Staples falls to Xavier in State Finals

Eric Essagof

Julian Clarke, Managing Editor

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The Staples Wreckers have become accustomed to heading into the locker room down at halftime.

Against McMahon, Staples pulled off one of the most memorable comebacks in history capped by a game-winning field goal after being down 14-0 at half.

Against Darien, the Wreckers surmounted a 10-point deficit at halftime to stay undefeated and tack the first tally in the loss column for the Blue Wave.

In the FCIAC Championship game against Greenwich, Staples came back from down 10 midway through the fourth quarter to finish its emphatic comeback.

Tonight, at Rentschler field, Staples trudged into the locker room, like it has so many times before, behind. However, there was no second half magic. There was no unpredictable comeback. Instead, Xavier proved its worthiness of the Connecticut football throne and took CIAC royalty out of the hands of Staples.

Xavier not only won its 26th consecutive game and its second straight LL title, but ended the haunting of the loss that spurred this omnipotent winning streak.

In the 2009 LL semi finals, Staples grounded the Falcons 31-28 in Wilton with a dominant run game led by Matt Kelly ’10. In Hartford, the story was different. Xavier’s triple-threat backfield headlined by senior Mike Mastroiani tallied over 400 yards on the Staples defense while the Falcons soared to a dominating 42-7 victory.

The Wreckers battled against the odds all season. Dating to the beginnings of the year, this was a team touted as destined for titles—just not this year. Nevertheless, the FCIAC Championship rolled around and Staples found itself as the victor, and the squad had maintained a sparkling 9-0 record to that point. After two state tourney victories, the Wreckers once again found themselves in an unexpected position, having the rare opportunity to contend for a state title. However, the Wreckers fell far short of its goals.

“The roof caved in. They’re a great football team, they really are,” Staples Head Coach Marce Petroccio said. “You have to be able to score when you’re in the red zone and you can’t cut it to 14-7 then let up a big kick return and have them score. They deserve to be number one.”

Staples, who has been known as a ground team all season, rushed for just 31 yards all night, the team’s average per game prior to tonight was 240.5. Jack Massie ’14, who was 11 of 26 for 144 yards, provided the lone score for Staples on a 28-yard strike to Nick Kelly ’13. The Wreckers had plenty of scoring chances but could not capitalize. On two trips to the red zone, the Wreckers scored zero points. Further, the Wreckers were inside the 30 several other times.

“You have to be able to move the football and you have to be able to score, and for whatever reason, we just could not,” Petroccio said.

Staples, a team chock-full of underclassmen, was a dominant force on all sides of the ball until tonight, where the team was overpowered by a bigger Xavier. It wasn’t David vs. Goliath, it was Goliath vs. a much larger Goliath, and in this case, the larger of the two wins.

“We knew they were big, hopefully we learn from this and try to get back a year from now,” Petroccio said. “I feel bad for my seniors, they’re a great group of kids and they deserve a heck of a lot of credit for what they did this year. But Xavier deserves this; they were the better football team tonight.”

Xavier’s last loss was in 2009 to Staples, Head Coach Sean Marinan remembers that night all too well.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say this is all the more satisfying because they’re the last team to beat us. Staples is a class program, and to take it to a team like that tonight is really satisfying,” Marinan said. “One of the things I said to them after our last loss was, ‘Remember how this feels, do you want to feel like this again?’ The obvious answer is no.”

Mastroiani, Xavier’s leading playmaker on the night, had 239 rushing yards along with 37 on the receiving end. He said this win is a testament to this graduating class.

“To win a championship is something special, for all the hard work we put in since our freshman year, this is just a great feeling,” Mastroiani said. “To go back to back, that says a lot about our team, I really think we deserved it.”

The loss for Staples was difficult to take for Petroccio and his boys, and though he is proud of his players’ efforts on the night, he understands that his group was outperformed.

“When I vote tomorrow, I’ll vote for Xavier as no. 1 in the poll,” Petroccio said. “Tonight was just not meant to be.”

Xavier 42, Staples 7

Rentschler Field, East Hartford

STAPLES 0 7 0 0—7

XAVIER 14 7 14 7—42

Xavier—Mike Mastroanni 19-yard run (Ricky Verre kick)

Xavier—Jovan Santos-Knox 58-yard pass from Tim Boyle (Verre kick)

Staples— Kelly 28-yard pass from Jack Massie (Robbie Wolf kick)

Xavier—Mastroanni 37-yard pass from Pat D’Amato (Verre kick)

Xavier—DeAngelo Berry 48-yard run (Verre kick)

Xavier— Matt Craig 9-yard run (Verre kick)

Xavier—D’Amato 3-yard run (Verre kick)

Records: Staples 11-1, Xavier 13-0