Fairfield County football all-stars dominate New Haven County
WEST HAVEN -- The 15th installment of the Hall of Fame Football Classic turned out to be a rout. Except it wasn't the rout most of the 2,422 packed into Ken Strong Stadium would have expected before the opening kickoff.
St. Joseph teammates Joe Della Vecchia and Tyler Matakevich made sure of that, leading Fairfield County to a 34-14 win Saturday night for its largest margin of victory in Classic history. New Haven still leads the overall series 10-5.
"The way we went tonight, I don't think I could have asked for anything else," said Matakevich, who caught three touchdowns from Della Vecchia.
Della Vecchia threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns earning offensive offensive MVP honors for Fairfield County, while Matakevich led a swarming defense which stifled New Haven star running back Montrell Dobbs.
For his efforts Matakevich earned defensive MVP honors for Fairfield County.
In truth the entire Fairfield County defensive unit could lay some claim to the postgame defensive platitudes. Fairfield's defensive front of Masuk's Tim Allen, Harding's Alvin Garcia and Pomperaug's Willie Maxen, supported by linebackers Mark Robinson (Stamford) and Myles Gordon (Harding), helped the team post seven sacks.
"This defensive line was probably the best I've seen in my entire life. They were big, fast, strong ... they could do everything," Matakevich said. "They were the reason we did so well out here tonight. They shut down the run. They dominated."
The defense also held Ansonia's Dobbs to 32 yards on 12 carries, as well as keeping Wilbur Cross' shifty James Ward in check.
"Our plan was to keep pushing and adding pressure no matter what," said Allen, who had two sacks and four tackles for a loss. "We just wanted to get it back to Fairfield County. I guess New Haven County had been winning it the past few years. It was time for us to win."
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At the start it seemed like New Haven County was poised to keep its recent dominance in the series, which saw it win seven of the last eight contests.
On New Haven's first offensive play it caught Fairfield with a trick play, as quarterback Sean Goldrich (ND-West Haven) threw behind the line to Tucker Schumitz (Foran), who then went back across the field to Goldrich for a 32-yard touchdown less than three minutes into the game.
It was one of the few highlights for New Haven.
Fairfield bounced back on the next drive three minutes later with Della Vecchia hooking up with Matakevich from 20 yards out making it 7-6.
The game turned late in the first half when Trumbull's Phil Terio ran under a long pass up the left sideline from Della Vecchia, turning it into a 46-yard score putting Fairfield ahead 13-7.
Fairfield tacked on another score two minutes before halftime with another Della Vecchia-to-Matakevich hookup to go up 20-7 and didn't look back.
"There's the whole Trumbull/St. Joe's thing, but me and Phil are friends. I knew he'd catch it," said Della Vecchia, who completed passes to seven different receivers. "Tyler, he's just really reliable."
Things took a turn for the worse for New Haven on the third play of the second half when Goldrich ran into one of his own blockers and separated his shoulder. To that point he had been a perfect 11-for-11 passing for 118 yards.
On the next drive Della Vecchia found Matakevich for the final time -- this one on the right sideline for 39 yards, making it 27-7. Matakevich only caught three balls for 81 yards, but they all went for scores.
"Their defensive line outplayed our offensive line very badly," New Haven coach Ed McCarthy said. "Their receivers outplayed our defensive backs, too. They beat us badly on two levels."
Schumitz -- New Haven's offensive MVP -- replaced Goldrich and led his team on an 18-play, 83-yard drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kosy Broderick midway through the third quarter, but it wasn't enough. Aside from that drive Fairfield held New Haven to 42 yards of offense the rest of the second half.
"They were really good defensively, big, quick, solid all-around," said Schumitz, who threw for 94 yards and two scores. "We couldn't get it going offensively, have to give it up to them."
The victory was especially satisfying for a slew of players from St. Joseph, who finished their high school careers with back-to-back state titles. All told six players from St. Joseph played for Fairfield County Saturday, which was helmed by Cadets' coach Joe Della Vecchia.
"That meant a lot to me, to have those guys Joe, Tyler, Nick [Adzima], Jerry [Kramer], Mike [Marini] and Ryan [Mrozek] to have them back for one more game," the coach said. "I knew they were good. We won two state championships with them because they're phenomenal players. Today they showed why we were able to do that."