By Bryant Carpenter
MERIDEN — We’ve been playing Thanksgiving football in these parts for quite awhile. Yet Thursday was still a rivalry day unlike any other.
For good and for ill.
In Cheshire, we simply had the greatest Apple Classic in the 24 years of the Southington-Cheshire holiday series.
It certainly was the longest. For the first time, the Blue Knights and Rams went to overtime.
And then they went to another one.
It took two OTs to decide the 2019 Apple Classic between these playoff-bound Class LL teams and, if not for two-point gamble at the end of the second, it probably would have gone to a third.
Both teams, given four downs from the 10-yard line, scored in the first overtime. They both scored again in the second.
That’s when Cheshire, pushed half the distance closer to the goal line on a Southington encroachment penalty on the extra point, opted to go for two and the win.
Cheshire called for a quarterback sneak. Southington held and, by a score of 21-20, had its eighth straight Apple Classic victory.
Also winning for the eighth straight Thanksgiving was Sheehan. This was the unprecendented “ill” of Turkey Day 2019. Sheehan’s 56-0 rout of Lyman Hall was the most lopsided game in the 48-year history of the Carini Bowl.
The Titans, though, were certainly feeling fine. They clinched their third straight ticket to the postseason.
Also playoff-bound for a third straight year is Maloney. The Spartans already had their Class L ticket punched before Thursday but, for good measure, took the Stoddard Bowl trophy back from Platt, 42-6.
MVP James Tarver rushed for five touchdowns and 287 yards to lead Maloney.
All three of Thursday’s winners will host CIAC quarterfinal games on Tuesday night. Cheshire will be on the road.
While playoff pairings still need to be officially set by the CIAC Football Committee on Friday, here’s how it should break down:
Class LL: No. 5 Cheshire (8-2) at No. 4 Simsbury (9-1).
Class LL: No. 7 Ridgefield (8-2) at No. 2 Southington (9-1).
Class L: No. 6 Berlin (8-2) at No. 3 Maloney (9-1), at Falcon Field.
Class S: No. 4 Woodland Regional (9-1) at No. 4 Sheehan (8-2).
Sheehan and Woodland finished tied in the Class S playoff points. The Titans got the higher seed thanks to more wins among its opponents.
As for Class LL, it was known going into Thursday that the Apple Classic was going to decide who would be home for the quarterfinals and who would be on the road. There was also a good chance that Southington and Cheshire would wind up playing again on Tuesday night.
New Canaan’s 20-0 upset of previously unbeaten Darien upset that possibility. It also enabled Southington to move up to No. 2n.
That’s big. It will keep the Blue Knights at home for next Sunday’s semifinals. With a quarterfinal win over Ridgefield, Southington will host the winner of No. 3 Darien and No. 6 Greenwich.
Cheshire would face the winner of No. 1 Newtown and No. 8 NFA.
In Class L, a win over Berlin would likely put Maloney in a semifinal rematch with No. 2 Daniel Hand. The Tigers beat the Spartans in last year’s Class L final.
Sheehan, with a win, would be looking at the winner of No. 1 Ansonia and No. 8 Plainfield.
Here are the scoring summaries and highlights from Thursday’s games.
*APPLE CLASSIC: Southington 21, Cheshire 20 (2 OT)
S — 00-07-00-00-07-07 — 21
C — 00-07-00-00-07-06— 20
S — Dillon Kohl 24 run (Jack Barnum kick) 10:21
C — Jason Shumilla 1 run (Jotham Casey kick) 8:08
C — Jake McAlinden 10 run (Casey kick)
S — Kohl 5 run (Barnum kick)
S — Shane Laporte 3 pass from Brady Lafferty (Barnum kick)
C — Nick DiDomizio 16 pass from Shumilla (run failed)
First quarter ended scoreless when Cheshire fumbled at Southington 8. Johnny Carreiro recovered for Blue Knights at the 5.
Southington drove 95 yards to start second quarter, scoring on Dillon Kohl’s 24-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play.
The Rams answered. A 56-yard run from Jake McAlinden set up a 1-yard QB sneak by Jason Shumilla that forged a 7-7 halftime tie.
Early in the 3Q, Jotham Casey’s 39-yard FG attempt was wide for Cheshire.
Southington drove to the Cheshire 8 late in 3Q, but an errant snap recovered by Chehsire’s Colby Griffin derailed drive.
Griffin and Rams made subsequent stop on fourth-and-1 at Cheshire 41 with 7:41 left 4Q.
Southington mounted a final late drive starting at its own 19 and gaining the Cheshire 28. A fourth-and-10 pass fell incomplete and the Apple Classic was heading to its first overtime.
In the first extra session, McAlinden took first snap 10 yards for a score and Jotham Casey converted the PAT. Kohl answered for Southington from 5 yards and Jack Barnum booted the PAT.
Switching turns in the second OT, Southington put the onus on Cheshire when Brady Lafferty hit Shane Laporte with a 3-yard TD pass and Barnum was on the money again.
Cheshire answered, on a 16-yard TD pass from Shumilla to Nick DiDomizio.
Then things came to a climax. With Southington getting called for encroachment on the PAT, the Rams opted to go for the win right then and there with a two-point conversion. The call was a Shumilla sneak. Southington made the stop, bringing the longest, greatest Apple Classic to a close.
Tuesday, Class LL quarterfinals
Ridgefield at Southington
Cheshire at Simsbury.
*STODDARD BOWL: Maloney 42, Platt 6
M — 14-14-00-14— 42
P— 06-00-00-00 — 6
M — James Tarver 2 run (Jaden Myles kick) 1:57
M — Tarver 3 run (Myles kick) 1:04
P — Roberto Salas 74 run (kick failed) 0:45
M — Tarver 46 run (Myles kick) 6:38
M — Ian Graham 19 pass from Angel Arce (Myles kick) 0:28
M — Tarver 37 run (Myles kick) 8:11
M — Tarver 71 run (Myles kick) 1:57
Maloney drive mid-1Q ended with a Tarver fumble at the Platt 3. Cristian Calero recovered for Platt.
Tarver would, um, shake it off.
Maloney defense held, forcing Platt punt partially blocked by Stone Deleone. Spartans take over at Platt 15 and Tarver punched in game’s first score.
Less than a minute later, Deleone recovered a Roberto Salas fumble. An Angel Arce pass to Kamron Moreno set up Tarver’s second TD.
Salas atoned for his fumble with his 74-yard breakaway score in the final minute of the first quarter.
Midway through second quarter, Tarver racked up his third TD of the morning, this from 46 yards.
Spartans capped the first half with Arce-to-Graham TD on fourth-and-7 from the 19. Possession was set up by partial punt block by Trevor Santiago. Stone Deleone had a fourth-down catch to keep drive alive.
Maloney DB Sergio Muniz ended the first half with an INT and picked off another pass in the third quarter to help maintain the lead.
Tarver capped his day with two more TD runs in the fourth quarter.
Tuesday, Class L quarterfinals vs. Berlin, at Falcon Field
*CARINI BOWL: Sheehan 56, Lyman Hall 0
LH — 00-00-00-00 — 00
MTS — 28-28-00-00 — 56
MTS — Braedon McCarthy blocked punt recovery (Garrett Molampy kick) 9:57
MTS — Jordan Davis 48 run (Molampy kick) 6:36
MTS — Terrence Bogan 44 run (Molampy kick) 4:54
MTS — Davis 10 pass from Kyle Simmons (Molampy kick) 2:48
MTS — Davis 36 run (Molampy kick) 10:04
MTS — Russell Rutkowski 17 run (Molampy kick) 7:54
MTS — Justin Moore 13 run (Molampy kick) 5:38
MTS — Anthony Castaldi 36 run (Molampy kick) 0:36
Boom, boom, out go the lights in the most lopsided game in Carini Bowl history.
Sheehan forced punts on the first five Lyman Hall possession and scored after each one, including directly on the first, which was blocked by Andrew Mansfield.
A Garrett Molampy interception led to Russell Rutkwoski’s TD run in the second quarter. Rutkowski also had a fumble recovery.
The second half was played on running time. Justin Moore picked off a LH pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter to preserve the shutout.
Tuesday, Class S quarterfinals, vs. Woodland Regional, at Riccitelli Field