Schools Sports

Hall Regains West Hartford Mayor’s Cup in 61st Crosstown Rivalry Game

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton
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In a closely matched game between the West Hartford schools on Saturday, Conard came up short in its attempt to win the trophy for the third straight year.

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ted Newton. Photos by Ronni Newton

Whenever Conard and Hall meet for their annual matchup on the gridiron, you can disregard their win-loss records and focus the intensity of the rivalry, now in its 61st year, and this contest was no exception.

“With this game, you’re always going to get everyone’s best effort,” said Conard head coach Matt Cersosimo after his Chieftains lost to the Warriors 23-20 on a raw ,gray Saturday afternoon at Conard’s McKee Stadium.

“We really played well today,” said Hall coach Frank Robinson. “This was a big win for our seniors.”

Some might say it was unexpected, as Hall entered the game having one win on the season and eight losses compared to Conard’s 5-4 record. But not the coaches.

“I don’t think it’s an upset,” said Cersosimo. “[Hall] is a good team, and today they just played better and made more plays than we did.”

Said Robinson: “we’ve really played well the last couple of weeks, which has resulted from our goal of trying to get better every day – and that showed today.”

Hall made the most of opportunities, with their strong offensive line opening up holes for their running backs. In contrast, Conard committed a number of costly penalties and missed several opportunities to intercept Hall quarterback Andrew Nicklas, a factor which may have tipped the balance in a close game that featured three touchdowns in the first six minutes and a significant amount of offense in the first quarter.

Both coaches agreed the game’s pivotal play came late in the fourth quarter as Conard was driving toward a touchdown that would have put them ahead with just a few minutes remaining.

Quarterback Jack Moore had steadily moved the Conard offense into the red zone with a flurry of short passes to receivers Justin Furze and Aidan Stabnick following a terrific kickoff return by Ryan Orlowski to the Hall 40-yard line. Rolling to his right, he looked to complete another pass when the ball was tipped by Hall linebacker Yovan Rivera and into the hands of defensive back Tommy Cravedi who dove for the ball before it could hit the ground.

Cravedi’s interception preserved Hall’s lead and gave them the ball, albeit deep in their own territory. After a couple of run plays that gained little yardage but helped run down the clock, Nicklas hit running back Leo Dionicio with a short pass up the middle, and Dionicio’s second and third efforts carried him and Conard defenders to the first down. Things were looking bleak at that point for Conard as it took its first time out of the half with 2:30 remaining.

As expected, Hall ran the ball on first down again. But unexpectedly, it was Nicklas with a quarterback sneak for another first down. Conard took its second-to-last timeout to stop the clock with 1:50 left.

Knowing they had to prevent Hall from getting another first down, Conard’s defense was up to the task, swarming running back Elijah Bryant on consecutive runs to force fourth down. Conard took its last timeout with just over minute left.

Hall’s offense lined as if they were going for the first down, but quickly switched to punt formation. Nicklas’ punt went out of bounds at Conard’s 25-yard line, and Conard would have to march 75 yards for a winning touchdown, and more than half that distance to give kicker Dave Regan a realistic change at a tying field goal.

But Moore, who has led Conard’s offense all season, brought hope to the home crowd.

Quick passes to receiver Grant O’Connor and Stabnick gained a quick 20 yards, but consecutive incompletions left Conard with fourth and 5 to go with 25 second remaining and Stabnick hurt on the previous play.

After taking the snap, Moore searched for receivers on what might have been Conard’s last play of the season. With Hall defending well, he tucked the ball and sprinted diagonally up the field for a 19-yard run and went out of bounds at Hall’s 34-yard line to stop time with 10 seconds showing on the clock.

Following a short pass to Max Main, and with four seconds left, Conard was faced with a difficult decision from the 33-yard line – go for the touchdown or try for a 50-yard field goal.

They opted for the latter, knowing that Regan has hit long field goals in practice.

Unfortunately for the Conard faithful, his kick fell short as time expired, as the Hall players exuberantly rushed the field to celebrate winning the most important game of the season for both teams – an exciting game of unexpected plays and drama with a little bit of everything for fans and players alike.

Stabnick, who had seven receptions for 77 yards on Saturday, set a Conard school record for receiving yards in a season with 706, eclipsing Karon Golding’s record of 642 set in 2014.

Moore, who was 22 for 40 for 239 yards, set a school record for passing yards in a Conard vs. Hall game, breaking a record of 211 yards set by Mark Calabrese back in 1975.

Conard leads the overall rivalry series, which dates back to 1957, by 23-24-3.

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Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Annual Conard vs. Hall West Hartford Mayor’s Cup football game. Nov. 18, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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