STRATFORD >> After a scary injury to St. Joseph starting junior running back Mufasha Abdul Basir, in which he was wheeled off the field on a stretcher, receiver Shane Miller said there was no way the Hogs were going down in Saturday’s Class M semifinal to Barlow.
“He gives 110 percent every time he’s on the field,” said Miller, a senior receiver. “When he went down it was tough for us, but we knew we had to step up.”
The Cadets stepped up and No. 2-seeded St. Joseph routed No. 3 Barlow 62-34 at Bunnell High School. With the victory, the Hogs (12-2)move onto the Class M championship game to face No. 5 Brookfield (11-3) at 10:05 a.m. Saturday at Central Connecticut State’s Arute Field.
This is St. Joseph’s third state championship appearance in five years. The Hogs are looking for their 11th state title and third in the last five years.
After suffering what looked to be a serious head injury, Abdul Basir, who returned to the sideline in the forth quarter, said he should be ready for the final.
“I kind of got knocked out,” Abdul Basir said. ” I woke up and found myself on the field. I didn’t see it as a dirty hit by Barlow though. That’s how the game is.”
He said he got twisted and was hit on the left side of the head. Team trainers came out on the field, the ambulance was called and he was wheeled off to a standing ovation. St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia confirmed that Abdul Basir should be cleared for the final.
“I think he’s going to be okay,” the Della Vecchia said. “He’s back here how, so we’ll get him checked out again on Monday.”
The Cadets turned out to be okay, too, thanks to a 28-0 halftime lead. SJ got touchdown runs from Miller (88 yards), Jordan Vazzano (52 yards) and touchdown passes from Vazzano to Miller (28 yards) and another to Lars Pedersen. The Cadets defense looked good, too as Pedersen had an interception and Matthew Laveneziana recovered a fumble in the backfield.
However in the second half, the Falcons came back. Bryan Gallaer opened the half with a 46-yard TD run. The extra point was missed. Pedersen answered with a 95-yard touchdown return to put SJ up 34-6 after a failed extra point. Then Barlow quarterback Jack Shaban returned a kickoff 75 yards on the ensuing kick for a Barlow TD to make It 34-12.
Barlow kept it going after Harry Wilson scored from 20 yards out and the Falcons recovered an onside kick. That’s when the Cadets defense woke back up.
“We were on our heels,” Pedersen said. “That big fourth down play was right with the quarter change, so we had a little time to discuss what was going on.”
The Cadets punched their ticket to Arute Field on the campus of Central Connecticut State University for the state final by stopping Barlow on the fourth down conversion attempt and scored 28 fourth quarter points.
St. Joseph 62, Barlow 34
Barlow 0 0 20 14 — 34
St. Joseph 14 14 6 28 — 62
S—Lars Pedersen 15 pass from Jordan Vazzano (kick fail)
S—Shane Miller 88 run (Vazzano pass Pedersen )
S—Jordan Vazzano 52 run ( Marc Mrozek kick)
S—Shane Miller 28 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Marc Mrozek kick)
B—Bryan Gallaer 46 run (kick fail)
S—Lars Pedersen 95 kickoff ret (Marc Mrozek kick)
B—Jack Shaban 75 kickoff ret (Juan Gomez kick)
B—Harry Wilson 36 run (Juan Gomez kick)
S—Shane Miller 22 run (Dylan Ryan pass Chris Prutting)
S—Shane Miller 63 run (kick fail)
B—Stephen Miller 49 run (Juan Gomez kick)
S— Marc Mrozek 47 kickoff ret ( Marc Mrozek kick)
Team records: St. Joseph 12-2; Barlow 10-3