Nov. 24 — MANCHESTER — Freshman wide receiver/defensive back Joey Montalvo got his first taste of East Catholic High Football team’s annual Thanksgiving Week game versus Northwest Catholic Wednesday, playing with the poise and confidence of a battle-hardened veteran of the bitter rivalry.
Montalvo twice intercepted Lions quarterback Boomer Stauton, returning an 81 yards for a touchdown and running in from three yards for another hit as the Eagles in the regular season finale for both teams to a 45-7 win at Cheney Tech to lead.
“Our defense did a great job as a unit and didn’t have to rely on one or two guys,” said Eastern Catholic coach Tommy Seaver. “Their quarterback is very athletic when he comes out of the bag, but we’ve done a good job of containing him. Once we contained him we were able to force some turnovers and keep them off the scoreboard.”
East Catholic (7-3) unofficially secured a spot in the CIAC Class S State Playoffs for the first time since 2015 with an 8-7 win over EO Smith last Friday. The Eagles will play a quarterfinal game away on Tuesday, with the semifinals being played at the higher remaining starting position on Sunday, December 4th. The championship games are scheduled for Saturday, December 10 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford and Arute Field at the Central Connecticut state campus in New Britain.
Northwest Catholic finished the season 2-8.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played a playoff game, so we’re really looking forward to the experience,” said Eastern Catholic senior running back/defensive back Ethan Rainha. “It’s a great feeling to do that after 12 years of playing football as a senior.”
Northwest Catholic took the ball early in the game and only needed 2:18 to find the end. In third and fifth from the Lions 45, Stauton hit wide receiver Brady Brennan on the left touchline for 53 yards to the East Catholic 2. Stauton hit him from there on the next play and then added the extra point give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Northwest Catholic cornerback Vincent Burbank intercepted quarterback Kaeden O’Connell in the fourth game of East Catholic’s ensuing drive, but the Eagles defense forced a punt from the Lions and the hosts took over with their own 16.
East Catholic streaked 84 yards in five games, capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Rainha on the left touchline to reduce his deficit to one. However, the extra point was blocked and Northwest Catholic retained the advantage.
The teams traded punts and the Lions took over on their own 13. On the second pull of the drive, Stauton rolled to the right and threw onto the flat but defensive back. Andrew Delaura intercepted the pass and rushed 13 yards into the end zone. Rainha added the extra point to give the Eagles a 13-7 lead.
After forcing a Northwest Catholic punt, East Catholic marched 85 yards in five plays, capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from O’Connell to Rainha down the seam. The extra point was missed, but the Eagles led 19-7 by 3:54 in the second quarter.
Stauton was intercepted by Montalvo on the Lions’ subsequent possession, but the Northwest’s Catholic defense forced a punt and the visitors took over their own 31 by 1:40.
The Lions drove to the Eagles’ 19, but a Stauton tumble ended in the arms of Montalvo, who rushed 81 yards down the left touchline to extend East Catholic’s lead to 25-7. O’Connell then hit Rainha on the two-point conversion to give the Eagles a 27-7 lead at halftime.
Montalvo ran in from three yards and Thomas Stanley converted the two-point conversion attempt to put East Catholic 35-7 ahead. After forcing a Northwest Catholic three-and-out, Rainha returned the Lions’ punt 40 yards to extend the Eagles’ lead to 34.
East Catholic pinned two points after a snap flew over the Lions punter’s head and out of the end zone to set a safety.
“We did it defensively,” said Montalvo. “On my first interception I saw the problem from the outside and knew I had to go there to help and the second came straight to me. It feels great to contribute to team victory. We were really able to turn them off.”
NW CATHOLIC (2-8) 7 0 0 0 — 7
E. CATHOLIC (7-3) 6 21 16 2 — 45
NWC – Boomer Stauton 2 Barrel (Staton Kick)
EC – Ethan Rainha 7 run (kick blocked)
EC – Andrew Delaura 13 Interception Return (Rainha Kick)
EC — Rainha 45 pass by Kaeden O’Connell (kick missed)
EC – Joey Montalvo 81 interception return (O’Connell’s Rainha pass)
EC — Run Montalvo 3 (Run Stanley)
EC – Rainha 40 punt return (O’Connell’s Rainha pass)
EC – Safety, snap from the end zone
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