NEW BRITAIN >> Football is often a game of inches, bounces and breaks.
That all played a role in Ansonia’s comeback victory over Rocky Hill in the Class S state championship game.
After trailing by eight at halftime, second-seeded Ansonia scored the game’s next 22 points – all in the fourth quarter – to rally for a dramatic 28-21 win over the No. 4 Terriers Saturday at Veterans Field in a classic contest.
It was the 20th state title for the Chargers (13-0), who were playing in their 30th state championship game. Ansonia advanced to a state final for the seventh straight time but came up short the past two seasons.
“To be down at the half, what we faced the last two years, and people saying that Ansonia’s not going to get it done,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said.
“For our kids to step up and just show something extra special; this team’s night and day from where they started. It’s a tribute to those kids just wanting to carry on the traditon. For them to finish this thing 13-0, it’s amazing. Unbelievable job by those kids.”
Junior Markell Dobbs scored on a 2-yard run with 10:43 left for Ansonia. The 2-point conversion run attempt was no good and Rocky Hill led 14-12.
Perhaps the game’s biggest play came on the ensuing kickoff when junior Justin Lopez recovered a squib kick that took a bounce and sailed past the Rocky Hill returners. Lopez recovered the kick at the Terriers 26.
“It made a big impact,” Lopez said. “It changed the momentum and got everybody pumped up on the sidelines. We just executed on offense.”
On the next series, senior quarterback Bryson Cafaro connected with senior Jake Butler on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give Ansonia the lead for good. Cafaro’s conversion run put the Chargers up 20-14 with 9:22 remaining.
“Big momentum swing,” Cafaro said about the kickoff recovery. “We had just scored right before it so to get the ball back, and drive down again, and score again, made a big difference for our team.”
Junior Joe Catania (22 carries, 192 yards) scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 93 yards in the first quarter for Rocky Hill. Dobbs, who finished with 191 yards on 34 carries, scored on a 51-yard run in the first quarter. Neither team scored in the second quarter and Rocky Hill (11-2) led 14-6 at halftime.
It wasn’t until Lopez’s recovery in the fourth quarter that Ansonia looked like a team that had won its first 12 games by convincing margins.
“Just the mindset changed,” Cafaro said. “We knew we could take the rest of the game and shut them out basically. This feels great. Greatest feeling in the world.”
Cafaro scored on an 8-yard run and then found junior Cody Teodosio on a 2-point conversion pass to give Ansonia a 28-14 lead with 6:07 left. Dan Cavallaro connected with Grant Nieves on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:34 remaining for Rocky Hill to cut the lead to 28-21, but Ansonia recovered the onside kick attempt and proceeded to run out the clock.
“We made a couple of mistakes, we gave them three extra possessions,” Rocky Hill coach Mark Fritz said.
“We had three turnovers on the day, including that onside kick or whatever you want to call it. You can’t do that against a good team like this. They have a great team. I’m just so proud of my guys and the way they fought.”
Class S Championship
Ansonia 28, Rocky Hill 21
(at New Britain)
Rocky Hill 14 0 0 7 – 21
Ansonia 6 0 o 22 – 28
RH – Joe Catania 1 run (Damon Lonero kick)
A – Markell Dobbs 51 run (kick failed)
RH – Catania 93 run (Lonero kick)
A – Dobbs 2 run (run failed)
A – Jake Butler 20 pass from Bryson Cafaro (Cafaro run)
A – Cafaro 8 run (Cody Teodosio pass from Cafaro)
RH – Grant Nieves 19 pass from Dan Cavallaro (Lonero kick)
Video via CT Sports Now on Vantage Sports Network