MERIDEN — With two traditionally high-scoring teams, the last thing one would expect is a defensive battle.
But that’s exactly what happened Friday night as Maloney defeated North Haven 18-14 in a Connecticut Football Alliance contest at Falcon Field between two playoff contenders in Class L.
Maloney had come in averaging 47.5 points and North Haven 31.5 points, but it was the Spartans’ defense in the second half that didn’t allow a point and that was the difference.
“I said from day one defense would be our strength,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “The guys bought into listening to the coaches all week on how to stop their single wing. They watched the film and it showed out here.”
Maloney, which reached the CIAC Class L championship game a year ago, is still unbeaten in three games.
“We’re just hoping to get some respect around in the state,” Frederick said. “Hopefully, we found it now.”
Penalties at key times were costly for North Haven, especially in the latter stages of the game as the Indians ended up with 31 and 43 yards to go for first downs as they went backwards.
“When you make too many mistakes against a team like Maloney, you’re not going win the ball game,” North Haven coach Tony Sagnella said. “We certainly had opportunities to take the lead. We need to address that.”
North Haven fell to 1-2 with the loss which won’t make it easy for the Indians to get back to the Class L playoffs.
“We have a schedule that’s going to require that we figure out how to win some of these close games,” Sagnella said. “Our two losses are where we were a score away, but we need to eliminate those mistakes. You can’t beat yourself. That’s as old as time.”
North Haven led 14-12 in a back-and-forth first half.
It took all but 23 seconds of the first quarter for either team to get on the board. Maloney finally broke through when Angel Arce connected with Kamron Moreno in the left corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
However, the extra point snap was bobbled, leaving the Spartans ahead just 6-0.
North Haven countered with a 67-yard drive, culminated by a Max Augustine 1-yard scamper with 9:11 to play in the second quarter. Chase DiCarlo was successful with the extra point kick to make it 7-6.
Later in the quarter, Maloney took advantage of a botched snap by the Indians to take possession at the North Haven 13-yard line.
Four plays later, Quanell Grimes tipped an Arce pass high in the air to himself in the end zone for a touchdown. The two-point conversion pass attempt failed, leaving the Spartans ahead 12-7 with 3:52 to play before intermission.
It left plenty of time for Augustine to collect his second 1-yard touchdown run of the night with 14.3 seconds remaining in the half. DiCarlo hit the extra point to give the Indians the 14-12 edge at the break.
Maloney grabbed the lead back for the third time midway through the third quarter when Arce hooked up with Moreno for another touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone. But again the conversion pass failed, leaving the Spartans with an 18-14 lead with 6:51 to go in the third quarter.
After that, it was all defense as neither team scored in the final 18:51.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Angel Arce, Maloney: Was 11-for-18 passing for 196 yards and three touchdown passes.
“This was a statement game for us. Everyone thought we were going to get smacked tonight, but now everyone has to know who the Maloney Spartans are. We’re dangerous.” —Kamron Moreno, Maloney wide receiver