MERIDEN — CREC may be only a second-year football team, but it doesn’t play like one.
The magnet school co-op won four games on its maiden voyage last season and, on Saturday night, won its first of 2016 with a 40-22 non-conference victory over Wilcox Tech at Falcon Field.
Led by small, but speedy running back Carlos Medina, CREC struck for an early lead, weathered an answering strike from Wilcox, then pulled away with five unanswered touchdowns through the middle quarters.
CREC headed home at 1-2 with games looming ahead against Lyman Hall and Sheehan. Wilcox headed back across Meriden at 0-3.
The Tribe simply could not keep a lid on Medina. Cue Tone Loc: Medina was funky and he left the Indians awfully cold. The junior rushed for four touchdowns — a 32-yarder to start the game, followed by two for 40-plus and a 5-yarder.
Wilcox got its mileage out of quarterback Jacob Conte and slot receiver Aden Valentin. The tandem connected for three touchdowns. All were nifty long balls: a 21-yarder that put Wilcox up 7-6 at the end of the first quarter followed by bombs of 67 and 50 yards in the second half.
The 21-yarder was the only one to hurt CREC. It capped a drive kept alive by a fumbled punt recovered by captain Zachary Lopez and it gave Wilcox its lone lead.
In the second quarter, CREC took control behind Medina. He took a toss right 47 yards to put the co-op back on top 12-7, then gobbled up chunks of yards to fuel a 59-yard drive finished off by a 5-yard run by QB Marquis Hawkins.
Turnovers late in the quarter put Wilcox on the ropes. Dante Shelton picked off a Conte pass just shy of midfield and returned it to the Wilcox 15. CREC went to Medina and, on the third call, he was in from 5 yards.
Advantage CREC, 26-7, at the break.
The Tribe came out fired up for the second half. Izaia Valentin laid a nice lick on the opening kick and Isaiah Davis planted Hawkins on a keeper. The defense forced a 3-and-out. Great work.
Except the Indians undid their work by roughing the kicker on the punt. Drive extended, CREC pushed its lead to 34-7 on Medina’s 41-yard burst up the gut.
The gap stretched to 40-7 when Hawkins turned a broken option play into a 49-yard TD a few minutes later. It got even darker when Wilcox had a 22-yard pass from Conte to Mykal Dingel erased by offensive pass interference and CREC’s linebackers blew up the short passes that followed.
That’s when the Tribe, facing third-and-31, struck for the game’s longest play. A pretty one, too: Conte hit Valentin in stride deep down the middle for the 67-yard TD.
The Indians followed it up with a stand inside the 10 early in the fourth quarter. They successfully pulled off a fake punt, with upback Stephen Ortiz galloping for 26 yards. And the defense recorded a safety in the final minute, giving Conte and Valentin time to hook up one last time.
CREC 40, Wilcox Tech 22
at Falcon Field
C—Carlos Medina 32 run (run failed) 8:10
WT—Aden Valentin 21 pass from Jacob Conte (Eric Pellegrino kick) 0:00
C—Medina 47 run (run failed) 10:31
C—Marquis Hawkins 5 run (pass failed) 4:22
C—Medina 5 run (Medina run) 1:44
C—Medina 41 run (Rivera pass from Hawkins) 9:14
C—Hawkins 49 run (run failed) 7:31
WT—Valentin 67 pass from Conte (kick failed) 4:41
WT—Valentin 50 pass from Conte (Pellegrino kick) 0:22