CHESHIRE — For one half, Cheshire could do nothing wrong with the football and not much more wrong without it. That made sure the second half wasn’t the problem it could’ve been.
Cheshire scored on its first five drives, built a big halftime lead and withstood Masuk’s third-quarter pushback to win 52-22 Friday night at Alumni Field.
“The first half was unbelievable,” said Jake McAlinden, who ran for four touchdowns on 20 carries.
“We had a lot of confidence going to halftime, but we definitely have to fix our third- and fourth-quarter mistakes. We took that on ourselves. The coaches were unbelievable tonight. The offensive line was unbelievable. The defensive line was unbelievable.”
The line helped McAlinden and Christian Russo combine for well over 200 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. When Masuk stopped Russo twice going for a third touchdown, Russo pulled up on third down and tossed the last score over the line to Jack Lovelace.
Cheshire had last week off after an Oct. 4 upset win over then-No. 5 Shelton. This was the Rams’ first home game since opening night, five weeks ago.
“Getting back home was a big energy boost. It’s hard, going on a three-game road trip. You end up missing home, going to different places,” defensive end Will Bergin said. “We had a bye week, too, which helped us prepare, and coming back home felt great.”
The Rams (4-1) started on defense, and Masuk (3-2) moved the ball well down to the 26. Two runs and an incompletion went nowhere, and Ryan Mancl’s interception got the ball for Cheshire.
The Rams didn’t punt until their last drive of the first half. Masuk, meanwhile, got back to the Rams’ 20 on their third drive but couldn’t get further.
“They run the triple option really well. We ran our keys. We stayed true to our assignments,” Bergin said. “We played the fullback really well, shut him down, and that usually opens up the rest of the offense.”
McAlinden broke tackles, hit holes. Russo chipped in some big gains.
“We were missing some things early, but they’re a great team. Come on. They’re gonna be in the state playoffs,” Masuk coach Joe Lato said. “We can’t be off. With other teams, you might miss a thing here and there, miss a block here and there and overcome it. They punished us for missing some things.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jake McAlinden ran for four touchdowns.
Jotham Casey remained perfect for the season on point-after kicks, going 7-for-7 Friday with a 36-yard field goal. And his first punt got a roll and went as a 47-yarder.
MAKING IT A GAME
Deric De Angelis’ interception return for a score got the Panthers into the game to start the second half. They cut it to a two-score game, 38-22, with a two-point conversion, De Angelis from holder Chris Tillotson on a fake kick attempt, after Lukas Shamas’ touchdown with 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Cheshire’s defense made big plays to get the ball back in the fourth quarter.
“Give the kids credit, absolutely. I love these kids,” Lato said of his team. “I wish they could have walked out with a win, a special moment. It wasn’t meant to be.”
“(The running game) starts with the five guys up front. They worked extremely hard and worked together. We’ve got a couple of guys we feel are pretty dynamic when they touch the football. They played really, really hard.” —Cheshire coach Don Drust
CHESHIRE 52, MASUK 22
MASUK 0 0 22 0—22
CHESHIRE 14 17 7 14—52
C—Christian Russo 2 run (Jotham Casey kick)
C—Jake McAlinden 45 run (Casey kick)
C—Casey 36 FG
C—Russo 7 run (Casey kick)
C—McAlinden 2 run (Casey kick)
M—Deric De Angelis 51 interception return (Mike Epifano kick)
C—McAlinden 18 run (Casey kick)
M—Nick Saccu 1 run (Epifano kick)
M—Lukas Shamas 6 run (De Angelis pass from Chris Tillotson)
C—McAlinden 4 run (Casey kick)
C—Jack Lovelace 1 pass Russo (Casey kick)
Records: Masuk 3-2; Cheshire 4-1