Great campaign comes to an end for Raiders in Class L quarters. By Rich Elliott.
By Rich Elliott
TORRINGTON – There was still plenty of life remaining in the Torrington High football team in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals Tuesday. A 13-0 deficit did not seem insurmountable, especially with the Raiders moving deep into Wethersfield territory late in the first half.
Led by senior quarterback Connor Finn, Torrington had made numerous big plays during what had already been a memorable season. Yet, in the program’s first state playoff game in more than 30 years, their run of good fortune stalled.
Wethersfield senior cornerback Jae-Quan Brown squashed the Raiders momentum by intercepting a Finn pass and returning it 72 yards for a touchdown with five seconds left in the half. It was a turn of events that Torrington would not recover from in a 33-6 loss to the fifth-seeded Eagles at the Robert H. Frost Complex.
``That was my fault,’’ Torrington coach Gaitan Rodriguez said. ``Maybe I should have been a little bit more conservative on that. But I was just trying to be a little aggressive and get something going. But it bit me and the team in the (butt). That was my fault.’’
Finn, exhibiting qualities one would expect from a team leader, took blame for the critical turnover too. Facing a 2nd-and-10 situation at the Wethersfield 26 with less than a minute left in the second quarter, he eluded numerous defenders to his right, scrambled back to his left before firing a pass that Brown intercepted.
Standing outside the Torrington locker room after the game, Finn stood tall when he was questioned about the play.
``It was rough,’’ Finn said. ``It wasn’t a good throw. It wasn’t a good idea. But you’ve just got to live with what happens. We had a half left and I couldn’t dwell on that. But things happen so you just kind of have to roll with the punches.’’
It was the second playoff game in team history for the Raiders (9-2). They were defeated by New London 24-0 in the Class MM final in 1983.
Torrington finishes the season with its best record since posting a 10-1 mark in 1987.
Wethersfield (10-1) will face top-seeded North Haven (11-0) on the road in the semifinals Dec. 7. Sixth-seeded New Canaan (9-1) will host seventh-seeded Notre Dame-West Haven (10-2) in the other semifinal.
``To be in this position, it’s been 20-something years and if anything the bar is set and the expectation is set,’’ Rodriguez said. `` This is what we’re going to keep improving towards. So every year we just want to keep improving and keep building this program.’’
Senior Newton Frias rushed for 128 yards on 28 carries, scoring on a 1-yard run on 4th down with 1:46 left in the game. He finished the season with 1,095 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Nate Bresson had an interception and an impressive tackle for a 2-yard loss on a 4th-and-2 play from the Torrington 32 early in the second quarter.
``Nate Bresson has been playing like that all year,’’ Rodriguez said. ``I just told the guys in (the locker room) I can’t question their effort. As a football coach that’s all you can ask your team is to come out and give 100 percent effort no matter what the outcome is. I’m very appreciative of the effort and everything that this senior group has given and this football team.’’
Wethersfield took command right from the start, driving 78 yards in six plays to take a 6-0 lead with 9:35 left in the first quarter. Senior Richard Williams had runs of 20- and 7-yards before taking a pitch from senior quarterback Devon Smith 25 yards for a touchdown.
The Eagles would score on their second possession to open a 13-0 lead with 17 seconds left in the opening quarter. This time they drove 80 yards in 15 plays with junior Kyle Vasquez scoring on a 3-yard run.
Led by 132 yards on 12 carries from Williams, the Eagles rushed for 196 yards on 23 carries in the first half.
``Set the tone … That’s our motto,’’ Williams said. ``We try to come out and just set the tone from the beginning of the game.’’
Williams rushed for 135 yards on 15 carries and had six receptions for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Smith was 11-of-19 for 120 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 67 yards on nine carries and recording his seventh interception of the season at safety.
The Raiders never penetrated deeper than the Wethersfield 26 prior to their 60-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Their longest plays from scrimmage were a pair of 14-yard runs by Frias in the first and fourth quarters, respectively.
``I think we just weren’t executing,’’ Finn said. ``Everybody gave 110 percent. I couldn’t thank them enough for what they’ve done. But it just didn’t happen this week and it was ugly. They all tried their hardest and that’s what matters.’’
Finn, who threw for 1,534 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, finished 3-of-17 for 13 yards and three interceptions.
``Even the good ones are going to struggle,’’ Rodriguez said. ``Even the good ones are going to have tough games. I’ll take him over anyone any day. Connor Finn is an amazing kid and a tremendous person and sometimes you just have bad games. That’s what happened.’’
The game hardly played out the way Finn and the Raiders hoped it would against Wethersfield.
However, the outcome will not diminish the memories this season created.
Not only did Torrington progress as a program, Finn said that he will cherish the friendships he has established with his teammates.
``It’s frustrating, but to tell you the truth I’m just looking at what happened before and all the great things we’ve accomplished,’’ Finn said. ``I think that outweighs what happened (Tuesday).’’