Week 6 vs Ridgefield
29 in a row: No. 2 St. Joseph rallies to beat No. 4 Ridgefield
RIDGEFIELD — The streak lives on, and state football fans are going to get the 1-vs.-2 matchup they have been craving.
It did not come easy.
No. 2-ranked St. Joseph had to rally in the fourth quarter and hold on in the final minutes for the second straight week but escaped with a 17-14 win over No. 4 Ridgefield.
That stretches the Cadets’ win streak to 29 games and sets up a showdown with No. 1-ranked Darien next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Cadets have not lost a game since Sept. 23, 2017, when they fell to Darien in Week 3, 22-7.
“We’re down a lot of guys tonight and other guys stepped up. That’s one of the greatest wins, just on character alone, that I’ve been a part of here,” St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. “This is a tough place to play, our bus took two hours to get here. We were in a place in Connecticut I’ve never seen before. I’m so proud of our kids, they did a phenomenal job against an absolutely great team in Ridgefield.”
The fourth quarter was packed with drama.
First it was Ridgefield scoring with 7:58 to play on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Justin Keller to Kyle Colsey, giving Ridgefield its first lead of the night at 14-10.
St. Joe would come back on the next drive with Matt Morrissey hitting Brendan Arroyo for a 6-yard score, putting the Cadets back up 17-14.
The Tigers were not done, driving down to the 27-yard line.
Then for the second week in a row, sophomore Dhallas Morgan made a game-ending interception for the Cadets with 2:02 to play and Ridgefield out of timeouts.
“These kids fight and battle,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said. “The first half we didn’t seem to keep our offense moving. We gave ourselves an opportunity with our defense keeping the game within reach. The offense finally got their feet on the ground and got some confidence. This conference is so tough and we’re just beating up on each other. We have now played the 2, 3, 5 and 7 teams in the state. Obviously, we can play with anyone in the state.”
The CIAC Class LL playoffs are still within reach but the road does not get any easier for Ridgefield, which has road games at Wilton and Staples and a home contest against Trumbull remaining.
After a scoreless first quarter, St. Joseph got on the board first with Morrissey linking up with Brandon Hutchinson on a 40-yard touchdown pass.
The Cadets would increase their lead to 10-0 with Logan Spoelstra hitting a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
Ridgefield got its first score with 3:48 left in the third on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Keller to Jude Vucci, making it 10-7.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Brendan Arroyo, St. Joseph, WR, Sr: Arroyo found a small pocket and secured the pass between two defenders for the winning score.
“We had a couple people injured so a lot of people had to step up and we just executed and everyone stepped up,” Arroyo said. “The touchdown felt great. Everyone here is a family and I love all of them. Ridgefield fought very, very hard and they’re a great team but we’re just a better team.”
ST. JOSEPH 17
ST. JOSEPH 0 10 0 7 — 17
RIDGEFIELD 0 0 7 7 — 14
SJ— Brandon Hutchinson 40 pass Matt Morrissey (Logan Spolestra kick)
SJ—Spolestra 31 field goal
R—Jude Vucci 14 pass Justin Keller (Ignacio Brina kick)
R—Kyle Colsey 14 pass Keller (Brina kick)
SJ—Brendan Arroyo 6 pass Morrissey (Spolestra kick)
Win Any Way: St. Joseph Makes The Big Plays Late To Hold Off Ridgefield
RIDGEFIELD — Win Any Way.
That should be the new St. Joseph football motto this season, with Everyday shelved until next August. The No. 2 Cadets may have more important victories the next two months, but they likely will not have a more difficult one than tonight’s dramatic 17-14 win at Ridgefield. To beat the No. 4 team in the state for the second straight week, they had to overcome a lineup minus four starters, withstand a second-half rally by the Tigers and hold on at perhaps the most difficult road venue in the FCIAC.
The two-hour bus ride and late arrival after the driver got lost didn’t help.
After his team’s 29th straight win, St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia was asked what it will take for an opponent to end the streak.
“You know what, I don’t have an answer for that,” Della Vecchia said. “I just know that these kids are excited to play football. I’ve said it before, I think every kid in the state just wants to play football after the year off. And our kids just believe that they’re going to win. They play as hard as they can every play, they don’t flinch, they don’t get flustered. They keep fighting. Believing that you’re good is half the battle and I think they believe.”
fter a sluggish first half in which the Cadets held a 10-0 lead in large part by holding Ridgefield to just three first downs, the second half was almost a repeat of a week ago, right down to the Dhallas Morgan game-saving interception. Morgan, a sophomore, six days ago thwarted Greenwich, which was driving for a go-ahead score but instead became victim No. 28 after a 24-20 loss.
There were a pair of lead changes in the fourth quarter tonight as quarterback Justin Keller (27 of 51, 275 yards) rallied the Tigers (4-2) in the second half behind a well-executed short passing game. He hit Jude Vucci late in the third quarter to get them on the board and then, from the Cadets’ 15, Ryan Colsey made a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone for a 14-10 lead with 7:58 remaining.
St. Joseph quarterback Matt Morrissey (20 of 31, 223 yards, two touchdowns) calmly answered with a 67-yard drive — including a long completion to Brandon Hutchison — and found Brendan Arroyo in the end zone from six yards out with 4:35 left.
“We were down a bunch of guys but we just fought hard,” Morrissey said. “We just wanted to bounce back after they got the touchdown. We didn’t want to be down. We hate being down.”
Keller — helped by a fumble recovery from Matt Long after he was sacked — completed five passes to get the Tigers down to the St. Joseph 27-yard line. After an incompletion, Joe Adzima broke up a pass. On third down, Keller was flushed out of the pocket and threw on the run. Michael Dowd and Max Butler were in the area, but Morgan was in between them and reprised his role from a week ago.
There was 2:03 left and Ridgefield had no timeouts left.
“The second half the offense got their grasp and we played good defense, it’s just a shame,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said. “The third down at the end there is tough. You just want another down. It’s one thing to give up the interception on the last play of the game, it’s another on third down when you still had another shot at it. We’re not standing around here playing for the last point if (Keller) doesn’t make the plays he made all day.”
St. Joseph last week lost their top playmaker, Maxwell Warren, to a knee injury that he said is week to week. Middle linebacker Thomas Kramer broke his leg. There seemed to be as many players on the sideline with crutches as in uniform.
The Tigers were not without their own injury problems — they have been playing without two of their top receivers. Neither team was going down easily. If Morgan doesn’t make the play maybe Keller throws a fourth-down touchdown pass. And if he does maybe Morrissey takes the Cadets down the field one last time.
“As soon as they went ahead we came right down and scored. That shows a lot,” Della Vecchia said. “It’s the most rewarding, the most gratifying win. I love Kevin, he’s a good friend of mine and I feel bad, but what we had gone through the past two weeks physically, and all the injuries and everybody battling back…I’m just proud of the kids. We were deep into a deep hole.”
Speaking of holes, the Tigers have already played the Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 7 teams in the state. They are currently ranked 11th in Class LL, with perhaps no margin for error in terms of the state playoffs.
“The only thing I think we know is we can play with anybody,” Callahan said. “So I hope we can stay healthy and keep getting better so I hope we’re playing after Thanskgiving, that we get that chance, because this year you don’t know.”
Meanwhile, perhaps the most difficult three-week run ever for an FCIAC team finds the Cadets welcoming No. 1 Darien to town next Saturday. The Blue Wave were the last team to beat them, over two years ago.
Della Vecchia said he wanted to spend just a little time to savor the Cadets’ latest edition of win any way before preparing for Darien.
Hopefully the bus driver found the right road home.