MERIDEN — The Maloney Spartans carried their seven-game regular season win streak into the playoffs and pushed it to eight, ringing up a 42-20 victory over South Windsor in the Class L state quarterfinals Tuesday night at Falcon Field.
Donte Kelly scored four touchdowns to lead the No. 3 Spartans (10-1) past the No. 6 Bobcats (8-3) and into a Sunday semifinal showdown at No. 2 New Canaan (9-2).
Kelly rushed for three touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a score.
“I just want to say thank you to my teammates for those blocks and the holes they gave me,” Kelly said. “Without those blocks and holes for me, I wouldn’t have had a great performance.”
It took a little while for Maloney to get rolling. After a scoreless opening quarter, Kelly scored a one-yard rushing touchdown to stake the Spartans to a 7-0 lead. The score capped off a 91-yard drive.
“He’s a stud,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “Donte is the best player in the state of Connecticut in my eyes, and a lot of other people's eyes too.”
South Windsor responded on the following drive, with quarterback John Chaves throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Bemis to tie the game at 7-7.
Frederick said South Windsor played Maloney tough throughout the game, though following that first Bobcat touchdown the Spartans went on to score 21 unanswered points to grab the upper hand for good.
Two of the scores came on second-quarter TD passes from junior quarterback Ethan Nedinsky. The first was a 28-yarder to senior tight end Brendon Borak. The second went for 63 yards to junior receiver Jesus Martell, who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
“Our playmakers are exceptional,” Frederick said. “We have great speed on the field, and guys with the ball in their hand just do special things. So when you get those guys the ball, good things happen.”
To start the second half, Kelly ran back the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 27-7.
South Windsor running back Logan Sherwood rushed for a 48-yard touchdown to cut the gap to 27-14, and the teams traded four-and-outs in the wake of that score before Kelly got his third touchdown.
It came in the fourth quarter from two yards out. Kelly also converted the two-point conversion on a direct snap.
“The game was win or go home,” said Kelly, who ended all hopes of a South Windsor comeback by breaking tackles and scoring again on a running play from 27 yards.
Kelly, a senior, said he did not want a loss at home to be his final moment of high school football. The team worked hard all summer and is excited to advance to the next round in search of a third straight trip to the Class L state finals.
“We are happy to survive and advance,” Frederick said. “We looked good in some areas, and there were other areas that we’ve got to keep cleaning up and get better.”
Frederick said the Spartans are looking for redemption as they face New Canaan in Sunday’s semifinals.The Rams defeated Maloney 16-13 in last year’s Class L final.
“We are excited to play in the state semifinals,” Frederick said. “Some payback is in order, for sure. We just have to play the brand of football that we do.”