By Dave Ruden
When they entered their locker room at halftime on Saturday, the members of the St. Joseph offensive line gathered. Their mood was crusty.
“They weren’t happy,” Cadets coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “All five of them did something wrong in the first half.”
St. Joseph trailed Darien, 14-7. Blue Wave coach Rob Trifone had made the pass rush the focal point of his game plan. Mark Evanchick, their sensational sophomore, sacked Cadets quarterback Jordan Vazzano twice. There was pressure on other plays.
“At halftime I basically told the guys we lost three drives to a couple of holding penalties, a false start,” Della Vecchia said.
Della Vecchia challenged the unit, and it delivered, leading the way to three unanswered scores and a 28-14 victory that allowed St. Joseph to stay unbeaten at 4-0.
Vazzano, running back Mufasa Abdul-Basir and a solid group of receivers have been receiving most of the acclaim.
But it has been the consistent play of the line, known as The Hogs, that has been the constant. They are, left to right, Chris Taylor, Troy Vazzano, Tom Adzima, Peter Mestre and Steve Hashemi.
Average weight: 271 pounds. Adzima, Mestre and Hashemi are three-year starters.
“They had been great in pass protection the first three weeks,” Della Vecchia said. “They blew a few assignments on Saturday. They did a solid job run blocking.”
The Cadets committed to the ground game in the second half and wore Darien down. Abdul-Basir gained 161 of his 202 yards after halftime. The team finished with 273 yards rushing.
Della Vecchia can entrust his veteran unit in ways most other coaches would not.
“They understand everything we are doing,” Della Vecchia said. “They make all of our blocking calls. They make all the adjustments. They tell us what they are seeing. We can rely on them.”
The Cadets are headed for a Nov. 1 showdown at New Canaan, when both teams will likely be unbeaten. The Rams have one of the state’s best defenses.
The Hogs versus the New Canaan front seven will be the game within the game. And a must-see one at that.
Trumbull On The Rebound
Few coaches were as confident going into the season as Trumbull’s Bob Maffei. He considered the Eagles a sleeper. And he felt his team’s opening game, against Shelton, would be the most competitive of the FCIAC-SCC challenge.
Final score: Shelton 57, Trumbull 20.
“The first game was a mess,” Maffei said. “They changed the time of the game from 7 to 5:30 and the kids and coaches were all over the place. Then they jumped on us right away. They are a good team obviously.”
It remains to be seen whether the Eagles will live up to their coach’s preseason expectations, but they have rebounded with three straight wins, including a 28-6 decision over Norwalk on Saturday.
“We’ve just gotten better,” Maffei said. “We’re catching the football, our protection is better and our defense is better. Every week we get better.”
Maffei now looks back at the Shelton game as an aberration.
“They’re not 50 points better than us, lets put it that way,” Maffei said.
The Eagles travel to Westhill on Saturday, then have a three-game stretch against Greenwich, Wilton and Staples that should dictate the course of their season.
“They feel like they can run the table,” Maffei said of his players. “The kids do. Who knows. For me, it is one game at a time, one practice at a time.”
Game Of The Week
St. Joseph (4-0) at Wilton (3-1), Friday 7 p.m. Not a great slate this weekend, but the Warriors are a dangerous opponent if the Cadets suffer a letdown. Wilton’s lack of depth will hurt.
The Fab 5
New Canaan (4-0): The Rams right now are in cruise control.
St. Joseph (4-0): A tough early-season schedule and two close games will serve the Cadets well down the road.
Darien (3-1): The Blue Wave, despite the loss, deserve to remain in this position. They threw the Cadets a first-half scare.
Staples (3-1): The Wreckers did enough good things against Stamford to show why they are a sleeper, and struggled in a few stretches to wonder if they can play with the big boys.
Brien McMahon (4-0): A sluggish effort against Westhill, but the Senators escaped with the win.