SOUTHINGTON — His right arm remains in a sling, out with a broken collarbone, so Phil Pasmeg has unfortunately had plenty of time to watch his St. Joseph teammates play football this year.
The consolation has been what he has seen from his fellow receivers.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” Pasmeg said earlier this week in the leadup to Saturday’s CIAC Class M championship game at Shelton, pitting the No. 5 and top-seeded Hogs against third-seeded Berlin.
At the start, coach Joe Della Vecchia said, the big concern was replacing graduated standout Jared Mallozzi, expecting Pasmeg back from a preseason injury and bringing senior Jesse Bike and junior Will Diamantis off good 2017 seasons. They also had Jaden Shirden out of the backfield for Maryland-bound quarterback David Summers.
“You really don’t replace a kid like Jared. You try to find somebody to fill in for him,” Della Vecchia said. “Hutch (sophomore Brady Hutchison) was the guy who took off in preseason. We knew he’d be the guy, then he got hurt in our last scrimmage and missed seven or eight games.”
They have found a lot of depth. The Hogs have had 13 different players catch a pass.
“It wasn’t as hard an adjustment as most people would think,” Summers said, running down a long list of receivers who’ve come up with big catches for the Hogs.
“Darren Warren and Ace (Luzietti) filled in for us, (Owen) DaSilva. We’ve got a lot of guys rotating in, so we’ve been just fine throwing the ball.”
Shirden, a junior, has 22 catches to go along with over 1,200 yards on the ground. Diamantis has 39 catches, 13 for touchdowns. Bike has 29 receptions. Sophomore Hutchison, in just five games, has 20, including a couple of first-half touchdowns in the semifinals against Killingly.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth from Jesse Bike especially. He made first team (all-FCIAC), which was awesome,” Pasmeg said. “Will’s having a tremendous year, and our little sophomore’s coming into play, had a great game against Killingly, was actually a big spark for us how we won that game.
“Owen, my replacement, I guess, he’s fitting in. He’s doing a good job, doing great with blocking. He’s learning the plays. He’s starting to get a good grasp of what’s going on, which is great: a lot of promise.”
Bike said the Hogs felt they had a good group of receivers coming in, but he has been impressed with the players who stepped up.
They have good chemistry with their quarterback to begin with, he added.
“David, he’s one of my best friends. All the receivers are friends with him,” Bike said. “We’re always laughing, and working hard, too, at practice. We want to get it right.
“I know how many yards to run the routes, we all know, because David tells us. We work in practice to make sure the routes are perfect.”
Waiting for the Hogs is another team with a potent offense, Berlin. The Redcoats have a deep rushing attack, but senior Kevin Dunn has also thrown for over 2,000 yards, with six players, including several of those backs, catching at least 10 of his 119 completions.
Berlin is in its fifth Class M final since 2007; it won in 2009, but its last title-game appearance was 2014. The Hogs are in a final for the third year in a row; they beat Ansonia for the Class S championship a year ago.
“Same thing as last year, we’re very excited,” Bike said. “The job’s not finished yet. We’ve got to win the game. We just want to repeat, back-to-back state championships.”