Rockville’s Memorable Season Comes to End in First Round Playoff Loss

STRATFORD-Rockville High School football had an unforgettable season in head coach Erick Knickerbocker’s first season, winning6 more games than in 2017 and qualifying for the state playoffs in Class M. The Rams (7-4), ranked No. 8 in the M state tournament, saw their season come to a painful end on Tuesday against defending champion  and top seed St. Joseph’s, however. Trumbull’s powerhouse program overwhelmed Rockville on both sides of the ball, winning 49-7.

St. Joe’s (10-1) scored all its points in the first half and especially dominated in the passing game, with David Summers throwing four touchdowns on nine passes. Jaden Schirden rushed for three scores and 120 yards. The Hogs will play No. 4 seed and defending M champion Killingly on Sunday.

St. Joe’s scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions. Summers threw a 5-yard touchdown to Jesse Bike two minutes into the game. RHS star Ben Ambro fumbled on the Cadet’s first punt, allowing them to recover the ball at the 10-yeard line. Summers found Brady Hutchinson on their first play.

St. Joe’s continued to control the action the remainder of the first quarter, holding Rockville to short possessions and scoring two more touchdowns to go up 28-0. Summers threw a 10-yard score to Owen DaSilva, and Shirden ran for his first TD from 10 yards out. The QB set up the touchdown by completing a 21-yard pass to Hutchison on third-and-4. On the previous drive, the Rams had advanced the ball to their own 37, but Ambro threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

“We played arguably the best team in the entire state and simply did not have the speed or size to match them,” Knickerbocker said. “Early on we were able to match the physicality, but we were out of position by one step here, one step there and they were touchdowns. I really like how hard we played even though we realized we were completely outmatched. Their team was the most talented team I have seen as a high school football coach.”

“On offense, we got ourselves into a lot of third down and 5 or less early on, but we just could not convert really any of them. Give credit to their defense, who swarmed us all night.”

The game followed the same script in the second quarter, with Shirden running for touchdowns of 11 and 25 yards.

Despite the 49-0 halftime gap, Rockville continued to play hard in the second half as St. Joe’s intentionally took its foot off the pedal. Senior Nick Foley led the Rams to their only touchdown. He intercepted Matthew Morrissey with 4:30 remaining in the third, returning the ball 60 yards to the Cadets 2. On fourth down, Ambro found Foley for a score.

Knickerbocker praised Foley for his play on both sides of the ball, including his tackling on defense. He caught two passes for 16 yards and the TD, and ran for 19 yards on three carries.

Knickerbocker strongly praised the effort his players gave all day despite being overmatched against St. Joe’s.

“ I was proud of our team. It was a huge deal to make the playoffs and a really tough draw to match up with St Joseph right out of the gate. I hate losing but I love that our guys fought from opening whistle to closing whistle. They realized that what they have done this season will never be defined by one game.”

Knickerbocker, Foley and Ambro all spoke about how special making the playoffs and the entire season was for them and the program.

“This was a very special year. If we continue to be successful in the future a lot of that success will be because this group of players and coaches came together and put down a foundation for success,” Knickerbocker said. “Players had to change positions, mindsets, and learn on the fly all year long. We always stayed together and played hard and that is what I am most proud of.”

“I am super proud of this team from going 1-9 to making the playoffs,” Foley said. “I can’t be anymore happy for this team and its future. For the seniors, it is awesome everyone at school knows who we are and looks up to us for the things we have done for the program and for the school.”

“”I’m glad to have been a part of this team. Being the first team to make the playoffs since ’95, I couldn’t ask for anything else,” Ambro said. “And I’m glad to have played for this coaching staff. The seniors have been all in since January, and it’ just a great step to restore the Rock (ville).”

While losing 14 seniors from this year’s team will be challenging for the Rams program, Knickerbocker is confident it can build on the success and looks forward to seeing what his underclassmen will do in 2019.

“The seniors have built a foundation for our program. It is the responsibility or our underclassmen to take that and improve it. We talked a lot about each class wanting to make their mark and leave the program better than they found it. This was a great start, but it’s only going to get harder if we want to move from good to great.”

 

 

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