Rocky Hill’s Andrew Jenkelunas launches the ball in a Thanksgiving Day game against Northwest Catholic. Photo: Rocky Hill High School.
Rocky Hill Terriers Feast on Thanksgiving
ROCKY HILL - The Rocky Hill Terriers thought they would have to win a road game on Thanksgiving in order to secure a home playoff game. Instead, they wound up having to win at the friendly confines of McVicar Field to earn the coveted home playoff date. Their Thanksgiving Day tilt versus conference rival Northwest Catholic was originally slated to be played at Northwest Catholic High School, but was moved to Rocky Hill due to poor field conditions at the West Hartford-based school.

       The change didn’t affect the turnout for the turkey day game, as both schools had standing room only crowds in attendance. The Terriers exploited the unexpected home field advantage and beat the Indians 21-6, just in time to take the turkey out of the oven. The victory earned a well-deserved home playoff game for Rocky Hill and keeps their championship aspirations alive.

       The chilly and windy conditions on Thanksgiving morning favored Rocky Hill because the two teams have vastly different offensive philosophies. The Terriers use a ball-control, run-oriented offense and the Indians run a spread offense, featuring four and five wide receiver sets.

       Despite the apparent weather advantage, Rocky Hill was clinging to a 7-6 lead midway through the second quarter and had trouble establishing the line of scrimmage against the physical Northwest Catholic front-seven. The Indians’ defense was led by hard-hitting safety Delano Robinson, who finished with 18 tackles and had the incredibly difficult task of containing Rocky Hill phenomenon Chris Young. Young was hounded early by Northwest defenders, often being hit by two or three players, even when he didn’t have the ball.

       “They {Northwest Catholic} were a physical team,” Young said. “We knew we had to match them physically.”

       The contest was a stalemate until Rocky Hill punter Josh Zawisa changed the dynamic of the game when he boomed a punt 59 yards, which was downed at the Northwest Catholic seven-yard line. The Indians were unable to move the ball and went three-and-out, punting the ball back to the Terriers with 6:13 left in the half. Rocky Hill proceeded to drain the first half clock and methodically moved the ball down to the one-yard line.

       Facing a fourth and goal with only 10 seconds to play in the half, Rocky Hill coach David Coyne could have opted to take the easy points and allow kicker Greg Marzilli to extend the Terriers lead, but he instead decided to give the ball to the extremely reliable Young. The senior tailback delivered, taking the handoff and sweeping to the right before quickly cutting back into the heart of the Indians’ defense and striking pay dirt. The last-second score sent the hometown faithful into a frenzy and extended their halftime lead to 14-6.

       “I couldn’t tell you how I did it myself,” Young said referring to the last second touchdown. “My instincts took over and I cut back at the right time.”

       The hometown fortune continued into the halftime festivities when three Rocky Hillians were victorious over three Northwest Catholics in the first annual Punt, Pass, and Kick competition.

       The Rocky Hill success continued to spew over into the second half, as the Terriers aggressive defense started to exert their will on the Indians’ pass-happy offense. Even after Rocky Hill fumbled the ball away at their own 30-yard line with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter, the Terriers ferocious defense pinned their ears back and made one of their trademark stands. Following the fumble, Rocky Hill defensive captain Tommy Seaver recorded the first of his two sacks on the afternoon and Nick Carducci intercepted a third down pass to spoil Northwest Catholic’s best field position of the game.

       “Our defense likes stepping up in those moments,” Seaver said. “Our focus is always getting the ball back for our offense.”

       Seaver and his defensive mates thoroughly dominated the third quarter, allowing the Indians to run a mere seven offensive plays, but they still only held an eight-point lead after the first 36 minutes.

       The Terriers have become synonymous with their fourth quarter excellence and Thursday was no different. Holding a 14-6 lead, Young was swarmed and tackled by a host of Northwest Catholic defenders on a fourth down run to start the fourth quarter, but that merely fueled the sensational senior’s fire. On the play following the turnover, Indians’ quarterback Christian Flynn attempted to throw deep down the left sidelines, but Young perfectly tracked the ball through the sunny, clear sky and made a tremendous leaping interception in front of a would-be Indians receiver.

       “I knew that pass was coming,” Young said. “Our scout offense did a great job in practice all week allowing us to be prepared for everything they ran on offense.”

       Young’s interception swung the momentum back to Rocky Hill and he put the final nail in the coffin two plays later when he dashed 38 yards for the game’s final score. On the game-clinching touchdown run, he burst through the right side of the Indians defense and outraced a helpless Robinson to the right corner of the end zone.

       “The {offensive} line made that play work,” Young said. “The hole was huge and I was able to break free. It felt great.”

       Young totaled 147 rushing yards on Thanksgiving and finished the regular season with an astonishing 30 touchdown runs.

       Rocky Hill will host the Prince RVT Falcons from Hartford on Tuesday. If they can pull off the home victory, they will play either Ansonia or Coginchaug Regional next Saturday for a spot in the Class S championship game.

       “We just have to keep this momentum going,” Seaver said. “We’re trying to carry this momentum into each game.”

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