— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) December 3, 2018
ENFIELD — Watching the Haddam-Killingworth and Stafford/East Windsor/Somers players walk off the field after one rather forgettable first half of football, those who opted to sit in the rain at Enfield High School for Sunday afternoon’s CIAC Class S semifinal slugfest were about to be treated to theater of the absurd.
Dropped touchdown passes, unenforced penalties and miscues on special teams and offense set the stage for a chaotic finish as H-K emerged with a 21-14 overtime victory to punch its ticket to the Class S championship game for the first time since 1994.
Each team got the ball at the 10-yard line in overtime. H-K was up first and a roughing the passer penalty on a second-down incompletion moved the ball to the 2. It took three attempts before Callender scored from 1-yard out. A botched snap on the extra point was negated by another Stafford penalty. Jordan Callahan, who had four punts at least 41 yards in the first half, added the extra point to make it 21-14.
On the possession for Stafford, Colton Engel was thrown for a 3-yard loss on first down. He had an 11-yard catch to the 2 on second down but was stopped for no gain by Callender on third down as the game came down to one play.
Engel was stuffed by Zach Kauffman at the 3 and he pitched the ball back. Lineman Nathan LaVallee got the ball after it bounced around on the turf but he was engulfed by Aiden Maher. The whistle blew as Bulldogs’ lineman Sam Yefko picked up the ball. He hesitated and with multiple whistles blowing, Kauffman let go of Yefko’s jersey.
Yefko ultimately decided to run with the ball and Sample met him inside the 10 with a shoulder resulting in a flag being thrown. If the penalty was enforced as part of the play, Stafford could have been given a first down around 4. Instead, the officials decided after a brief conference that it happened after the play was over so the penalty wasn’t enforced and the game was over.
“It’s indescribable,” Maher said of the game’s final play. “It is game over and then oh no there is a flag, it is still game over and then it was game over. We did it, we preached that we are going to win, we are going to be the Pequot champs the entire year and we showed that we are the real Pequot champs today.”
After the ruling was announced, emotions were riding high as the Stafford coaching staff were on the field asking why the penalty wasn’t enforced.
Stafford coach Brian Mazzone took the high road after the game saying that his team should have punched the ball into the end zone on its lone overtime drive.
“There was a defensive penalty but we thought there should have been a personal foul on the play,” Mazzone said. “They called a personal foul but it wasn’t enforced, I think it was because it was change of possession.”
The first big play of the game was provided by the Haddam-Killingworth defense as the Cougars blew up a screen pass resulting with the first of two fumble recoveries by Maher. Kauffman had a 1-yard scoring run on the next play to give the Cougars the early 7-0 lead.
That was the lone offensive highlight in a first half featuring 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 19 of the 45 offensive plays going for no gain.
Both teams switched things up in the second half utilizing backup quarterback in different ways. James Murphy came in for H-K allowing Tobey Callender to move from being a triple-option quarterback to a tailback in the I formation.
Murphy wasn’t asked to throw often but he did have a drive-extending completion to Wallace Sample on third down whil Callender had third-down runs of 14 and 10 yards to set up Kauffman’s second 1-yard TD run of the game to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs turned to Tyler Ouellette who completed his first passes to set up Julien Rivas’ 4-yard scoring run and connected with starting quarterback Colton Engel for a game-tying 13-yard touchdown pass. The second score was aided by a muffed punt by the Cougars.
Ouellette threw for 116 yards to give the Bulldogs a chance to make its first state championship appearance while the offensive change by the H-K staff also paid dividends.
“It obviously helped,” Maher said. “I really enjoyed our coaching changes at halftime especially in this game. we tried everything and we got down to smash-mouth football.”
The three touchdowns in the final 4:59 of the third quarter set the stage for a wild fourth quarter and an even more chaotic overtime session.
Maher had a blocked punt to give the Cougars a first down at the Stafford 36 with 7:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, Dalton Modehn was stopped a yard short on a 4th and 3 play. Three plays later Maher pounced on a fumble as H-K had the ball at the Bulldogs’ 33 but once again the Stafford defense held its ground setting the stage for overtime.
“It means everything for our coaching staff, for our players specifically and our community and parents also,” said Maher, one of 11 H-K seniors.
After saying a few words to his players, Mazzone and his assistant coach went through the line hugging each player and thanking the 15 seniors after the Bulldogs posted a 30-5 record over the last three seasons.
“Stafford football was on the doorstep of the state championship, Stafford football,” Mazzone said. “They were talking about folding the program the year before we got here. We hadn’t had a winning season in forever and we went 6-5 one year. Aside from having kids, being a dad, being a husband, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. Playoffs aren’t for guys like me, playoffs aren’t for teams like this and we were right there. What these guys did, I expected to lose for a while when I came here and we just won and won and won and I’ll miss them.
“These guys mean more to me than they will ever know. I hope I mean as much to them as they mean to me.”
HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH 21, STAFFORD/SOMERS/EAST WINDSOR 14 (OT)
STAFFORD 0 0 14 0 0 — 14
H-K 7 0 7 0 7 — 21
H-Zach Kauffman 1 run (Jordan Callahan kick)
H-Kauffman 1 run (Callahan kick)
S-Julien Rivas 4 run (Luke Phillips kick)
S-Colton Engel 13 pass from Tyler Ouellette (Phillips kick)
H-Tobey Callender 1 run (Callahan kick)
Records: H-K 11-1, S 11-1