The Connecticut High School Coaches Association released its all-state football teams and all-state top-26 team this week, with several area players headlining each team.
On the top-26 team, considered a team that is reserved for the top players in the state regardless of position, was Bristol Central’s Victor Rosa, Southington’s Austin Pszczolkowski, and Newington’s Austyn Howe.
Rosa, a no-brainer for the “elite” team, was arguably the best offensive player in the state this fall. His 2,730 yards rushing was first in the state and his 41 touchdowns on the ground were also the best in the state. The multi-use player also passed for 871 yards with eight passing scores and was one of the best cornerbacks in the state.
He helped Central earn a playoff bid this season before losing in the opening round to Maloney. The Rams finished the season 9-2.
Pszczolkowski, a defensive lineman for Southington, racked up 79 total tackles this fall, with 12.5 coming for a loss. He also had nine sacks, ranking second on the team, and had four blocked kicks. He also forced two fumbles for Southington, who finished the season at 8-3 with a first-round playoff loss to New Canaan.
Howe was one of the more established receivers in the area, catching 47 passes for 801 yards and 14 scores. Howe could also run the ball, finishing second on the team in attempts (71) and yards gained (370).
Defensively, Howe was the team leader in tackles with 35, two coming for a loss. He had one sack and one interception this fall as well.
On the Class LL team, three local players were hand-picked by coaches. Southington’s defensive lineman Jackson Rusiecki was named on Class LL’s defensive team while Southington placekicker Jack Barnum and New Britain’s Dontay Bishop received selections on Class LL’s all-state offense.
Rusiecki was the tackles leader for Southington this season, tallying 80 total tackles with a team-leading 10.5 sacks. He also blocked one kick and forced two fumbles.
Barnum was a do-it-all type for Southington this season, playing quarterback while also converting field goals and doing kickoffs. He passed for 1,690 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions while also connecting on 42 extra-point tries and four field goals and 43 touchbacks.
His field goals ranged from 32 yards to 45 yards, with head coach Mike Drury saying earlier in the season he has the trust of Barnum from nearly anywhere on the field to connect for three points.
Bishop was part of an offensive line that gradually got better at New Britain. The 6-6 300 pound offensive lineman helped earn the Hurricanes their first win at 35-14 over Middletown, but the team finished the season at 1-9 after losing much of its upperclassmen from a year prior. In 10 games, NB scored 146 points, with a season-high number of 38 coming in a one-point loss to Conard.
The Class L all-state team had Malachi Jones of Bristol Central get selected on the defensive side of things and fellow Central teammate Dan Lauretti get picked on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensive stats were unavailable for Jones and the rest of Central’s team. Jones, an all-Central Connecticut Conference pick, was on the Rams’ defensive line and was a mainstay for the team all season.
Lauretti played part of an offensive line that had to block for a potent offense led by Rosa. The Rams blocked its way to 3,594 yards rushing with 47 total rushing touchdowns while also blocking for Rosa’s 871 yards passing and eight scores.
The Rams’ offense had 4,443 total yards of offense, averaging 403.9 yards per game.
In Class M, three players were named for all-state. Berlin’s Jon D’Amore was picked on the defensive side of the ball while teammate Jamie Palmese was named on the offensive team. Plainville’s Cameron Lamothe was also named on the offensive team.
D’Amore’s 156 tackles ranked him near the top of state leaders, and well ahead of the second-most on the Redcoats. He had 18 tackles for a loss, averaging 15.6 stops per game, and had four sacks on the season with three hurries on the quarterback.
He also had two interceptions and four pass deflections, causing havoc as one of Berlin’s most important players on the defensive side of the ball.
Palmese was another multi-use player from the area that his respective team leaned on, acting as the primary running back while also playing time as a wide receiver and defensive back.
As a running back, he had 1,256 yards, averaging 10.5 per carry, with 17 touchdowns. Receiving, he had 27 catches with 496 yards, both a team-high, with two touchdowns. On defense, he had 32 tackles, one sack and four pass deflections. Berlin finished the season 4-6, missing the playoffs.
Lamothe’s season finished with 32 receptions and 498 yards. Mostly used as a tight end, he was often a red zone option for quarterback MJ Bakaysa, who found him seven times for a receiving score.
No area football players were selected to represent Class S’s offense or defense.