MIDDLETOWN >> It’s no contest, the happiest man in town is Vinal Tech football coach Joe Cefaratti.
“I’m very happy, I’m ecstatic,” Cefaratti proclaimed after his cooperative team from Vinal Tech, East Hampton and Goodwin Tech defeated Wolcott Tech/Housatonic Regional/Wamogo, 27-18 at Palmer Field Friday night.
“I was so pleased with how we moved the ball in the first half, and we moved it on the ground and in the air,” Cefaratti said. “I know we both came in 0-4, but I truly believe both teams are better than that.”
The Bellhawks certainly looked better than their record this night. The club had 261 yards offense, nicely balanced with 150 rushing yards and 111 through the air. The Bellhawks also had big plays and the big ones began early.
Dante Bell got the crowd of 300 yelling with a 40-yard touchdown run with 3:54 showing in the first quarter and with John Kumitis’ extra point — more on him shortly — the Bellhawks led 7-0.
Wolcott Tech bounced back immediately and scored with 2:03 left in the quarter on a 28-yard run by Eli Brinson (15 carries, 92 yards). But the conversion failed and Vinal led 7-6.
The Bellhawks expanded the lead from there.
In the second quarter, Kumitis hit the first of his two field goals, this one from 26 yards, and moments later, quarterback James Tharin (7-for-11, two touchdowns) hit Justin Czeremcha from 13 yards out and with Kumitis’ kick, Vinal led 17-6.
The game was nothing if not a game of big plays and Wolcott Tech came up with one of its own when Derek Oakes threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Brinson to cut the lead to 17-12 late in the half.
Tharin answered with a big play, a 37-yard pass to Jared Reed with 20 seconds left in the half and the Bellhawks led 24-12 at intermission.
“That late touchdown just before the half was huge,” Cefaratti said. “We gave up big plays that hurt us, so to get that touchdown was very big.”
It became bigger when Brinson scored his third touchdown of the night on a 50-yard punt return with 11:22 remaining in the game.
That’s when the Bellhawks turned to their ground game and chewed up clock before Kumitis put the game on ice with a 31-yard field goal with plenty to spare with 2:38 left to play.
“We have been giving up big plays,” Cefaratti said. “Those are backbreakers, but not tonight.”
Cefaratti also heaped praise on his running backs who have stepped up to replace the two injured starting backs.
“Reed is just a sophomore, but he’s a phenomenal athlete,” Cefaratti said. “He can run, we can throw to him and he plays defense. He does a lot of things. [Horace] Spruill gives us power at fullback, and Bell ran that sweep for the first touchdown perfectly. He followed his blockers in textbook fashion.
“I also thought Tharin did a great job at quarterback. All of them stepped up tonight.”