FOOTBALL: The calm before the storm? No, friends, the storm’s already unleashed

MERIDEN — Worried that the Maloney football team graduated too many weapons over the past two years?

Don’t be. The Spartans still have plenty of firepower.

In their season opener against East Hartford, the Spartans put up eight touchdowns and 327 yards in a 55-38 victory.

Shining particularly bright was senior Donte Kelly. With four touchdowns — two receiving, two on kick returns — Kelly served notice that he is one of the state’s most dynamic playmakers.

Kelly accounted for roughly a third of junior quarterback Ethan Nedinsky’s passing output (12-for-16, 311 yards, 5 TDs), making four receptions for 120 yards, including TDs of 20 and 70 yards.

His kickoff returns were from 80 and 82 yards — one to end the first half, one to start the second.

“Donte only needs a little bit of a crease and he goes,” as Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick told the R-J’s Kwame Colecraft. “He’s explosive and he’s the best player in the state of Connecticut. I’ll say that to anyone.”

Junior Jesus Martell and senior Marquis Ward also had a day — well, two days; the game started Friday and concluded Saturday after being suspended by lightning. Martell hauled in four passes for 110 yards, including an 80-yard TD. Ward turned his two receptions into scores of 62 and 13 yards.

Bottom line: When the Spartans get the ball in space, they are lethal. All that could halt the Spartans in East Hartford was the weather.

Speaking of which, at the risk of enticing Hurricane Lee to take a sharp and sudden left-hand turn, Week 2 is the calm before the storm of Week 3, which will feature Greenwich, the reigning Class LL champ and current No. 1, squaring off with Maloney at Falcon Field next Friday, Sept. 22. The same night, Southington hosts Staples.

Both the Blue Knights and Spartans rank high. Southington is No. 2 in the GameTime CT media poll and No. 4 in the Hartford Courant coaches poll. Maloney stands No. 3 with the media and No. 5 with the coaches.

Both locals moved up with so many teams ranked in the preseason Top 10 getting beat in Week 1, including Staples, which lost 33-23 to West Haven, which spring-boarded into the top four.

While eyes scan ahead to Week 3, Week 2 should see some gems, too, especially in the Southern Connecticut Conference, where Cheshire hosts Shelton tonight and Sheehan takes on North Haven at Lyman Hall on Saturday night.

The games are spread out across four days due to field availability, weather and Rosh Hashanah.


Shelton (1-0) at Cheshire (1-0), Maclary Athletic Complex, 6 p.m.

Matchup: SCC Tier 1.

Last Week: Both impressed in Alliance games against FCIAC squads. Shelton knocked off defending Class L champ New Canaan 26-23. Cheshire rolled in Ridgefield 39-10.

The History: This is the 60th meeting between the old Housatonic League rivals. With last year’s 34-14 win over CHS, Shelton leads the all-time series 33-26.

The Skinny: This baby stands to be one of the best matchups of Week 2. Kanye Tinney’s sprung Shelton against New Canaan by returning the opening kick for a touchdown. About the same time in Ridgefield, Matt Jeffery was springing the Rams with a 73-yard TD reception from Aniston Marsh on Cheshire’s first play from scrimmage.

With the wins, both teams moved into the Top 10 in the state polls — Shelton at No. 3 with the coaches and No. 4 with the media, Cheshire at No. 9 in both.

Lyman Hall (0-1) at Wilbur Cross (0-1), at Wilbur Cross Athletic Complex, 6 p.m.

Matchup: SCC crossover.

Last Week: Both teams got rocked — Lyman Hall 41-0 by Guilford, Cross 45-0 by Norwalk.

The History: This is the first meeting between the Tier 2 Governors and Tier 3 Trojans since 2015, when Cross won 50-20.

The Skinny: Both teams are badly in need of a bounce-back after getting bloodied on opening night. The big question for LH will be the availability of senior RB/OLB Cristian Roman-Koenig, who left the Guilford game in the second quarter with a knee injury.

Maloney (1-0) at Newington (1-0), at Alumni Field, 6:30 p.m.

Matchup: CCC crossover.

Last Week: While Maloney was winning by 17, the Nor’easters were clipping Westhill, 26-25.

The History: Maloney beat Newington 28-23 a year ago and leads the all-time series 18-13-1.

The Skinny: Newington beat Westhill on Enzo Corvino’s touchdown pass in the final minute. It was the junior QB’s second TD toss of the night. Corvino also ran for a TD.


Tolland (1-0) at Platt (0-0), at Falcon Field, 6:30 p.m.

Matchup: CCC crossover.

Last Week: Platt was leading its Tier 3 game with Rocky Hill 7-0 midway through the second quarter when lightning intervened. A dire forecast kept it from being completed Monday. It’s likely to be finished in a mutual bye week in mid-October. No such delayed gratification for Tolland. The Eagles topped Plainville 22-16 in a Tier 4 game.

The History: Platt and Tolland share a line in the state record book for the 12 leads they exchanged on Oct. 22, 2011. Tolland won that game, 45-44. Platt leads the series, 4-2. This is the first meeting since Platt’s 37-7 victory in 2014.

The Skinny: Joel Rey had TD run to account for Platt’s points against Rocky Hill. Should junior QB Melvin Sanchez and the Panthers go up top tonight, they need to keep an eye out for Tolland’s Eamon Sheehan. He picked off two passes and broke up a touchdown bid on the final play against Plainville.


North Haven (0-1) at Sheehan (1-0), at Lyman Hall, 6 p.m.

Matchup: SCC crossover.

Last Week: North Haven forfeited to Darien; Sheehan throttled Ledyard 42-10.

The History: North Haven defeated Sheehan 28-14 in 2019, one of just two losses sustained by the Titans in their match to that year’s Class S state championship. North Haven leads the all-time series 25-12.

The Skinny: North Haven, the reigning Class MM state champ, forfeited to Darien in order to investigate a “incident involving some of our student athletes,” the details of which were not disclosed other than that it was reported to town police and the state Department of Children and Families. The investigation completed, North Haven resumed practice Wednesday.

Sheehan, meanwhile, had everything working in its season opener— relentless rushing from Brady Rossacci (29-212) and efficient passing from Paul Gorry (6-8, 135), who both operated behind a stout line, and a defense that shut down Ledyard’s triple option.

This will be great test for the Titans. The Tier 1 Nighthawks, with their trademark single-wing, are a long-time Sheehan nemesis and one of the SCC’s best.

Thames River (0-1) at Wilcox/Kaynor Tech (1-0), at Falcon Field, 6 p.m.

Matchup: CTC.

Last Week: Thames River went out of conference and fell to Fitch, 26-7. Wilcox/Kaynor edged O’Brien Tech in Ansonia, 7-6.

The History: Thames River leads, 5-1.

The Skinny: Thames River is a co-op comprising Norwich Tech, St. Bernard and host Grasso Tech. While the squad is infamously known for its 50-0 Class MM playoff loss last year to North Haven, Thames River did lay waste to the CTC in the 2022 regular season, including a 55-7 whipping of Wilcox/Kaynor. No doubt the Wildcats have not forgotten.


Southington (1-0) at Wethersfield (0-0), at Cottone Field, 2 p.m.

Matchup: CCC crossover.

Last week: Southington shook off early struggles to fly past New Britain, 44-23; Wethersfield finally got in its season opener with Hall on Tuesday, falling 35-14.

The History: This marks the first time the Blue Knights and Eagles have ever meet in football.

The Skinny: That Tuesday meeting between Wethersfield and Hall is why this contest was moved from Friday to Sunday. There’s no way Wethersfield would have been able to turn around and play Southington on two day’s rest.

The flip side is, a Sunday game gives Southington two less days to prepare for its Week 3 showdown with Staples.

Southington brings its air assault to Wethersfield after racking up 398 passing yards and five passing TDs behind senior QB C.J. DiBenedetto and his cadre of receivers. The Blue Knights hit big even with Evan Anderson on the sidelines still recovering from a knee injury.


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