STODDARD BOWL: The trophy and the mojo stays with playoff-bound Maloney

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MERIDEN — Playoff-bound Maloney collected its second straight Stoddard Bowl trophy with a 41-7 Thanksgiving Day victory over Platt in front of a massive crowd at Falcon Field on Thursday morning.

The Spartans are now 9-1 and have won nine in a row following their season-opening 13-7 defeat at Southington. The Spartans will host Bristol Central next Tuesday in the Class L quarterfinals at Falcon Field, where they are a perfect 5-0 this season.

Platt’s season came to a close at 5-5.

“Tremendous win for our football team," Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said minutes after hoisting the Stoddard Bowl trophy. “I’m just so proud of these guys. Played great team football. I thought we were solid in all three elements of the game and we dominated up and down the field.”

Maloney, ranked No. 5 in the state polls and No. 3 in the Class L playoff points, built a 20-0 halftime lead thanks to a dominant defensive performance and two rushing TDs by Kenny McMillan and a standout grab by 2021 Stoddard Bowl MVP Austin Studley on a pass from Angel Arce.

Maloney outgained Platt 296-28 in the first half.

Frederick said his entire defense played well on Thursday, in particular McMillan, Kuron Wiggins, Michael Reddick, Daejon Nixon and Rashawn Shelton.

The Spartans opened the game with a 6-play, 65 touchdown drive. McMillan (10 carries, 53 yards, 3 TDs) capped it with 6-yard TD run with 9:26 left in the first quarter.

En route, Arce (13-for-17, 303 yards, 3 TD) connected on two big passes to Joziah Gonzalez. The junior caught passes of 27 and 32 yards to set up the game-opening score.

Platt's Antwone Santiago blocked the extra point to keep it a 6-0 Maloney edge.

The score remained 6-0 after the first quarter. Maloney was moving the ball throughout the frame, but was hurt by three holding penalties.

Platt senior center Anthony Coscuna was hurt on Platt’s opening drive and didn't return.  It was a blow for the Panthers being without one of their senior leaders.

Platt’s Andres Salas had a sack to end Maloney’s second drive. Then both teams turned the ball over on downs in their final possessions of the first quarter.

McMillan had a 18-yard run on a third-and-5 to start the second quarter and four plays later, McMillan was back in the end zone with a four-yard TD to complete a 13 play, 76-yard drive, McMillan was stopped up the middle by Platt’s Corey Ford on the two-point try, keeping the score at 12-0 with 9:49 left in the half.

“Kenny is a horse and he’s a guy who’s going to get down field and run you over," Frederick said. “He’s a tough, physical kid. He worked his butt off in practice and we wanted to feed him a little bit.”

McMillan credited the offensive line.

“They gave me wide-open gaps," McMillan said. “It was big to get that early lead. Anything can happen in the Thanksgiving game. We needed to get those early points.”

Platt went three-and-out on its next drive and a bad snap on the punt allowed Maloney to take over on the Platt 29.

Initially, the Maloney drive was stalled by a pair of holding penatlies. It was a recurring theme. Maloney was called for eight holds in the first half. Five were accepted by Platt and three declined.

However, the Spartans overcame those miscues with a highlight-reel catch by Austin Studley down the right sideline with 4:40 to go in the first half.

The play happened on a third-and-goal from the 30. Studley made a lunging catch around a Platt defender for the score. For the game, Studley caught four balls for 184 yards and two TDs. 

“I have to give credit to my quarterback Angel Arce,” Studley said. "He got it to me and I just made a play."

Arce then connected with Ian Graham on the left sideline for the two-point conversion as the Spartans were in complete control, 20-0.

They didn’t let up. Maloney opened the second half with a successful onside kick.

The ensuing possession was halted by a RayQuan Bradshaw sack. Maloney's Sean Finn and Rafael Rodriguez replied in kind, combining for a sack to stall Platt’s initial drive. 

Following the Platt punt. Bradshaw recovered a McMillan fumble and, on the first play after the turnover, the Panthers struck for their longest play off the game as Avery Robinson tossed a 49-yard TD pass to Shamarja Foster.

The score closed the game to 20-7 with 7:22 to go in the third quarter.

“We just made some basic adjustments at the half,” Platt coach Jason Bruenn said. “We had a little momentum, but they are a very good program and a small setback wasn’t going to deter them. They do a good job.”

The Panthers kept up the momentum on defense by forcing a Maloney punt following a Vittiro Church sack on third down. Platt, however, didn't do much on offense from that point on. 

Meanwhile, Maloney running back Josh Boganski began to find his stride. He had 25 carries for 114 yards in the game and 14 carries for 71 yards in the second half as Maloney salted the game away.

His longest run of the day was 18 yards late in the third quarter. McMillan capped an 8-play, 58 yard drive with a 5-yard run with 11:54 to go to extend the Maloney lead to 27-7.

Arce tossed two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring. He found Studley for a 68-yard bomb with 8:54 left that put Maloney up 34-7. Studley grabbed it from 20 yards and slipped out of a tackle and  sprinted the last 48 yards.

Arce finished the day with a 17-yard strike to Graham down the left sideline with 2:17 showing on the clock.

“Their defense creates so many opportunities for their offense," Bruenn noted. “Their offense is good, too. They will find your holes and find your weaknesses and do good job. Their coaching staff does a good job.

“We had some ups and downs this year,” Bruenn added. “We need to find a way to get better in the offseason and our commitment level needs to be higher. I don’t think my conference helped me playing three Double L games. Regardless if we won two out of three against them, those are big schools and they take their toll on you.”

Maloney now leads the Stoddard Bowl series, 32-30-1. The overall series — Maloney beat Platt in the 2018 Class L semifinals — stands at 33-30-1.

Also of note, Maloney’s Daejon Nixon wore No. 7, instead of his normal No. 77,  to honor his late brother, former Maloney standout Jaylon Nixon.

Platt’s Mike Shorter and Maloney’s Joe Annino Sr. were the Stoddard Bowl honorees recognized in a pregame ceremony.


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