MERIDEN — The Wilcox-Kaynor Tech Co-op closed its 2022 football season in a monster way Wednesday night that was equal parts Frankenstein and Dracula, but no Mummy.
There was nothing quiet about it and nothing was kept under wraps, especially Brandon Alvarado.
Rampaging on offense and draining their victim dry on defense, the Wildcats routed VG Techs 51-2 in the Route 66 Bowl at Falcon Field.
The Wilcox-Kaynor elder statesmen celebrated Senior Night during pre-game, then went out and dominated, building a 49-2 lead by halftime with five touchdowns in the second quarter.
Alvarado led the way. The senior from Meriden signed off on his career rushing for four touchdowns and 221 yards on just six carries.
He also turned an imminent VG Techs touchdown into a touchback by forcing a fumble at the goalline.
Raysean Emrie added two rushing touchdowns, Antonio Mejil swept home for one and kicker Nick Barros capped it all with six extra-points and a 27-yard field goal.
The victory was the Wildcats’ most one-sided of the season and it gave them a final record of 5-5 under first-year head coach Alonzo Relaford. This was the program’s first non-losing season since going 5-5 in the inaugural varsity campaign of 2007.
“I’m just happy and proud,” said Relaford. “They played the whole time. We put in the JV and the JV played the whole time. Nobody did their own thing; they played as a unit.
“I’m just looking forward to next year with the young guys and what we have coming back.”
Indeed, there will be a next year for Wilcox-Kaynor. Co-ops run in two-year cycles, and 2022 was the second season for the football Wildcats.
Wilcox Athletic Director Steve Wodarski said Wednesday night that Wilcox and Kaynor will extend their football union into 2023 even though the combined numbers of the program exceed the CIAC maximum for co-ops.
The cost is not being eligible for the state playoffs, one the Wildcats will willingly pay.
“I don’t mind because it’s not about that,” said Relaford. “It’s about making sure these guys learn about football and everything else. They’re learning how to go about their regular lives. This is just a guide. You can’t be late for work, so you can’t be late for practice. If you don’t show up for work, you don’t get paid. You don’t show up to practice, you don’t play.
“We try to coach football like its life. You’ve got to be responsible for what you do,” Relaford continued. “That’s why I couldn’t care less about posteason. As long as these guys are enjoying themselves and they’re getting better, that’s all that matters.”
The seniors took their time exiting Falcon Field on Wednesday night. There were no lack of photos taken with the Route 66 Bowl trophy underneath a scoreboard reading 51-2.
Alvarado goes out with his name in the program record book. The four touchdowns on Wednesday night gave him 17 on the season and 23 for his career, breaking the old team marks of 16 (season) and 18 (career) set in 2018 by Devario Reid.
Reid (1,365) and Alvarado (1,241) are the only two backs in Wilcox history to go over 1,000 yards in a season. Reid, though, did it on exactly twice as many carries (212-106). Reid also remains the Wilcox career rushing leader with 1,644 yards to Alvarado’s 1,586.
In his finale, Alvarado pretty much could not be tackled. He broke free for scoring runs of 35, 44, 80 and 36 yards and made it look easy.
On his first run of the night, Alvarado essentially stopped himself, gaining 18 yards before fumbling (Wilcox recovered). His other carry went for 14 yards.
And yet Alvarado’s highlight reel play arguably came on defense. VG Techs had just hit for a halfback option pass that was going for a 44-yard touchdown until Alvarado jetted over from his free safety’s position and popped the ball out of the receiver’s hands from behind.
It bounded through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Three plays later, after the VG Techs kickoff, Alvarado was bounding 80 yards to the other end zone for a 34-2 lead midway through the second quarter.
“He has it; he has what it takes. He sees what he needs to do,” Relaford said of Alvarado. “And he’s coachable. He never argues. I tell him something, he just gets it done.”
In some respects, Relaford is just getting payback on an investment.
“Freshman year, I didn’t really play. Since Coach Alonzo came along, he really upped my confidence,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t really have a lot of confidence (against) bigger guys. I started hitting the gym. He gave me a chance.”
VG Techs, on the other hand, had no chance Wednesday night. With a roster about half the size of Wilcox-Kaynor’s and a record of 0-9, the die seemed cast even before kickoff.
And, in exactly 1:31, it was. The Wildcats came up with turnovers on each of VG Techs’ first two snaps and turned them into short-field touchdowns. Emrie took a toss right home from six yards out and Alvarado rambled in from 35, bumping outside left and side-stepping the last defender at the goalline.
VG Techs did respond with its one sustained drive of the game, rambling 52 yards in 15 plays and converting a pair of third-and-longs along the way before hitting a wall at the Wilcox-Kaynor.
Specifically, that wall was No. 70, senior defensive end Brandon Monteiro, who devoured a sweep play for a seven-yard loss. It was one of eight tackles for Monteiro, who also forced a fumble.
In all, the Wilcox-Kaynor defense recovered three fumbles, picked off one pass and made three stops on fourth down.
At least that’s what the Wildcats did in the first half. The second was played on running time and by the home team’s second units.
Senior defensive end Connor Fletcher, junior inside linebacker Pat LaChance and freshman defensive back Brady Kennedy had the fumble recoveries. Junior outside linebacker Juan Coral snared the interception.
VG Techs produced its lone points on defense in the first quarter in the wake of Wilcox-Kaynor’s stop on downs in the red zone. A loss of four yards on a run and a loss of five more on a false start pushed the Wildcats back to the 5. A subsequent high snap, which Wilcox-Kaynor fell upon in the end zone, produced the safety.
A momentary blip. The second quarter arrived and the Wildcats cranked out five straight touchdowns to turn a 13-2 ballgame into a 48-2 rout.
It had been a marathon first half, pushing nearly two hours. Halftime was just 10 minutes. The second half, on running time, was exactly 24. And with that, Wilcox Tech’s long march back to .500 was complete.
Now the departing seniors hand off the reins.
“I think we left the season exactly how we should have: 5-5, perfect .500; it leaves a lot of room for improvement and little room for failure,” said Fletcher, the defensive end. “I think next year they’re going to have a great season. We have some great players that are on the JV team and they had a real good season.
“The coaching is excellent,” Fletcher added. “I think me and all the seniors left a great imprint on these younger guys and they’re going to do amazing next year.”
Another senior captain, Carlos Lorenzo, a two-way lineman at center and defensive tackle, is happy the Wildcats’ two-way connection will remain intact.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Lorenzo said. “A lot of co-op schools don’t have a good, strong bond, but Wilcox-Kaynor, our bond together is amazing. Sometimes you forget one person goes to Wilcox, one person goes to Kaynor.
“We’re just like family,” Lorenzo added. “We don’t treat anyone different. We just love each other and have a great communication together.”
So they’ll talk some more next season, though as Relaford reminded the returning underclassmen on Wednedsay night: offseason weight training starts in just a few weeks, and now is the time to boost any sagging grades.
“If I don’t yell at you, that’s a problem. If I don’t talk to you, that’s a problem. If I’m constantly on you, it’s because I know you’ve got something on you,” Relaford told his team in the post-game huddle. “Do you understand?”
“YES, COACH!” was the answer, in unison, nothing quiet about it.