1. If Xavier’s Class LL championship run last season was a coming out party for the team and its amazingly talented junior class, this year’s title was a coronation for that group. Xavier went 13-0 in 2011. The Falcons outscored opponents 423-76 in the regular season and 131-27 in the postseason. Domination is the only adjective to describe Xavier’s performance in each and every game this season.
2. Staples of Westport put up a valiant effort for much of the game, even if the 42-7 final score doesn’t indicate they did. The Wreckers obviously didn’t make it to the Class LL title game without a ton of talent, and Staples was able to occasionally run and especially throw the ball against the Falcons early in the game. When Staples answered a 58-yard Tim Boyle TD pass with a beautiful touchdown catch from Nick Kelly to cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter, his team was thinking they had just obtained what could be a big momentum swing. And how did Xavier answer? With Ryan Murphy returning the kickoff 48 yards and Pat D’Amato tossing a touchdown strike to a wide-open Mike Mastrioanni just two plays later.
Oh Xavier, how could I ever doubt you? Every time you give an opponent just a little bit of a window, you then unequivocally snatch it away. From that point on Staples unable to find any success on offense, or defense for that matter. The Falcons had stepped up and asserted their dominance when it was most necessary for them to.
3. Xavier was easily capable of making big plays, and Staples was incapable of stopping them. The already mentioned gorgeous 58 yard TD pass from Boyle to Jovan Santos-Knox. D’Amato’s 37-yard TD to Mastrioanni, where the Wreckers defense was completely sold on the fake and Mastrioanni was alone in the end zone. DeAngelo Berry’s 48 yard scamper at the beginning of the second half that put a nail in Staples coffin. There are too many awesome plays to choose from, and that’s not even mentioning the endless number of great runs by Mike Mastrioanni, who finished with a touchdown and 243 yards on 29 carries and was named the game’s MVP. Xavier’s big play ability totally wore down Staples by the time the second half rolled around.
4. Staples option attack was supposed to be dangerous. Well, so much for that. Max Tylki, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Jacobucci and the rest of the Falcons defense permitted the Wreckers to rush for just 31 yards on 28 carries. Xavier’s defensive lineman repeatedly pushed blockers off the line of scrimmage and made hard-hitting tackles in the backfield. Nick Kelly took the brunt of their punishment, losing 20 yards on just 11 touches.
Though the Wreckers were able to find brief success in the passing game, QB Jack Massie was only able to complete 11 of his 26 attempts and throw for just 144 yards total. Massie had constant pressure surrounding him and a lack of throwing lanes for the entire contest. Although his strong arm and impressive receivers allowed Massie to make a few plays early, he was unable to successfully throw the ball as he lost accuracy and the defense in the Falcons defensive backfield became more aggressive. Because that option didn’t exist, the Wreckers chances at winning didn’t exist either.
5. The Maestro performed a grand finale. Mike Mastroianni had his typical sterling performance in rushing for 243 yards and a touchdown and earning a second touchdown in the air. Like he has done to every one of Xavier’s opponents, the 175-pound senior back dominated Staples with a combination of power and explosiveness. With Mastroianni in the backfield the Falcons never had to worry about a drive stalling. They knew he could pick up both the tough yards and bust out a long run.
Behind Mastroianni, Xavier earned 408 yards on the grounds as each of its principle rushers (Mastrioanni, D’Amato, Berry and Matt Craig) ran for a touchdown. The 42-7 thrashing and game MVP award was a fitting way for one of the greatest players to ever wear a Falcons uniform to go out.
6. Not that Xavier made it clear in their statements leading up to the game that this was a chance for revenge. Staples had been the last school to beat Xavier, having defeated them 31-28 in the Class LL semifinals in December 2009, and since then the Falcons had won 25 games in a row. The talented but row sophomores who played for that team were the stars on this squad, and they made sure they were going to settle the score last night at Rentschler Field. Xavier played and celebrated with an extra edge. The Falcons would have been thrilled to beat any school but defeating Staples, and especially dominating them, was destiny.
7. Your author is not exactly the most historically aware or neutral party in the world (I’m a Xavier graduate). But it seems like the 2011 Xavier Falcons can stack themselves up against any of the great high school football teams in CT history, from the great Bloomfield teams of the late 90’s and early 00’s and the excellent New Britain squads from the middle of last decade to any of the standout Ansonia teams from the last few decades. Writers like Tom Yantz and Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant who have been observing the high school scene for years believe that to be the case.
The numbers certainly speak for themselves. Xavier has the longest winning streak in the state at 26 games after winning two consecutive Class LL championships. The team had the third-highest scoring offense in the state and its 103 points allowed in 13 games was CT’s best. And the Falcons saved their best play for last, only permitting 347 yards total in the playoffs. Xavier’s 42-7 victory in the title game was the most lopsided in the biggest classification since the playoffs began in 1976. Xavier is as talented as I could imagine a high school team ever being. They had a monster offensive line, unrelenting running backs, efficient QB’s and defensive players who are extremely strong and aggressive. Most importantly, Xavier plays with absolute intelligence and execution on every down. As a fan you were excited to watch the Falcons because you wanted to see what amazing play they made next. That’s the sign of a great team.
8. To Mike Mastrioanni, Pat D’Amato, Jovan Santos-Knox, Ryan Jacobucci, Ryan Murphy, Sean Marinan Jr. and the remaining group of 19 seniors who took Xavier to consecutive undefeated seasons and Class LL titles, congratulations. You were a very gifted group of football players and deserve every accolade you receive. You honored Xavier High School and the city of Middletown to the upmost degree. After the game, Sean Marinan Jr. told the New Haven Register ““First team in Xavier history to go back-to-back, we’re immortal now. They can’t take it away.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.