CHESHIRE — Through coaching football for years, Cheshire High School’s Don Drust has seen momentum shift multiple times in a single game. The Rams struggled with penalties at times on Friday night, but by staying composed, they extended their unbeaten season at Alumni Field.
Cheshire (3-0) found the end zone twice in both halves and used stingy defense to win 27-0 over Glastonbury (1-2) in a Connecticut High School Football Alliance Game.
“We played a big (Class) LL school in Glastonbury; they came here and played really hard for four quarters,” said Drust. “We had some mistakes tonight, but when you still win 27-0, it says a lot about the toughness of our guys.”
Senior Jeffery Gonzalez shined on both sides of the ball. He ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, along with getting eight tackles and an interception on defense.
Gonzalez also caught a touchdown, but it was brought back by a penalty.
“It felt amazing; I missed getting in the end zone in the last couple of games,” said Gonzalez. “I have to credit the O-line because they did a lot of the work for me.”
“I can’t say enough about what he did tonight,” said Drust. “He played a lot of snaps and gave us his best effort on every play.”
The night didn’t start well for the Rams. They turned the ball over on the opening drive. On a deflected pass, Glastonbury junior Camden Combs made a diving interception at the 50-yard line.
While the Guardians started with good field position, the Cheshire defense didn’t allow them to get a first down and retook possession on a punt.
“That (turnover) isn’t how you want to start a game, but it was an opportunity for our guys to respond and get a stop for us,” said Drust.
For their second possession, the Rams moved the ball behind the running of Gonzalez, then went to the air to get into the end zone. Using a play-action fake, junior quarterback Aniston Marsh dropped back and hit senior Chris Kobylanski down the middle for a 39-yard touchdown with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter.
“It felt great to get in the end zone,” said Kobylanski. “Ace (Aniston) threw up a great ball for me.”
“It was awesome,” added Marsh. “It is great to allow these guys to make plays.”
The touchdown was the first of Kobylanski’s career.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Drust. “He worked really hard over the summer. You want to see those guys have success and get in the end zone.”
For the majority of the first half, penalties impacted the game. The Rams pushed Glastonbury into a fourth down later in the first quarter, but were whistled for roughing the punter and Glastonbury was given a first down at midfield.
The Rams tightened up again to force a turnover on downs inside their 20-yard line.
Taking over possession, Gonzalez broke free for a 43-yard run to the Guardians 42-yard line, but the play was negated by a penalty.
“It is a little aggravating,” Gonzalez said of the penalties. “We had plays come back tonight, but that is more motivation to get the next one.”
After the teams traded punts, junior Nick Miller and the offensive line powered the Rams down the field. Marsh threw consecutive slant passes to senior co-captain Matt Jeffery (10 yards) and Kobylanski (5 yards) to reach the 4-yard line.
On the next play, Gonzalez took a shovel handoff and ran into the end zone to put Cheshire up 14-0 with 6:19 remaining in the second quarter.
On the following kickoff, Combs returned the ball to the CHS 34-yard line, but with 5:17 left in the first half, Gonzalez intercepted a pass in front of Glastonbury junior Mason Damato.
“I knew that it was going to be an end route and I jumped on it,” explained Gonzalez.
The Rams found the end zone when Gonzalez turned a swing pass into a 33-yard touchdown, but due to a penalty, the play was brought back.
Cheshire still tried to extend the lead. Sophomore Liam Suomala caught a 16-yard pass, but he was driven out of bounds at the 4-yard line and the clock ran out in the first half.
In returning for the second half, the Guardians opened with their strongest drive of the night. Junior quarterback Luke Shannon and freshman running back Dante Casdia fueled a run game that took over nine minutes off the clock.
Glastonbury earned a first down at the CHS 11-yard line, but from there, the Rams stopped them in four plays to get a turnover on downs with 2:58 left in the third.
The turning point came on second down. Shannon had sophomore Rocco Meigs open in the end zone, but as Meigs was bringing the football into his body, Cheshire sophomore defensive back Jonny Heavens dove to knock it out of his hands.
“That was one of the most hyped (up) plays of my career,” reflected Heavens. “It meant a lot to break up that pass.”
After forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down, the Rams drove 89 yards to the end zone. Jeffery moved to quarterback and sparked Cheshire with his legs. From the CHS 47-yard line, he ran outside for 25 yards down the sideline.
Jeffery kept the ball on a 9-yard run to the 6. Seconds later, he sprinted outside and dove into the pylon for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-0 with 9:18 left in the game.
The Rams stopped the Guardians on fourth down again and capped the scoring on the next drive. Gonzalez ran 24 yards down to the 5-yard line.
A fumbled exchange caused Cheshire to lose five yards, but on the following play, Gonzalez shed two tacklers on a 10-yard touchdown scamper with 4:10 remaining. The point after touchdown wasn’t successful, so the Rams led 27-0.
Glastonbury threatened to end the shutout when Damato caught a 53-yard pass at the CHS 17-yard line. However, the play was brought back for holding.
After being in the backfield throughout the night, senior co-captain and defensive end Evan Russo wrapped up Shannon for the 24th sack of his career. He had come close to bringing down the quarterback multiple times in the game.
“That is part of playing defensive line; you just have to keep working,” said Russo, who has moved up the all-time sack list in the state of Connecticut.
“He is another tough kid,” stated Drust. “His motor never stops out there. He earns everything.”
After forcing a turnover on downs with just over a minute left on Friday, CHS knelt down to post its first shutout of the season.
“We showed how hard we work on defense,” said Russo. “We don’t stop working.”
Like Russo, junior J.R. Stevenson also provided key penetration for the Rams defense against Glastonbury.
In the kicking game, sophomore A.J. Lauria made three extra points.
Next Friday, the Rams visit Fairfield University to face Fairfield Prep (0-3) at 6 p.m.