For the fifth straight year, the Thanksgiving Trophy will call South Windsor High School its home, as the Bobcats football team soundly defeated Rockville High 42-14 Wednesday evening in Vernon.
The trophy, which was awarded to the Bobcats after the game, goes to the winner of the annual rivalry match between South Windsor and Rockville.
South Windsor running back James Nyarko rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries, while Ryan Fiorita had a 30-yard scoring reception, Joe Orsini scored on a 15-yard touchdown run and senior Sam Odell had a 4-yard TD run.
Rockville was able to move the ball, evidenced by the offense racking up nearly 400 yards of total offense. But the Rams struggled to execute in deep in South Windsor territory, as they made three trips to inside the Bobcats’ 20-yard line in the first half, only to come away empty.
“It’s just like Plainville [a 41-12 loss], 400 yards and just two scores,” said Rockville head coach Rob Scholtz.
“We always talk about bend, don’t break, don’t give up a big play,” South Windsor head coach Mike Bullock said of his defense.
South Windsor, on the other hand, seemingly took advantage of every break: recovering a Rockville fumble in the Bobcats’ end zone; stopping Rockville on fourth and short several times; converting a 4th-and-6 situation into a first down at Rockville’s 21; and recovering two onside kicks in the second half.
All of which turned a close 14-6 game early in the third quarter into a 35-6 South Windsor lead at the start of the fourth period.
“They were moving the ball on us pretty good, and that concerned us a bit,” Bullock said. “I told my guys at halftime, this game was close for a half, after that one team steps up, and it was our team.”
After both teams struggled on offense in the first quarter, Nyarko opened the Bobcats account with 10 seconds left in the first with a 20-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
The Bobcats extended their lead to 14-0 in the second quarter when Nyarko scampered 72 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.
The Rams looked like they were back in the game early in the third quarter, taking the opening possession of the second half and going on a 12-play, 47-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard Trenton Shelton (95 yards, two touchdowns) plunge. The two point conversion was no good, but Rockville had closed to 14-6.
The momentum seemed to have shifted to Rockville when South Windsor’s drive on the ensuing possession stalled, with the Bobcats facing a 4th-and-6 at the Rams’ 35-yard line.
But quarterback Ryan McDonald, scrambling to his right, managed to find receiver Jessie Lavoie on a 14-yard pass on the sideline to keep the drive alive at the Rams’ 21. Nyarko scored his third touchdown one play later, as the Bobcats took a 21-6 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Rockville when South Windsor recovered an onside kick and scored six seconds later on Fiorita’s 30-yard touchdown catch and run.
South Windsor then pooch kicked on the ensuing kickoff and recovered again, eventually scoring on Orsini’s touchdown run. The rout was then on.
Scholz, whose team went 2-8 this year, said that he was already looking ahead.
“It’s about next year,” he said. “We got rid of all the bad things that happened in the past year. We moved forward forward, but not forward enough. It’s unfortunate that these seniors couldn’t establish it more, it’s unfortunate the way the season ended, but it was positive. We had coaches and officials saying that we came out of the grave pretty much, and now we’re out of it.”
Rams quarterback Dan Wheeler threw for 204 yards, while Devon Charles rushed for 80 yards and caught six passes for 93 yards.
South Windsor improved to 2-8 on the year, with the victory being an important end to the season, and not just because it came against the Bobcats' main rival.
“Very meaningful, because it gives us a springboard into the offseason, just something to build off of,” Bullock said.
Notes: South Windsor kicker Alexis Nagle, the first girl that Bullock has had last the entire season, successfully converted all six of her extra-point attempts.