By Larry Kelley
Special to CIACSports.com
The Class S final between Ansonia and Rocky Hill 10:30 a.m. at Willow Brook Park is a mismatch if you compare football trophy cases and pedigrees.
Ansonia features a state-best 19 CIAC titles; Rocky Hill has six CIAC soccer titles, but no football championships.
“It’s amazing to realize that Ansonia has more state titles (19) than we have years as a varsity football program,” Rocky Hill coach Mark Fritz said. “This is only our second post-season berth ever, so it’s an honor to play the most successful team in state history in our first final. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
Excited, but not just happy to be there. Few are talking about a mismatch Saturday.
Fourth-seeded Rocky Hill (11-1) convinced any down-state skeptics Monday when it blasted Seymour of the Naugatuck Valley League, 42-7, in the semifinals. The Terriers rode the precision and devastation of their double-wing offense to take a 42-0 lead just three minutes into the third quarter. The onslaught signalled the rare sight of running time for much of the semifinal’s second half.
The result caught the attention of second-seeded Ansonia (12-0) of the NVL. Ansonia, which handed Seymour its only regular season loss, 41-20, topped Cromwell/Portland, 47-28, in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
“Rocky Hill is a handful,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. “They have a bunch of physical linemen and two game-breaking backs.”
While Grant Nieves and Joe Catania give the Terriers a pair of 1,000-plus yard rushers capable of breaking long TD runs, Ansonia follows its recent trend of featuring a dominant single back who puts up outer-galaxy fantasy statistics.
Since the New Millenium under Brockett’s 11-year tenure, Ansonia has produced Arkeel Newsome, Alex Thomas and Montrell Dobbs, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 8 on the state all-time rushing list. The formula has worked as the Chargers have made seven straight Class S finals and 10 in the last 11 years under Brockett.
Another Dobbs, Markell Dobbs, younger brother of Montrell, leads Ansonia this year with 2,215 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is not completely a one-player show. Justin Lopez has scored 15 touchdowns and combined for over 800 rushing and receiving yards. Quarterback Bryson Cafaro throws sparingly but still has compiled 15 touchdown passes against defense designed to stop the run.
Rocky Hill middle linebacker Ricky Montalvo and Nieves, a college prospect at corner back, will lead the Terriers’ attempt to contain Dobbs. Fritz said the Terriers have played with a chip on its shoulder on both offense and defense this season because of what happened at the end of the 2015 regular season.
A team or a loss did not knock Rocky Hill (8-2) out of qualifying for postseason. Very late in the season, the CIAC ruled that Berlin had used an ineligible player and thus had to forfeit all its victories. Rocky Hill had beaten Berlin, but the ruling meant the Terriers would not get needed bonus points for that win. Rocky Hill fell just short of qualifying because of Berlin’s infraction.
“We’ve been targeting making the Class S final all season,” Fritz said. “It has been a mission for us, and now we are there.”
There, where the Chargers live, having made seven straight finals. But Ansonia is stuck on 19 state titles, having lost to Valley Regional and Bloomfield in the last two finals.
“People say its easy to get to the Class S final,” Brockett said, “but we’ve faced seven different teams in the last seven years, so it can’t be that easy to get back there.”