NEW BRITAIN >> Capital Prep/Achievement kept bringing the defensive pressure and North Branford continued to have trouble stopping it in Saturday’s Class S-Small Division championship football game.
The Trailblazers forced seven turnovers. They came up with six sacks. They scored off a blocked punt. Yet North Branford still had one last chance to tie the game in the final minutes.
But Capital Prep came up with one more defensive stop on a fourth-and-2 play in its own territory. Then it was time to celebrate their first state championship in school history 20-13 at Arute Field. It was also the first time a Constitution State Conference team won a title.
“I think it means a lot for our program,” Capital Prep coach Chris Fulton said. “We play some quality teams and we have some quality coaches in our league. Obviously we don’t have as much depth, but it’s great for the league and great for us for sure.”
Quarterback Rayshaun Phillips rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including a 3-yard run in the third quarter that ended up deciding the game. The the defense for second-seeded Capital Prep (12-1) did the rest.
“We believe we have the best defense in Class S,” defensive end Dillan Murray said. “It means the world to me. We are not just doing this for C-Prep, we’re doing this for Hartford.”
Said North Branford coach Mark Basil: “They brought a lot of pressure and made it difficult, that was tough. They were faster than our guys on the edges, that’s what made it tough.”
North Branford (11-2) was searching for its title since 1979 and has now lost in its last three attempts in the final. The Trailblazers held the Thunderbirds without a point in the second half.
“Turnovers really hurt us. We didn’t play our best game and Capital Prep played very well,” Basil said.
Murray set up Phillips’ second touchdown with a 28-yard fumble return to the Thunderbird 3-yard line. Dan Lebron sacked quarterback Paul Pastet and forced the fumble as well.
“My motto is, ‘There is no off-season.’ We worked through the whole year, persevered a lot and we won,” Murray said.
Said Fulton: “I thought they would have some problems up front with our pressure and they did.”
Phillips had a chance to put the game away with a first-and-goal situation from the 3. He ran all four plays, but the Thunderbirds held, including the last two from the 1 to get the ball back trailing by seven with 3:20 left.
North Branford was able to drive from its own 1 to the Capital Prep 27, then got pushed back due to a holding penalty and a sack. On fourth down and 33, Pastet (12 of 23, 162 yards) hit Shelby Franklin (game-high 111 yards rushing) for a completion well short of the first-down marker.
But a live ball personal foul was called on Capital Prep, allowing the Thunderbirds to retain possession and now have a 4th and 2 from the 29.
“They said the guy was blocking our guy and our guy threw him out of bounds, live ball. I don’t get that,” Fulton said.
But Capital forced an incompletion to clinch the crown.
“The kids just keep bringing it. They keep persevering,” Fulton said.
Lamar Butler had an 18-yard return for a touchdown for Capital Prep off Jahkai Gill’s blocked punt. Nick Sagnella (28 yards) and Pastet (1) had both rushing touchdowns for the Thunderbirds in the first half.
NB-Nick Sagnella 28 run (Andrew Sarmento kick), 7:05
CP-Rayshawn Phillips 4 run (kick failed), 4:08
NB-Paul Pastet 1 run (kick failed), 6:05
CP-Lamar Butler 18 blocked punt return (Jakob Vera pass from Phillips), 2:12
CP-Phillips 3 run (pass failed), 8:06
North Branford: Shelby Franklin 14-111, Nick Sagnella 3-43, Austin Calamita 4-36, Xavier Santiago 1-2. Capital Prep: Rayshawn Phillips 28-109, Jourdayne Ross 8-50, Lamar Butler 2-16, Michon Hunt 1-5.
Passing: North Branford: Paul Pastet 12-23-2-162; Capital Prep: Rayshawn Phillips: 6-15-0-53
Receiving: Austin Calamita 3-76, Shelby Franklin 3-16, Cory Seymour 3-15, Tyler Hawk 1-43; Capital Prep: Jakob Vera 2-32, Jahkai Gill 2-16, Oniel Robinson 2-5.