ALL-HERALD FOOTBALL: 22 gridiron standouts make our star-studded unit

Published on Monday, 25 December 2017 16:06


It was a season filled with ups and downs for the area football teams, with only one program - Berlin - qualifying for its respective state tournament. But along the way, there was plenty of great individual play that stood out.

Whether on offense, defense or special teams, the 22 players on this list have shown the ability to impact a game, and made it through an impressive list of candidates to be selected to our All-Herald Football Team.

Southington had another winning season, but for the first time since 2011, the Blue Knights failed to make the postseason, despite an 8-2 record. Still, Southington once again tops our team with eight players.

Leading the way for the Blue Knights is quarterback Will Barmore. The senior is our All-Herald quarterback for the second straight year. He also earned his second all-CCC selection. Barmore completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,239 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is also a member of the National Honor Society.

Joining Barmore is his favorite target, Tim O’Shea. The 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver emerged as a go-to player, leading Southington in receptions (49), yards (609) and touchdown catches (8). His biggest game of the season came against Conard in which O’Shea had 11 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

An all-conference selection, O’Shea is an honor roll student and is currently being recruited to play football in college.

While the Blue Knights had some offensive players put up big numbers, none of that would have been possible without the offensive linemen and Southington places two of its big guys on the All-Herald squad - Jake Monson and Jimmy Starr.

Monson was responsible for protecting Barmore’s blindside as the team’s left tackle and earned all-CCC honors for the first time as a result. A three-year varsity player and senior captain, Monson plans on playing football in college and is being recruited by a number of schools.

Starr was one of Southington’s most versatile linemen, lining up at center, guard and tackle. That ability, as well as the consistency of his play, earned the senior his first football all-conference selection to go along with his three wrestling ones. An honor roll student, Starr plans on playing football at the next level.

The offense for Southington typically gets most of the publicity, but the defensive unit proved to be just as good, if not better.

The strength of the Blue Knights’ defense was their linebacking corps and for that reason, all three - Ryan Montalvo, Joe Koczera and Ian Hall - made our team.

Montalvo returned from a torn ACL last year to have an outstanding senior season. An All-State honorable mention and three-time all-conference selection, Montalvo collected 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks to bring his career totals to 218 tackles and 10 sacks. He also led the team with 574 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on just 80 carries, carrying the ball in five games. As for the next level, Montalvo is still deciding between prep school and college.

Hall, meanwhile, proved to be one of the most dynamic defensive players for Southington. The senior led the team in tackles (94) and sacks (10), tallying double-digit tackles in six games, including a season-high 15 against rival Cheshire in the Apple Valley Classic. Hall also forced a fumble and earned his first all-CCC honor.

Like Montalvo, Koczera was effective on both sides of the ball for the Blue Knights, but made his impact on defense. The senior finished second in tackles with 75 while tallying 3.5 sacks and two interceptions to earn him a spot on our team for the second year in a row, as well as his second all-conference selection. But Koczera also wasn’t a stranger to the end zone and scored six touchdowns - three receiving, two rushing and one on special teams.

No defense would be complete without strong secondary play and for Southington that came from senior captain Sam Thomson. The corner led the team with four interceptions and 16 passes defended - twice as many as the next closest player on his team. Thomson also recorded 42 tackles and forced three fumbles.

The two-time all-CCC selection is an honor roll student as well and is a member of Unified Theatre, FBLA and DECA.

Berlin rounded out its season with a 9-3 record and advanced to the Class M semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Killingly. The Redcoats have seven players on our All-Herald Football Team.

The first Berlin player on our team was one of the team’s most important offensive players, running back Alex Halkias. The junior tailback led the Redcoats with 1,122 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns. Halkias was the team’s leading rusher with 786 yards and eight touchdowns, while collecting another 265 yards and four scores through the air. He also finished with 70 tackles on defense and earned all-conference recognition for the second straight season as well being an all-academic choice.

Giancarlo Tufano makes our team on offense at the tight end position. A three-year varsity player, the junior led Berlin in catches (35), yards (469) and touchdowns (6) as the No. 1 option for quarterback Kevin Dunn. He also did not drop a pass thrown to him.

But Tufano was more than just a solid pass catcher, as he connecting on 32 of his 37 extra point attempts and four of his five field goal attempts as the team’s kicker. For his all-around versatility, the junior was rewarded with an all-CCC selection.

Although the Redcoats were effective at throwing the ball, most of their success came on the ground. As a result, they place two linemen on our team.

One of the most important was left tackle Greg Carson. The senior was an all-conference selection after finishing with 76 pancake blocks, 23 of which came in a win over East Catholic. Both were the most in the history of the Berlin football program. He allowed just one sack. At defensive tackle, Carson recorded five sacks.

Nick Paszczuk is the second Berlin lineman. The junior capped off a successful first year as a varsity starter, earning all-CCC recognition. Paszczuk tallied 40 pancake blocks and did not surrender a sack all season. Paszczuk is strong in the classroom as an honor roll student.

Of course, the Redcoats also got plenty of strong defensive play and place three players on our defensive unit.

James Mazzarella was instrumental to Berlin this past season. The senior linebacker finished second on the team in tackles, with 112, including 25 in the Redcoats’ two playoff games. The all-conference player also recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a safety.

But Mazzarella also did a little bit of everything on offense, finishing with 270 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and another 244 yards receiving. An all-academic selection all four years of high school for both football and lacrosse, the senior is currently being recruited for both sports.

Along the defensive line, few players in the area, let alone the state, had the impact of Zach Hrubiec. Just a sophomore, the defensive end was voted a team captain and made both his second all-CCC and All-Herald teams. Despite being slowed down with some injuries at the end of the season, Hrubiec ended with 80 tackles (28 for loss) and led the team with eight sacks.

Matt Wojciechowski did a little bit of everything for Berlin from the safety position, showing the ability to play both in space and close to the line of scrimmage. The senior ended his high school career leading the Redcoats in tackles, with 130, an average of 10.8 per game, and also intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and deflected two passes. Wojciechowski’s ability of make plays and be around the ball earned him all-conference honors.

New Britain finished an up and down season with a 5-5 record for the third straight year. The Hurricanes placed three on our team.

Shawn Robinson fills out the final running back spot. The junior burst onto the scene this season and emerged as one of the best backs in the conference. Robinson ran for over 1,000 yards and averaged over 7.5 yards per carry with five touchdowns. He also contributed two special team scores, returning two kickoffs against Enfield and another two on defense, returning two interceptions for scores against Glastonbury.

With many of New Britain’s opponents having to game plan for Robinson, his play earned him all-CCC honors.

Every good running back needs good linemen and the Hurricanes had their fair share. One of the team’s best was Juliano Morales. The left guard had little problem dominating opposing defensive linemen this season as New Britain rushed for over 2,000 yards as a team. An all-conference selection, Morales is also part of a mentoring program to help younger kids through problems they may be having.

The final Hurricanes player to make our team is defensive end Jacob Clark. The senior capped off his final season as one of his team’s most important pieces on the defense’s best unit. An all-CCC choice, Clark led New Britain in sacks and often found himself in the opposing backfield. A steadying force on the offensive line as well, Clark will be a tough player to have to replace next season.

The Plainville football team took some significant steps as a program in 2017, increasing its win total from 0 in 2016 to five this season. The Blue Devils have two selections - one on offense and one on defense.

Brady Callahan makes the All-Herald team as our all-purpose player. A jack of all trades for Plainville, the junior finished with 1,054 all-purpose yards. Callahan collected 450 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and had another 400 and three scores on 39 catches. He also had 94 tackles on defense. Such an impactful player on a team that made such a big turnaround helped earn Callahan his second all-CCC selection in as many seasons.

Sam Lestini adds to an already tough All-Herald defensive line. The Blue Devils defensive end had a stellar junior season and was an important part of a defense that allowed 21 points or less six times over the course of the year. Lestini ended with 84 tackles and six sacks to earn all-conference honors.

There was a few more downs than ups for Newington in Jason Pace’s first year as head coach, as the team went just 3-7. But there were plenty of highlights mixed in with the growing pains along the way and have the final two members of this year’s All-Herald team.

Damon Stewart is back once again to round out the defensive line. The Indians senior was impressive in his final season, leading the team in sacks and total tackles to earn all-CCC recognition.

Luke Pappalardo helps solidify the secondary both for Newington and our team. The senior safety was one of the anchors for the Indians, finishing fourth on the team in tackles, with 32, as well as second in interceptions. As a result, Pappalardo was selected to the all-CCC team.

With so many talented football players in the area, our team represents some of the best both locally and in the state.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, Goodwin Tech, Innovation, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington on Monday, 25 December 2017 16:06. Updated: Monday, 25 December 2017 16:09.