6. Maloney, now 9-1, moves on to the Class L quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Berlin on Tuesday at Falcon Field.

“Great win,” Maloney coach Kevin Fredrick said. “It was a dominating performance from start to finish. We had a great week preparing for them. They are always a tough team on Thanksgiving. We’re just happy we got the W.”

The Spartans were led by James Tarver. The junior running back scored five touchdowns and racked up 287 yards on 32 carries and was named the 62nd Stoddard Bowl MVP.

Maloney built a 28-6 at the half behind three TD runs by Tarver of 2, 3 and 46 yards. He added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 37 and 71 yards.

“I’ve got to give my linemen all of the credit in the world,” Tarver said. “I love them for all of the hard work they put in. Now we just have to get ready for the playoffs.”

Maloney had four big defensive/special teams plays in the first half that helped break it open early. Trevor Santiago and Stone Deleon blocked punts. Deleon also recovered a fumble and Sergio Muniz capped the half with an interception.

The rivals were still scoreless midway through the first quarter when Tarver ripped off a 31-yard run and then a 15-yarder to set the Spartans up first-and-goal at the Platt 3.

Tarver, however, fumbled and Platt’s Cristian Calero jumped on the loose ball.

Maloney defense held the Panthers 3-and-out and kept them pinned back. Deleon partially blocked the ensuing punt and Maloney took over at the Platt 19. Three plays later, Tarver ripped into the end zone up the middle from two yards out.

Jaden Myles booted the extra point and Maloney went on top 7-0 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.

That lead would double in 53 seconds. Platt star running Roberto Salas fumbled on the first play of Platt’s next drive. Kody Talento forced it and Deleon recovered.

“I wanted this game since my freshman year,” Talento said. “I wanted to go out with a bang in my senior year and get this trophy back on our side.”

Deleon, a sophomore transfer from Middletown High, collected the Underclassmen Award following the game.

“I wasn’t expecting that blocked punt, but I did it,” Deleon said. “This win felt good. Transferring in, everyone was talking about how big this game was. Now I understand.” 

Maloney sophomore QB Angel Arce (11-for-23, 154 yards) started Maloney’s next drive with a 43-yard pass down the left sideline to his top target Kamron Moreno (6 catches, 68 yards).

The toss set up a 3-yard TD run by Tarver up the middle as the Spartans went up 14-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

Salas put the fumble behind him quickly. His next carry was a 74-yard TD run down the left sideline.

He was sprung free on a block by All-State senior guard Jaylen John. The sprint to the end zone brought the Panthers to) within 14-6 following a missed PAT.

Salas was a workhorse for Platt throughout. He eclipsed 2,000 yards on the season with a 180-yard performance on 29 carries.

“He’s a steady runner and he’s going to give you everything he’s got every time he’s out there,” Platt coach Jason Bruenn said.

The Panthers sustained momentum by stopping an ensuing nine-play Maloney drive on downs, but they got no closer on the scoreboard. Maloney defense continued its strong first half with another 3-and-out.

Maloney padded its lead to 21-6 with a 46-yard TD run to the right by Tarver with 6:38 left in the second quarter.

Platt’s next punt was blocked by Santiago and it led to another Maloney touchdown just before the break.

The Spartans faced two fourth downs on this drive. On a fourth-and-5 from the 30, Deleon caught an 11-yard pass from Arce.

Later on the drive, Arce tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Ian Graham with 28 seconds left in the first half. That play came on fourth-and-7 and put the Spartans up 28-6 at the half.

Muniz, who was named the Anthony Panciera Defensive MVP, capped the first 24 minutes with a pick with seven seconds left.

“I couldn’t have been the defensive MVP if it wasn’t my teammates and coaches,” Muniz said. “I did what I was taught to do and I did what we practiced all week.”

The rivals played a scoreless third quarter. Muniz collected his second interception of the game with 5:11 left in the frame. John had a big sack for the Panthers.

Tarver finished the scoring with a 37-yard TD with 8:11 left in the fourth and broke off a 71-yarder with 1:57 left to make it a 42-6 final.

“Maloney’s a good team and they won the game,” Bruenn said. “They played very well and they are going to go to the playoffs.”

Thursday’s win also earned Maloney a share of the CCC Division II West crown with Wethersfield. Both the Spartans and Eagles went 4-1 in division play.

Before the game, former Maloney Stoddard Bowl MVP Richard Neils and late Platt athletic director Ben Zajac were recognized as the 2019 Stoddard Bowl honorees.

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