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COLLEGE BEAT: Labor of love! Area athletes deliver sharp season-opening performances

In case you missed it, Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes weren’t the only team in action this weekend. The 2023 fall collegiate season opened across the land and across the board, Division I to Division III.

Locally, a number of games were highlighted by strong performances, both in victory and defeat, from area athletes.

In football, Jack Barnum launched his Central Connecticut State career by connecting on three field goals and five PATs, while fellow Southington native Billy Carr backboned Springfield College’s victory over Western New England in a game that featured local players on both squads.

In soccer, Meriden natives Devin Juan and Kevin Cortez were instrumental in victories for their New Haven schools — Juan at Southern, Cortz at Albertus Magnus — while Southington’s Morgan Hubert had goals in each of Endicott’s opening contests up in Beverly, Mass.

Also, Connecticut’s 2022 Volleyball Player of the Year, Avery Mola of Cheshire, made a smooth transition to the next level at Regis College, while another former Lady Ram, Meghan Georgescu, is the Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week in the Little East for Eastern Connecticut.

It was a busy and productive couple of days. Here’s the rundown.


Central Connecticut put up 44 points on AIC Saturday night at Arute Field. Jack Barnum accounted for 14 of them with his right foot.

The sophomore from Southington, who transferred to New Britain from Albany, made his CCSU debut by going 3-for-3 on field goals and 5-for-5 on extra points in the 44-0 victory. The field goals were from 48 and 45 yards.

Barnum is the first CCSU kicker since 2006 to connect on two field goals of 40-plus yards in a season opener and the only one since at least 2001 to do so in his CCSU debut. 

For that matter, Barnum is just the third CCSU kicker since 2001 to have multiple 40-plus-yard field goals, period. He joins Derek Pearson (2002-06) and Francis Cole (2018-19).

Cole connected for a 50-yarder against Lafayette in 2018. That’s the school record.

Also factoring into CCSU’s victory over AIC was Platt grad Reggie Darkah. The sophomore defensive end recovered a fumble.

Another Platt grad, Tylon Papallo, picked up where the left off last season at SCSU, catching four passes for 52 yards in the season opener Saturday against Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.V.

It was a heartbreaker for Papallo and the Owls, however. Shepherd, ranked No. 13 nationally in Division II, scored a touchdown with 23 seconds left to pull out a 27-26 victory.

As for that Springfield-Western New England rivalry game in Massachusetts, it featured strong defensive performances from players who once went head to head in the Apple Classic on Thanksgiving.

Southington’s Billy Carr and Cheshire’s Jason Shumilla both had 10 tackles for their respective teams Saturday. Carr is a senior linebacker for Springfield; Shumilla is a senior defensive back for WNEU.

One of Carr’s former Southington teammates, Dillon Kohl, rushed for a 1-yard TD for Western New England. Carr and the Pride, however, had the win, 28-14.


Two area goalies pitched shutouts in their teams’ season openers. Maloney grad Devin Juan tallied six saves in Southern’s 2-0 victory over Domincan, while Cheshire’s Andres Diosa had five stops for Albertus Magnus in a scoreless draw at Springfield.

The shuout was a collegiate first for Diosa, a sophomore. Juan, a junior, is the returning starter for SCSU. He was 9-5-3 with six shutouts last year.

Albertus, after the scoreless opener in Springfield, returned home to defeat Vermont State-Castleton 1-0. The winning goal was delivered by former Wilcox Tech standout Kelvin Cortez.

Now a graduate student, the R-J’s 2019 Boys Soccer Player of the Year has 16 career goals at AMC.

His latest came in the 26th minute on Sunday. Receiving a throw-in on the right side, Cortez spun a Castleton defender, drove toward the net, beat another defender inside the box, then drove a low shot into the right side of the net.

In women’s soccer, Southington’s Morgan Hubert and Cheshire’s Daniela Petronio, both sophmores, scored game-winning goals in their respective teams’ season openers in the Bay State. Hubert had the opening goal in Endicott’s 4-0 win over Lasell; Petronio had the second strike in Suffolk’s 2-1 victory over Elms.

Hubert scored again on Sunday, when Endicott routed Carthage 5-0.

Field hockey

Out in Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr opened the field hockey season with a 4-0 romp over Centre College. Cheshire’s Sophie Vagts, a junior forward, scored two of the goals and set up a third.

Vagts will be back in the neighborhood on Saturday, Sept. 16 when the Owls play at Wesleyan at noon.


With 15 digs and seven kills, Regis College freshman Avery Mola of Cheshire announced herself at the Roger Williams Invitational.

Mola, the R-J’s 2022 Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, put up those 15 digs and seven kills in a 3-2 loss to Clark University in Friday night’s opening match. The next day, Regis beat Wellesley 3-0 and host Roger Williams 3-2.

Mola chalked up six digs and six kills against Wellesley and then mustered her first college double-double with 14 digs and 10 kills against Roger Williams.

Cross country

Southington’s Braeden Laframboise and Cheshire’s Meghan Georgescu are both coming off stellar 2022 Division III campaigns. They don’t appear to have lost a single step here in 2023.

Laframboise, a junior at St. Joe’s, finished third overall at the Wheaton and Babson Season Opener in Attleboro, Mass. Georgescu, a sophomore at ECSU, was ninth overall Adelphi University Panther Invitational on Long Island.

The Adelphi meet featured mostly Division II programs. Georgescu, with her time of 19:58, was first among Division III finishers. That earned her Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week honors in the Little East Conference.

In Attleboro, Laframboise posted a time of 16:27. St. Joe’s teammate Patrick O'Connor, a junior from Cheshire, crossed in 19:58.


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