Heading into last Friday’s match-up of teams holding 5-1 records, Cheshire High School football wanted to set the tone early playing at East Haven.
The Rams more than accomplished their goal in the first half, building a 34-0 lead en route to a 48-14 victory. Led by three touchdowns from senior Jake McAlinden, Cheshire extended their win streak to five games.
“We are confident in our guys,” said Head Coach Don Drust. “They practice hard during the week and that shows up on Friday nights.”
Following an East Haven punt to start the game, CHS scored behind the offensive line of seniors Will Bergin and Sean Cangiano and juniors Dan Bourdeau, Colin Crowe, and Chisom Okoro. Senior Alec Frione broke free for a 27-yard run and McAlinden ran for a 15-yard touchdown with 7:23 left in the first quarter.
The Rams defense returned to create a turnover, as senior Colby Griffin caused a fumble and senior Will Bergin recovered the ball at the EH 26-yard line.
“That was a team effort. Chisom hit the fullback and Griffin knocked the ball out, so I could fall on it,” stated Bergin, a co-captain with senior quarterback Jason Shumilla.
CHS capitalized with the first touchdown of Cangiano’s career. Moving from the offensive line to the back field, Cangiano took a hand-off and blasted into the end zone from 3 yards out with 1:00 left in the opening quarter.
“It was one of the best moments of my life,” reflected Cangiano. “I got to run with the ball after a blocked punt (on Oct. 4 at Shelton), but getting to score a touchdown was even better.”
“Any time a lineman gets to touch the ball, they get excited,” stated Drust. “Sean has worked hard and earned that opportunity tonight.”
Just 25 seconds into the second quarter, East Haven senior Jake Marquardt made a fumble recovery, but the Yellow Jackets chose to punt on the next drive.
After Cangiano scored for the first time in the opening quarter, junior Nick DiDomizio caught his first two touchdowns in the second. First, Shumilla found DiDomizio wide open in the middle for a 69-yard touchdown (10:05). CHS missed the extra point, leaving the score at 20-0.
“It felt great,” stated DiDomizio. “We didn’t put that play in this week, but we ran it and the middle of the field was open for me to get that ball and run for the touchdown.”
“Nick works extremely hard,” added Drust. “He is an unsung hero for us in what he does as the long snapper and a blocker.”
After forcing East Haven to punt, the Rams scored on another pass play. On 3rd down, Shumilla threw the ball into the end zone where DiDomizio leapt up to catch a 15-yard touchdown (27-0) with 5:53 left in the second.
“I knew that I had a couple of guys back there. Nick did a great job going up there to get the ball,” explained Shumilla, who completed six passes for 108 yards.
East Haven attempted to punt on the ensuing drive, but a low snap led to a fumble and the Rams took over at the 1-yard line. McAlinden ran into the end zone to put CHS up 34-0 with 3:39 left in the second quarter.
With 10 seconds left in the first half, East Haven got on the scoreboard when junior quarterback Trey Garea threw a 7-yard touchdown to Marquardt. The extra-point attempt was blocked, so CHS led 34-6 at the half.
While losing the shutout, the Rams returned to score just 14 seconds into the second half. On the opening kick-off, McAlinden earned his third touchdown on an 80-yard return.
“It felt awesome. I was running fast, but just didn’t want to get caught from behind. I’ve put on some weight that I want to drop now,” said McAlinden.
Soon after, Shumilla went down hard on a run play that resulted in East Haven being penalized for a horse-collar tackle. Shumilla ended up walking off under his own power.
“The game of football comes with injuries,” said Drust. “Fortunately, he (Shumilla) is okay.”
Replacing Shumilla at quarterback, Griffin came in to throw a 41-yard pass to Frione and then scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:33 left in the third.
“I’m always ready to go when my team needs me,” said Griffin.
In the fourth, CHS had a pooch punt blocked and East Haven junior Christopher Lombardi fell on the ball. Senior Michael Castellano ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left and then scored on a two-point conversion run, as time expired.
Senior Jacob Dubois led the Rams with six tackles. Bergin, Cangiano, Frione, Griffin, and Okoro all had five tackles.
The Rams are now starting their second bye week before closing the regular season with three home games. To start that stretch on Nov. 15, CHS hosts Sheehan (6-0) at 7 p.m.