Xavier stepped onto the turf at Rentschler Field for Saturday’s Class LL state championship as the undisputed No. 1 ranked team in the state.
The Falcons walked away leaving no doubt that they’ll stay that way.
Senior halfback Mike Mastroiani rushed 29 times for 239 yards and one touchdown and had one touchdown reception as No. 1 Xavier repeated as Class LL state champions with a convincing 43-7 victory over No. 2 Staples in front of 9,052 at Rentschler Field.
Mastroiani scored on a 19-yard run in the first quarter and hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Pat D’Amato in the second.
D’Amato and backup quarterback Tim Boyle each threw one touchdown pass each and D’Amato added 62 yards and one touchdown, a 3-yard run to seal the victory in the fourth quarter.
Xavier, which led 21-7 at halftime before scoring on the first drive of the third quarter to put the game out of reach, finished with a 13-0 record for the second straight season, winning its second consecutive state title and third overall.
The Falcons have not lost since getting knocked out of the playoffs in the 2009 semifinals against Staples.
“To win a state championship in your senior year is something special,” Mastroiani said. “It’s just a great feeling, and to go back-to-back says a lot about our team. We’ll definitely have a story to tell a few years from now.”
Staples (11-1) finished one win shy of a perfect season for the second time in three years. The FCIAC-champion Wreckers also lost to Cheshire in the 2009 Class LL finals after going into the championship game with an undefeated record.
“Tonight was just not our night,” Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said. “We came close. We gave the town of Westport one heck of a ride. Hopefully we can get back here next year and get it right.”
Led by standout lineman Sean Marinan, the Falcons wore Staples down on both sides of the line, finishing with 423 yards rushing and 505 total. The Wreckers managed just 31 yards rushing and sophomore quarterback Jack Massie completed 11 of 26 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown, a 28-yard strike to halfback Nick Kelly in the second quarter.
“They’re No. 1 in the state for a reason,” Petroccio said. “When I make my vote for No. 1 tomorrow, I’ll be voting for them. You can count on that. For whatever reason we just couldn’t move the ball. We were close, but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Both defenses ruled the first quarter until Mastriani scored on a 19-yard run to put Xavier up 7-0 with 4:40 left.
D’Amato ripped off a 51-yard run for a touchdown later in the quarter, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.
With D’Amato catching his breath on the sideline, Boyle stepped in and got the six point back on the next play, hitting 6-foot-3, 230-pound tight end Jovan Santos with a 58-yard touchdown pass on third-and-22 to make it 14-0 with 1:38 left.
Staples pulled to within 14-7 on its next possession as Massie hit Kelly with a touchdown pass from 28 yards out. Hand linebacker Max Tylki had Kelly covered like a blanket on the route up the sideline, but Kelly reached back over Tylki’s shoulder to make the catch.
Hand needed just 42 seconds to get the points back. Senior Ryan Murphy returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards to the Staples 38 and D’Amato found a wide open Mastroiani streaking up the right hash mark for a 37-yard touchdown pass and a 21-7 lead with 8:31 left in the first half.
Xavier wasn’t challenged after that.
Staples drove to the Xavier 10-yard line on the ensuing drive, but Hand got Massie out of the pocket on fourth down and Tylki broke up a pass on the right sideline.
The Wreckers returned the favor, holding the Falcons out of the end zone on the next possession after a 40-yard run by Mastroiani gave Xavier a first down inside the Staples 10-yard line. Marinan decided to go for it on fourth down from the three instead of kicking a field goal and Jess Frusciante knocked down a pass intended for Murphy in the front right corner of the end zone.
Staples stopped Mastroiani on a third-down run at midfield on the first possession of the second half, but the Wreckers were called for a five-yard facemask penalty. DeAngelo Berry made it hurt on the next play, breaking through another huge hole at the line and rumbling 48 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-7 with 10:17 left.
The Falcons put the game out of reach a few minutes later, using a 48-yard run by Mastroiani to set up a 9-yard touchdown scamper by senior Matt Craig to make it 35-7.
Nick Kelly intercepted a pass at the 50 and returned it to the Xavier 24. Staples got inside the 10 with help from penalties for holding and pass interference, but the Falcons still held the Wreckers out of the end zone, stopping Kelly short of the goal line on a fourth-down pass from Massie.
D’Amato added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.