MIDDLETOWN >> Three key plays, plus a big night by Quinebaug Valley’s star running back Raiff Santerre, spelled defeat for Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin at Palmer Field Friday night.
Santerre ran for 209 yards on 37 carries as Quinebaug Valley beat the Bellhawks, 20-6, in a Constitution State Conference game in front of a small crowd of perhaps 150. But the story of the game is three huge plays, all of which went against Vinal Tech.
The first was a fumble by Tyler Costa in the first quarter that killed the Bellhawks’ opening drive at the 18-yard line. The second was a roughing the kicker call that set up Quinebaug Valley’s second touchdown, and the third was a gutsy fourth and three call by Quinebaug coach Joe Asermelly at the Vinal 40-yard line in the fourth quarter that led to the game-wrapping third touchdown.
“Those were big plays,” VT/EH/GT coach Joe Cefaratti said. “But they handled us up front and we didn’t respond. They were doubling Amos [Talbott, linebacker] which should have opened up things, but we acted like deer in the headlights.”
The big plays aside, the Bellhawks could do nothing with Santerre, who ran past 1,000 yards for the season on his second carry.
“Santerre ran really well,” Asermelly said. “He’s been tough. But overall, we’re a team that’s getting hot. I thought we played physical and I thought we played well.”
The Pride took a 7-0 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Innes to Kyle Loomis with 1:59 to go in the first half. That capped a 14-play, 86-yard drive.
The visitors took a 14-0 lead in the third quarter and this was the score that came after the Bellhawks were called for roughing the kicker that gave The Pride a first down at the Bellhawks’ 45-yard line. Two plays later Santerre broke it for 39 yards and with Innes’ kick, it was a two-score game with 7:59 left in the third.
The killer came with 5:43 of the fourth quarter when Santerre, taking advantage of his coach’s aggressive fourth down call, scored from the 4-yard line and Quinebaug Valley was home free at 20-0.
The Bellhawks got a cosmetic touchdown on a 35-yard run by quarterback Austin Mann (14 carries, 102 yards) with 2:10 left in the game.
“I am an aggressive coach and the kids buy into that,” said Asermelly. “I’m going to go on fourth down in that situation. I thought our offense was moving the ball. They hadn’t really stopped us, so I felt it was the right thing to do.
“I also thought scoring after the roughing the kicker penalty was important. If you get second chances, you better do something with it.”
Cefaratti’s team had 203 yards offense, 182 on the ground. But his feature back, Evan Salisbury, was injured after picking up 69 yards and didn’t play for most of the second half. Mann had an off-night throwing the ball, completing just one of eight tries for 21 yards.
Quinebaug Valley (5-4), which has four in a row, had 312 yards offense.
VT/EH/GT (4-5) plays Capital Prep Thursday at 8 p.m. at Dillon Stadium in Hartford.