NEW BRITAIN >> Ledyard arrived at Veterans Stadium bigger, stronger and wiser than it was a year ago when it lost to St. Joseph in a record-setting quarterfinal shootout. The Colonels averaged over 50 points per game and had vengeance on their minds.
But they still weren’t a match for St. Joseph.
Instead of an offensive onslaught, this time the Hogs beat back Ledyard with defense to win their second consecutive title, 37-7, in the Class M-Small championship Saturday afternoon.
“We really showed up today to play,” senior Matt Lavenziana said. “All of us we watched film of them all week, our coaches prepared us all week. We knew everything that was coming, every alignment, everything.
“Give them credit, they were an outstanding team. But I don’t know if we played as well all year as we did today. We just really showed up to play.”
Both teams amassed over 300 yards of offense, but St. Joseph was the only one scoring. Mufasha Abdul-Basir ran for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 93-yard run on St. Joseph’s second possession of the game. Lars Pedersen caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Cory Babineau.
From there, it was all defense.
St. Joseph stopped Ledyard in four trips inside the 20-yard line, including two times in the second half as it was trying to get back into the game. The Hogs only allowed the Colonels to make one of six fourth-down conversion attempts.
“That’s character right there,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “That’s playing with heart and with emotion. And our kids did a great job.”
Though Ledyard back JoJo Shumaker ran 95 yards on 20 carries, he was largely ineffective other than the 32-yard touchdown he scored on a screen pass from Ebdon to cut St. Joseph’s lead to 21-7 by halftime.
“Their one touchdown was kind of a broken play,” Pedersen said. “We just missed him in the backfield and we had him. Other than that, everytime they drove on us, we made the key stops several times.”
St. Joseph’s secondary intercepted quarterback Ty Ebdon three times. Ebdon finished 13 of 32 for 143 yards.
“We just couldn’t finish those drives,” Ledyard coach Jim Bunocore said. “It takes a lot of life out of a team if you get down there and can’t finish. To come in averaging 51 points per game and only put up seven, that speaks to how great they were on defense.”
St. Joseph linebacker Cam Ryan had 12 tackles. Backs Lavenziana and Abdul-Basir had seven tackles each.
It was the third consecutive loss by Ledyard in a state championship game.
“I thought, defensively, that was their best game all year,” Buonocore said. “I saw eight games and I thought if we could get into the second level, we’d have success. But their secondary tackled extremely well, their linebackers played outstanding, No. 11 (Cam Ryan) is a stud.
“They made us one dimensional, which no one’s ever done.”
The Hogs pulled away with 16 fourth-quarter points, capped by Marc Mrozek’s 52-yard interception return. Pedersen had an interception to end the third quarter Lavenziana recovered a fumble to set up a field goal.
“I think it feels a lot better,” Pedersen said of this title. “We weren’t predicted to win it this year and last year we were favorites. For us to come out and do this, senior year with my best friends, this is everything I could have ever wanted.”
SJ — Mufasha Abdul-Basir 91 run (Marc Mrozek kick)
SJ–Lars Pedersen 32 pass from Cory Babineau (Mrozek kick)
SJ–Abdul-Basir 31 run (Mrozek kick)
L–JoJo Shumaker 34 pass from Ty Ebdon (Luke Saccone kick)
SJ–Mrozek 28 field goal
SJ–Pedersen 3 run (Mrozek kick)
SJ–Mrozek 52 interception return (kick failed)
RUSHING — St. Joseph: Mufasha Abdul Basir 26-205, Lars Pedersen 6-57, Cory Babineau 1-(-9). Ledyard: JoJo Shumaker 20-95, Ty Ebdon 6-23, River Thomas 2-20.
PASSING — St. Joseph: Cory Babineau 8-15-1-80. Ledyard: Ty Ebdon 13-32-3-143, River Thomas 1-1-0-42.
RECEIVING: St. Joseph: Lars Pedersen 2-36, Patrick Battista 1-26, Mufasha Abdul Basir 4-17, Rich Brown 1-1. Ledyard: Phyllip Thomas 5-103, JoJo Shumaker 2-31, Leo Clinton 2-27, River Thomas 3-16, Luke Saccone 2-8.