LEDYARD — Sheehan opened the 2023 football campaign with a dominant effort on both sides of the ball in a 42-10 Connecticut Football Alliance conquest of the Ledyard Colonels on a steamy Friday night at Ledyard High School.
Sophomore running back Brady Rossacci stole the show for the Titans. He ran for touchdowns of 13, 7, 1 and 9 yards while carrying 29 times for 212 yards.
“It’s what we expect out of Brady,” Sheehan coach John Ferrazzi said. “He has the capabilities to be the bell-cow running back. He’s a bigger, stronger version of himself from last year.
“On a night like tonight, conditions were rough and the ball was slippery and his hands were slippery,” Ferrazzi added. “Down the stretch, I really wanted to focus on the ground game.”
Defensively, Sheehan stuffed Ledyard’s triple option all game. The Colonels did not attempt a pass on the night.
Sheehan led 21-3 at the half as the visitors dominated on both sides of the ball.
The Titans scored the first points of the season on their second drive of the game. A bubble screen from QB Paul Gorry to Jayden Dougherty got the Titans to the Ledyard 34-yard line. Later, on a 2nd-and-16 from the 29, Gorry took a naked bootleg down the right sideline for 16 yards and a first down at the 13.
On the next play, Rossacci carried it in right up the middle for a 7-0 lead with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
After the game, Rossacci saluted the offensive linemen: Jonah Caponera, Garron Crespo, Jon Leclerc, Richard Van Dyke, A.J. Tatro and Austin DiPasquale.
“Those were their four touchdowns,” Rossacci said. “They worked their butts off all offseason. I’m reading their blocks better and trusting them so much more. I have to thank them for everything.”
The score would remain 7-0 until early in the second quarter, when a 17-yard Rossacci run and a 28-yard slant from Gorry to Dante DiNuzzo (3 catches, 72 yards) set up Sheehan’s next score. It came on a 32-yard bomb down the left sideline to DiNuzzo, who extended his arms for the TD catch.
“The ball was a little far and he accelerated underneath it,” Ferrazzi noted. “He made that fingertip grab.
“We have a lot of playmakers,” Ferrazzi continued. “Tonight, with the backs getting all of the carries they did — I made it known in the film room that we have playmakers outside of them. too. Some nights, it’s going to be their night, too. We are going to spread it around as much as we can, but ultimately we are going to do what we need to do to win. We leaned on the run game tonight.”
The Titans scored on their next drive, their last of the first half. It was a drive dominated by Rossacci, who carried four times for 53 yards.
Gorry (6-for-8, 135 yards) capped the drive with a 1-yard TD plunge as the Sheehan edge expanded to 21-0 with 2:53 left in the half.
Ledyard did score on the final play of the first half. The hosts had no timeouts and, facing a 2nd-and-6, opted for a 22-yard field goal booted by Finn Scully as the buzzer sounded.
Anthony Adamick had a 21-yard run on the drive to set up the field goal. Adamick’s run was Ledyard’s longest play of the first half. The home team was held without a first down for the entire first quarter and the Sheehan defense surrendered just 68 yards in the opening half.
“They have a triple option attack and you have to really coach to come in and play a team like that,” Ferrazzi said. “We’ve put a ton of work into it this season, and thank God we did. The kids executed the game plan very well. Every now and then they may slip one, but our kids did such a great job. We were prepared and did everything we could tonight.”
Ferrazzi praised the play of junior inside linebacker Jack Grant for his effort in Sheehan’s dominant defensive performance.
Meanwhile, Sheehan churned out 209 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes. Rossacci had 12 carries for 83 yards at the half.
The Titans opened the second half where they left off: with Rossacci dominating on the ground. He carried seven times for 70 yards on Sheehan’s first drive of the half and finished it with a 7-yard TD run up the middle with 5:54 to go in the third quarter.
Ledyard fumbled on its first play of the next possession and, four plays later, Rossacci was in the end zone with his third TD of the game. This was a 1-yard TD after a 25-yard carry to the doorstep.
The score put Sheehan up 35-3 with 4:09 to go in the third and it gave the sophomore 178 yards on 23 carries.
Following a Ledyard punt, Rossacci took a big hit on the first carry of the ensuing drive. He fumbled and Diego Rosario-Gonzalez scooped it up and scored a 41-yard touchdown with 1:53 left in the third quarter as the Titans lead was trimmed to 35-10.
Rossacci finished his monster night with his fourth rushing TD: a nine-yard scamper with exactly nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Austin Eccles connected on his sixth PAT to cap the scoring at 42-10. Daugherty finished with three receptions for 63 yards.
Sheehan, an SCC Tier 2 squad, was 5-5 last season. Ledyard, an ECC Division II team, was 8-3 last season and lost in the Class SS quarterfinals. It was the first playoff appearance for the Colonels in six seasons.
Friday’s steamy conditions caused a lot of cramping, especially in the second half.
“We knew it was going to be hard,” Rossacci said. “We are prepping the whole week; I was prepped and ready.
“I’ve been waiting for this day,” Rossacci added. “This was a statement for me and for the team, and I just wanted to show everyone that I wanted to be the best in the SCC this year.”
Ferrazzi said the week of preparation was difficult with just an hour total of practice in the days leading up to Friday night’s contest due to the heat wave.
“We weren’t allowed to wear pads, and I was a little worried how we were going to handle coming into pads for the first time in these conditions,” said Ferrazzi, who is now in his 19th year as Sheehan’s head coach. “We have resilience and we settled in after a series or two and did what needed to do.
“There’s a lot of confidence in this group in the way they are playing together,” Ferrazzi added. “It’s been remarkable. We still have a lot to clean up, but I think we are in a good place.”