The Falcons celebrate their history-making victory. Photo: Dave Burnham
Xavier Football Wins Third Consecutive LL Title
MIDDLETOWN - For the third straight year, the Xavier High School football team reigns supreme in Class LL.
The road to the title game saw the Falcons handle #6 Greenwich in the quarterfinals (55-14) and #7 Glastonbury in the semifinals (30-13) to set up the Dec. 7 meeting with fifth-seeded Norwich Free Academy at Rentschler Field.
Xavier, which featured a high-powered offense that came into the championship game averaging 43.8 points per game and an equally potent defense, which limited opponents to just 16.9 ppg, scored early and in every quarter of its 48-14 victory over NFA.
The Falcons, who set an SCC record by scoring 574 points in 2012, beat Staples (42-7) in 2011 and Trumbull (24-13) in 2010 and are now 4-2 in title games.
With senior Tim Boyle calling signals and workhorse DeAngelo Berry in fine form, the Xavier ground game recorded 408 of the Falcons’ 517 yards of total offense. The 5’7”, 182-pound Berry finished his scholastic career with a rushing touchdown trifecta and 260 yards on 30 totes, good for an average of 8.6 yards per carry.
“Three-in-a-row!” a jubilant Boston College-bound Boyle said. “I’m so excited. I’ve played varsity football for three years and we’ve been state champs for three years. I’m very blessed. That we threw only five passes is fine. I was glad to throw one for a touchdown, but it’s winning that matters.”
Boyle called his own number from four yards out with 3:18 left in the first quarter to put Xavier on the scoreboard. Andrew Verre kicked his first of two conversion kicks to put the defending champions ahead, 7-0. Boyle, who was 2-5 for 109 yards, fired a 94-yard bomb to a wide-open James Sullivan, just 2:41 later to up the Xavier advantage to 14-0.
Berry got his first call from three yards out, with 3:19 left before the break, making it look like Xavier would cruise into the break, up 20-0.
Norwich Free Academy had other ideas. Starting on its own 40, NFA capped a two-play drive with a Joey Paparelli to James Caruso 49-yard scoring strike with 1:56 before halftime. Elisa Formiglio then became the first female in Connecticut state championship history to play in a title game, hitting her first of two extra points to make it a 20-7 ball game.
NFA struck again, capitalizing on a fumble by the usually sure-handed Berry on the ensuing kickoff, and went to work on the Xavier 20. Paparelli and Caruso connected on a six-yard touchdown pass to cap the seven-play drive and make it 20-14 with one tick left before the break.
“I was concerned because they had all the momentum going into the half,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said. “We’ve been in the same situation earlier in the year against Hand and we didn’t respond. We needed to take the momentum back. We challenged the kids in the locker room on what happened in the last few minutes. I talked to them a long time because I had a lot to say.
“I told them I thought we were wearing them down, but we had to come out and win it over the next 24 minutes,” according to Marinan. “We challenged our kids to get the ball back to our offense and then our offense could put the ball in the end zone. Our kids certainly responded this time.”
The Falcons responded emphatically, on both sides of the ball.
The offense scored twice in the third quarter and twice in the fourth to salt away the history-making victory. Berry gave the Falcons some breathing room, crossing the goal line on a four-yard tote with 5:38 to play in the third quarter to make it 28-14. He added a 25-yard scoring jaunt with 10:21 left in the game.
“We all refocused,” noted Berry. “We knew we had given those points away. They didn’t earn them. We knew we had to go out there and make a stop and then we were going to go down and score. Our offensive line opened up big holes and I just ran through them. The offensive line played perfectly, just like we practiced.”
The defense picked off a pair of Paparelli passes and held NFA to negative one yard of offense in the third quarter. Linebackers Kris Luster and Max Tylki led the charge that shut down NFA, limiting Norwich Free Academy to just 63 yards of offense over the final 12 minutes of play. Luster’s pick off, late in the third stanza, set up the offense’s fifth tally of the game, with Luster taking it in from 22 yards out. Andrew Meoli finished the night with a 19-yard touchdown tear with just under six minutes left in the game.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Marinan said. “It’s going to take a little while to sink in. What a testament to our coaches. What a great job they did. This is just phenomenal. Our coaches and players have done a tremendous job all year. They earned this.
“Our ground game was working so well, we didn’t need to throw much,” Marinan said. “Besides, that kept the NFA offense off of the field. Berry started tearing it up, so we decided to ride him for the duration. We could tell the beginning of the second half that we were really wearing on them and they weren’t going to hold up against the run game.”
Berry called the victory the best moment of his life.
“These guys are my family. We’ve been together for four years. This is exactly how I wanted to end the season. We wanted to be part of the first Xavier team to win three titles in a row and we did it. We made history.”
NFA head coach Jemal Davis had nothing but praise for Xavier, which dealt his team its first loss of the season against a dozen wins.
“It was unfortunate we had two guys [tailback Marcus Outlow, defensive back Chris Johnson] go down early. They were a big part of our game plan. But I’m not going to make excuses. Xavier played an excellent game. We got beat by a very good football team.
“They are well-coached, very physical and had a great game plan that they executed,” Davis added. “Their offensive line play was outstanding. They outplayed us in all facets of the game. The story is really about what Xavier did, not the fact that anyone got injured. We lost to the better team. That’s what the story should be.”