State M Championship Game
St. Joseph scores state championship record 70 points to claim Class M title over Berlin
SHELTON — It took some fits and starts for St. Joseph’s offense to get rolling in the CIAC Class M football championship game at Finn Stadium.
Once it did, the Cadets were unstoppable, winning a second straight state title while scoring the most points any team has ever put up in a championship game as they beat Berlin 70-18.
“We have a special group here. We play with maximum effort every time,” said senior co-captain Jesse Lawson, one of three Cadets with two interceptions. “I’m proud to lead them.”
Top-seeded, fifth-ranked St. Joseph (12-1), Class S champion last season, scored four touchdowns in the first quarter, led 49-0 at halftime and hit back when third-seeded Berlin (11-2) got a little momentum going to start the second half.
St. Joseph won its 14th CIAC title in its 17th final appearance. And Luke Kirby’s 10th point-after kick gave the Cadets one more point than Weaver scored in winning the 1999 Class M title 69-26 over Darien.
The Cadets gained 556 yards on 48 plays. Their first five touchdowns came within six plays. (”Did we actually?” quarterback David Summers asked.)
“I think we could give a lot of thanks to our defense for that,” Summers said. “(The Redcoats) just were not driving the ball, and even if they got a drive started, we got a pick.”
Those quick strikes followed a 10-play opening drive that included a controversial fourth-down conversion from the Berlin 23. Summers hit Brady Hutchison for 14 yards, two more than the Cadets needed, though Berlin insisted Hutchison caught it on a bounce. Three plays later, Hutchison caught the first of Summers’ six touchdown passes.
“Especially a game like this, everyone comes out a little antsy, a little nervous,” Summers said. “Once we got that fourth-down conversion, we got everything out of our system.”
After a three-and-out, Berlin punted and again thought it didn’t catch a break, thinking it recovered after the punt hit a Cadets player. The officials gave St. Joseph the ball where it was downed, the Cadets’ 41. Jaden Shirden took the next play 59 yards for the first of his three touchdowns.
Shirden ran 10 times for 167 yards. Summers threw for 369 yards.
“Will Diamantis, Brady Hutchison, Jesse Bike, they played outstanding. They caught everything I threw their way, even if it was bad,” Summers said. “They made moves on guys to score touchdowns on simple plays. And especially Jaden out of the backfield, he was great. Breaking that long run early, I think, kind of set up the game for us.”
Lawson, Myles Hall and Jack Wallace each intercepted two passes. The Redcoats were looking for interference calls on a couple of them.
“Anything can happen on any given play,” Berlin coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “The only opinion that matters is the guy with the white-and-black shirt with the yellow thing in his pocket.”
The Cadets ran up over 400 yards by halftime. Even when they didn’t get great field position, when a personal foul after an interception put them on their own 10, Summers sent Jesse Bike down the right side for a 90-yard score.
“We thought we could score. We thought we could move the ball,” Cadets coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “We didn’t think that we could do it like that.”
The Redcoats’ Alex Halkias took a pass from Kevin Dunn for 60 yards and a score to start the second half, and he had a 62-yard touchdown run later. Berlin finished the game on its third quarterback after the Cadets knocked the first two out of the game on back-to-back plays, the first called for roughing the passer.
The CIAC moved St. Joseph up from Class S to M this year under a “school of choice” rule, because it had reached back-to-back semifinals — finals, in fact.
“Look, the reality is St. Joe’s is a very, very good team,” Aresimowicz said. “They have really good talent. They were in Class M this year. Their coaches did what they had to do. They won the state championship. Hats off to them.”
ST. JOSEPH 70
BERLIN 0 0 12 6—18
ST. JOSEPH 28 21 14 7—70
SJ—Brady Hutchison 7 pass David Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Jaden Shirden 59 run (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Shirden 5 run (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Jesse Bike 15 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Bike 90 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Will Diamantis 26 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Summers 2 run (Luke Kirby kick)
B—Alex Halkias 60 pass Kevin Dunn (kick failed)
B—Dunn 18 run (pass failed)
SJ—Hutchison 13 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Diamantis 24 pass Summers (Luke Kirby kick)
SJ—Shirden 28 run (Luke Kirby kick)
B—Halkias 62 run (kick failed)
Records: Berlin 11-2; St. Joseph 12-1