Title Dreams End for Knights

A cold, driving rain was not the only factor that dampened the Ellington/Somers football team’s chances for a state title Saturday.

Defending Class M champion St. Joseph unleashed its quick-strike, big-play arsenal, parlaying six scoring plays of 30 or more yards into a 55-6 victory and a berth in the Class M small division finals.

The Cadets amassed 556 yards of total offense, scoring on seven consecutive possessions to earn their fourth trip to a state title game in the last six seasons. St. Joseph won Class S in 2010 and Class SS in 2009.

“St. Joe’s is very fast, very quick and very talented great athletes,” Ellington/Somers coach Sean Byrne said. “They’re a well-coached football team, and we just couldn’t get anything going offensively. We really struggled, and we tried just about everything we’ve got, but none of it looked too good.”

Ellington/Somers held tough defensively in the red zone during the game’s opening series, stopping Mufasha Abdul Basir for a loss on 4th-and-5 from the 12-yard line. However, the Cadets would not be kept off the board on another possession until running out the clock in the final minutes.

The Knights struggled to mount any offensive attack, going three-and-out the first four times they had the ball. Ellington/Somers did not gain a first down until the midpoint of the second quarter, and finished the game with just eight.

St. Joseph used a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cory Babineau to Seamus Keating and a 30-yard scoring scamper by Abdul Basir to grab a 14-0 first-quarter lead. The Cadets then exploded for 28 points in the second quarter on Babineau passes of 38 yards to Abdul Basir and 55 yards to Keating, plus touchdown runs by Lars Pedersen (4 yards) and Abdul Basir (87 yards).

The Knights mounted a 92-yard drive over a 2:15 span to put its only points on the board just before halftime. A 61-yard catch-and-run by Ben Kloter set up a 23-yard scoring toss from Nate LaJoie to Mark Hickman, who made a fine leaping grab in the end zone.

“I believe Mark Hickman is one of the best players in the state of Connecticut,” Byrne said. “I think he could start on any team in the state. He’s a very good athlete. On defense, not too many people throw the ball against him.”

St. Joseph picked right up where it left off after intermission, scoring on a 76-yard burst by Patrick Battista. The Knights were forced to punt on their next series, and Battista returned the kick 74 yards to cap the scoring.

The big plays helped the Cadets pick up 398 yards on the ground, while Ellington/Somers gained just 115 yards rushing, 60 of which came from Hickman in the game’s waning minutes.

“We’re a young team, with a lot of sophomores and juniors playing, and he hope to learn from this and be standing back here next year with a better result,” Byrne said.

The game marked the final high school contest for a dozen Knight seniors, including captains Kloter, Derek Litty, Shane McGowan and Danny Hayes.

“It’s been an incredible season, but it’s sad to see it coming to an end now,” McGowan said. “I’m going to really miss football and all of the great people involved with Ellington football.”

“Football has really taught me a lot, and I’ve made so many great friends through this sport,” Hayes said. “I knew everyone thought we wouldn’t have a good year this year, but we set out to prove them wrong and that’s exactly what we did. This was a great family that I’m really going to miss.”

“It’s been the best three years of my life playing football,” Kloter said. “My sophomore year, I played with Austin Tautkus, and it’s always said you never know when it will be over, so take advantage of every bit. That’s definitely something that’s stuck with me my entire career, to strive to be more like those guys.”

Tautkus, a 2012 Ellington graduate and standout football player, was killed in an ATV accident in June. The Knights dedicated their season to his memory, wearing his number 2 on the backs of their helmets.

“We’re always going to remember,” Litty said.

See more photos here:http://thesportsdept.smugmug.com/Other-4/High-School-Football/EllingtonSomers-Football/46206990_jTsCFj#!i=3747210921&k=tQH6ssT

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