The roller-coaster season of the Woodland Hawks came to an end last Tuesday night. In the quarterfinals of the Class S State playoffs, St. Joe’s passing game was just too much for the Hawks, especially quarterback Joe Della Vecchia.
Della Vecchia seemingly received a nasty knee injury last week in the Cadets’ Thanksgiving matchup against Trumbull, in which they lost 38-27. However, his knee appeared to be fine as he tore up the Woodland secondary with 307 yards passing and five touchdowns.
The ball was spread around to many different receivers by Della Vecchia, on both vertical passes down the field, and screen passes mostly to Tyler Matakevich. Other than breaking off some long runs on the receiving end of those passes, the Cadets’ big running back was held in check for most of the game.
Whether or not Matakevich was able to get it going on the ground would not have mattered with the big performance from Della Vecchia. He had 51 rushing yards with all the time he had in the pocket, as the Woodland pass rush was a non-factor. Without any pressure, it was almost impossible for the Hawks’ secondary to cover the St. Joe’s receivers.
The final score ended up being a blow-out, as St. Joe’s advanced to the semifinals by a final score of 48-12. Although Woodland lost by a large margin, the score did not reflect how much heart the Hawk seniors showed on the field, particularly quarterback Jack DeBiase.
DeBiase finished the night with 129 yards passing and a touchdown and an interception. He also had 193 yards rushing and touchdown, breaking Woodland’s all-time rushing record with 3640 career rushing yards. The record was previously held by Pat Krakowski with 3602 rushing yards.
DeBiase also became the all-time leader in tackles and solo tackles, previously held by Mike Stankus and Shane Kingsley.
Although DeBiase was breaking records in what ended up being his last game as a Hawk, the Woodland defense was breaking down little by little as the game progressed. With most of the season being defined by solid and violent defensive play, Woodland just couldn’t seem to get after the quarterback. Only once did the Hawks tackle Della Vecchia behind the line of scrimmage, giving him all the time in the world to pick apart Woodland’s secondary.
The Woodland offense wasn’t capitalizing on drives either. With Matt Zaccagnini exiting the game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle, the Hawks had seemingly abandoned the run game early on, opting to attack St. Joe’s through the air. Sophomore Rahmi Rountree had four catches for 104 yards and a 53-yard touchdown catch. DeBiase had 23 attempts through the air, but Woodland simply could not punch the ball into the end zone.
With the loss, the Hawk’s season is now over. Woodland finished the regular season with an overall record of 7-3. Although the players and coaching staff will look back on the season as a disappointment with some devastating losses, the Hawks did have some great wins over the course of the season. Victories of Watertown, Naugatuck, and Torrington were all huge, but in the end Woodland did not reach their goals they set at the beginning of the season: winning a championship.
St. Joe’s advances to the semi-finals in the playoffs with the win, where they will meet the number one seed, Valley Regional. The Cadets are going to have to refocus and come out with the same approach if they are want to advance to the Class S state championship game for the second consecutive year.
A key player for Valley Regional is quarterback Jimmy Fairfield-sonn. Not only can Fairfield-sonn hurt you through the air, but he is an even more dangerous threat on the ground. Racking up 923 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, along with 1497 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, the Cadets are going to have to do a good job of keeping the Valley Regional quarterback in check.
Both semi-final games will take place this Saturday, December 4th. By the end of the weekend, the state championship game will be determined.
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