Weston closes door on Ellington-Somers in Class M quarterfinals
ENFIELD -- An antacid finish is something Joe Lato has come to expect this season.
That's what sixth-seeded Weston High gave its coach Wednesday night, putting Lato's stomach through an acid war before emerging with a 29-22 victory over No. 3 Ellington-Somers in the Class M state quarterfinals at Enfield High School.
Weston (9-2), which is in the postseason for the first time since 1989, advances to play No. 2 Berlin (10-1) on Sunday in the semifinals. However, to earn their first playoff win, the Trojans had to survive a second-half shootout that featured a combined 36 points. Ellington-Somers (9-2) led 8-7 at the break.
"These are the games we play -- it's an ulcer every time we play," Lato said. "I know it going into it, it's going to be a roller-coaster ride, but I'm super proud of our kids.
"They played tough when it was really on the line and I'm super proud of them."
The Trojans' defense held its ground twice -- Hassett ended the first possession with an interception -- to seal it.
"We've done it (make late defensive stands) so many times this year, it's almost second nature," said Hassett, who rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries while throwing for one score on 16-of-28 passing for 154 yards and one interception.
Weston moved the ball in the first half, but finishing was an issue after taking a 7-0 lead. Hassett connected with Zach Cannon on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 8:28 left in the first quarter and Cannon kicked the PAT to give the Trojans an early lead.
Ellington-Somers answered with an 11-play scoring drive that Christian Schneider capped with a 1-yard touchdown run. Schneider also ran in the conversion for an 8-7 lead. Four Weston penalties fueled the drive, including a 15-yard running into the kicker by James Brasco at the E- 30 that prevented a three-and-out series.
The Trojans had one first-half drive end on downs inside the E-S 20, had a field goal blocked and turned the ball over twice (fumble and interception by Hassett).
"We weren't converting in the red zone in the first and penalties hurt us," Hassett said. "But we played much cleaner in the second half and were able to pull it out."
Even after a halftime pep talk, the Trojans came out in the second half and had their first drive end at E-S's 11. But on the second try, which started at the E-S 28, Hassett capped a four-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 13-8 after failing to convert the run.
The Knights stormed right back with a 52-yard touchdown run by senior Neal Janiga (10 carries, 97 yards), who sat out the first quarter for unspecified reasons, to reclaim the lead 14-13 with 3:53 left in the third quarter. The PAT failed.
Back came the Trojans, who capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Aaron Pomerance and two-point conversion from Hassett to go in front 21-14.
The lead lasted 22 seconds. Schneider returned the kickoff to the Weston 42, and on the first offensive play, quarterback Joseph Leslie connected with Austin Tautkus on a touchdown pass. Janiga ran in the conversion to make it 22-21 with 9:44 to play.
No worries for Weston, which stormed back with a seven-play drive that chewed up 53 yards and ended with Hassett's game-winning 2-yard touchdown run. He threw the conversion to Schaffer (nine carries, 65 yards) to give Weston a 29-22 lead.
"You look at it and it was a good football game, but we came out on the wrong side," Ellington-Somers head coach Keith Tautkus said.
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CLASS M STATE QUARTERFINALS
WESTON 29, ELLINGTON-SOMERS 22
WESTON 7 0 6 16--29
ELLINGTON/SOMERS 8 0 6 8--22
W -- Zach Cannon 7 pass from Tyler Hassett (Cannon kick)
E/S -- Christian Schneider 1 run (Schneider run)
W -- Hassett 1 run (Hassett run failed)
E/S -- Neal Janiga 52 run (Justin Oliver kick failed)
W -- Aaron Pomerance 9 run (Hassett run)
E/S -- Austin Tautkus 42 pass from Joseph Leslie (Janiga run)
W -- Hassett 2 run (Justin Schaffer pass from Hassett)
Records: Weston 9-2; Ellington\Somers: 9-2