Staples survives test from St. Joseph
WESTPORT -- It took a little bit longer than head coach Marce Petroccio would have liked for Staples' offense to round into its usual high-powered form.
But when that time finally came--a little over 90 minutes after the 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday--the offense made its presence felt in an explosive way.
The Wreckers erupted for 42 points in the second half, turning what was a close game into a 49-28 rout over St. Joseph in the first-ever night game at Staples Stadium.
"It was a tale of two halves, but honestly, we are built to play four quarters. That's what we do," Petroccio said.
A chunk of that offense came from senior James Frusciante, whose 70-yard punt return touchdown gave Staples a 14-7 lead with 8:42 left in the third quarter. Frusciante also struck in the passing game, hauling in touchdown passes of 14 and 62 yards from quarterback Jack Massie 20 seconds apart near the end of the quarter.
Frusciante caught four passes for 96 yards in the second half after recording just two receptions over the first two quarters.
"As usual, James lit the match and we caught on fire," Petroccio said.
St. Joseph got four touchdowns from senior Jake Pelletier--catches from 26, 10 and 17 yards out from quarterback Jordan Vazzano, and a 5-yard run--and went into halftime tied 14-14 with the defending FCIAC champions.
St. Joseph, however, also let several other scoring opportunities slip away in the first half as it had three drives stall inside Staples' 25 (two on turnover on downs and one on a blocked field goal).
"We left an awful lot of points on the board early," St. Joseph head coach Joe Della Vecchia said.
Pelletier's 10-yard touchdown catch made it 14-14 with 3:48 left in the third quarter, but the Wreckers struck quickly--and in bunches. After the Wreckers went back ahead 21-14 with 48 seconds left in the quarter, the Cadets fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Wreckers the ball 38 yards from the end zone. The next play, Massie fired a 62-yard strike down the right sideline to Frusciante to double the lead.
The fumble, coupled with the punt return for a touchdown, made St. Joseph's night tougher than it already was.
"I'm not sure if it did us in, but two special teams breakdowns on back-to-back plays against a team like that, you can't do it," Della Vecchia said.
Playing without senior Nick Kelly, who led the team with 17 touchdowns a year ago, Staples paved its way on the ground throughout the night with seniors Joey Zelkowitz and Zach Speranza, and junior Patrick Lesch. Zelkowitz had a 3-yard touchdown run to open the scoring in the first quarter and Lesch had scoring runs of 39 and 30 yards. Backup quarterback Teddy Coogan added a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
All of that offense came after an inauspicious start.
The Wreckers failed to score in the opener quarter as Zelkowitz lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, and the offense turned the ball over on downs at St. Joseph's 35 on the next series.
"I just felt like we had a lot to overcome and we did, and to light up the score like that in the second half, that's pretty amazing for us. I'm proud of the job that those guys did," said Petroccio, who gave a lot of the credit to the offensive line.
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STAPLES 49, ST. JOSEPH 28
ST. JOSEPH 0 7 7 14--28
STAPLES 0 7 21 21--49
S--Joey Zelkowitz 3 run (Liam Gilmore kick)
SJ--Jake Pelletier 26 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Pelletier kick)
S--James Frusciante 70 punt return (Gilmore kick)
SJ--Pelletier 10 pass from Vazzano (Pelletier kick)
S--Frusciante 14 pass from Jack Massie (Gilmore kick)
S--Frusciante 62 pass from Massie (Gilmore kick)
S--Patrick Lesch 39 run (Gilmore kick)
SJ--Pelletier 5 run (Pelletier kick)
S--Lesch 30 run (Gilmore kick)
S--Teddy Coogan 41 run (Gilmore kick)
SJ--Pelletier 17 pass from Vazzano (Pelletier kick)
Records: St. Joseph 0-1, 0-1; Staples 1-0, 1-0.