State Qrt Finals
Cheshire football upsets No. 2 St. Joseph in Class L quarterfinals behind play of Matt Jeffery
BRIDGEPORT — As Cheshire coach Don Drust was nervously pacing up and down the sidelines after losing Thanksgiving morning, anxious to find out of his team would qualify for the playoffs, he kept saying one thing: he wanted more days with his team.
Drust got his wish as the Rams backed into the Class L playoffs, losing three of their last four games. But none of that mattered Tuesday, as Cheshire made the most of its extra time together, defeating the top seed in the Class L playoffs, St. Joseph, 24-14 at Kennedy Stadium.
Cheshire moves on to face New Canaan — the No. 4 seed in Class L — on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
“That’s all we kept talking about. We have a tremendous opportunity to be around each other for another four days here — don’t waste a second, don't waste a minute of it and they didn’t,” Drust said. “Then they came out here and didn’t waste a second of the 48 minutes on the field either. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
While many of the Cheshire players made the most of the game, junior Matt Jeffery was the star.
He picked off a pass on St. Joseph’s first drive, one of three interceptions for the Cheshire defense, caught two long touchdowns (79 and 62 yards) and threw a touchdown to Jeffery Gonzalez, with 9:33 left to put the game away.
“It’s hard because he was everywhere, quarterback, running back, receiver,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “You have to know where he is at all times.
“He is dynamic, I mean nobody has anybody that can match that kid. That No. 2 (Gonzalez) is pretty good, too.”
Jeffery is the No. 1 boys lacrosse recruit in the country for his graduation year and he said his skills from lacrosse translate over to the gridiron.
“Running up and down the field in lacrosse is my move,” he said. “So, when I have the ball in space, you have to watch out.”
A little over a minute after he intercepted a St. Joseph pass, Jeffery took a pass from Aniston Marsh 79 yards for the score. Then after St. Joseph took the lead before half — on a Riley Jordan touchdowns run — it was Jeffery who gave the Rams the lead back with a 62 yard catch and score to put his team up for good.
“He is a really good athlete, he is really smart, he prepares, he does all of those things and there’s not enough ways to describe him,” Drust said. “You try to find ways to get him the football and try to find ways to get him into space, that is the goal.”
Cheshire’s Benjamin Thompson had two blocked punts in the game.
Player of the game
It’s the Notre Dame lacrosse recruit. Jeffery was the key all night for the Rams and when they needed a big play, he was the one who made it. He caught two touchdown passes, threw another and had an interception to lead Cheshire to its first postseason win since the 2009 Class LL state championship.
“I learned a long time ago that you have to enjoy the wins, because when you don’t know when the next one is going to come and we’re going to enjoy this tonight and then we’ll move on and get ready to play the next one.” — Cheshire coach Don Drust.