Who is the region’s player of the year?
We’ve asked this question before. And we’ve received a variety of answers.
New Canaan’s Kevin Macari, Trumbull’s Phil Terio, St. Joseph’s Joe Della Vecchia, Ansonia’s Montrell Dobbs (the state’s leading rusher), Brookfield’s Brian Kelly, Masuk’s Casey Cochran.
All of them have gaudy statistics that are easily picked from atop the pile.
But here’s one you may or may not have thought about: Masuk’s Jon Testani.
He plays outstanding run defense, he plays outstanding pass defense, he catches touchdown passes, he booms field goals (well, not that many attempts… yet) and, perhaps immeasurable, he kicks touchbacks almost every time, making offenses go 80 yards against one of the best defenses in the state.
Will he win any Player of the Year awards? Erm… maybe not unless MSG’s Mike Quick is picking them. (From the beginning, Quick has called Testani the most valuable player in the region.
“As far as high school players go,” Quick said to me a few weeks ago. “He’s the most valuable.”
Anyone who watched Masuk dismantle Newtown 42-0 to win its first SWC championship and finish undefeated both for the first time since 2003, can attest to the truth of that statement.
Testani, a baseball player by trade who’s verbally committed to play up at Storrs next year and will try to walk on as a kicker at UConn, put in an MVP performance Thanksgiving Eve. He crushed five touchbacks (and a few others that came close), picked off a pass to set up his own touchdown a 45-yard touchdown strike from Casey Cochran.
All together, they don’t light up the stat sheet like Dobbs or some of the other great players in our region. Those guys are specialists. Testani’s specialty is football.
Behind Testani, Masuk rolled to victory (avenging last season’s upset that knocked them out of the playoffs). In the process, they clinched the No. 1 seed in the Class L playoffs at 10-0 — the first 10-0 season since 2003. Now this Masuk squad will attempt to do what the 2003 team couldn’t: Win a state title.
“One of the things coach has always stressed is ‘Finish,’” Testani said. “On our lifting shirts, it says ‘Finish’ on the back. And every letter means something. That ‘N’ in ‘Finish’ means ‘Newtown.’ So we came out tonight and to beat Newtown, and that’s what we wanted to do.
“We prepare for every team the same exact way. This team has so much character. We’ll come out to practice every single day and get after it, get coached up and learn everything we can about the next team. This is the best part of the season right here.”
Trumbull 38, St. Joseph 27 – Trumbull appeared to have picked off right where it left off last week at McDougall Stadium, down, out and packing it in. But Trumbull, down 24-7 early, rallied to beat St. Joseph 38-27 in what sounded like an incredible game at McDougall Stadium.
Trumbull has clinched a home game and at least the No. 4 seed in the state playoffs, which begins Tuesday. St. Joseph still has a good shot at hosting a game in the Class S playoffs, but the Hogs’ primary concern right now is the leg of QB Joe Della Vecchia. He was hit hard and had to be wheeled off the McDougall Stadium turf. His status, as of Thursday, is unknown.
Pomperaug 38, Oxford 6 – Kellen Croce threw for over 200 yards and Kevin Maxen scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the Panthers to an 8-2 finish. But are they finished? Yes. Enough happened in the CCC Wednesday night to seal Pomperaug’s fate. They’ll miss the playoffs. Still, an overall good season for the Panthers in a follow up of last year’s 2009 runner-up team. The loss to Brookfield was their Waterloo. Oxford, which suffered some debilitating injuries in midseason, finishes a respectable 5-5.
Bunnell 16, Stratford 7 –There were no playoffs on the line, but the stars were out at Bunnell High School, with Buffalo Bills receiver Marcus Easley Rutgers receiver Mark Harrison two of the bigger names. But the biggest star of the night was Bunnell junior David Camille, who ran for 74 yards, a touchdown and both 2-point conversions as the Bulldogs topped rival Stratford for the fourth straight time. The Red Devils finish 3-7, but coach John Svatik assures us it won’t be for long.
Bassick 28, Bullard-Havens 12 — What a night for Bassick’s Jacquii Tuck, who ran for a school record 314 yards on 34 carries and scored three touchdowns to get Bassick its first victory of the season over Bullard-Havens, which received some fine running from Nick Rodriguez (117 yards) and John Shannon (129) but couldn’t overcome five fumbles.
Ridgefield 27, Danbury 14 – This hasn’t been an easy season for either of these teams. Ridgefield had some lofty expectations, but its youth proved too much to overcome. For Danbury, it was a trying season not just because of its 3-7 final record, but playing through the loss of assistant coach Bo Williams just two weeks ago. Danbury overcame a slew of mistakes in the first half and was within 12-7, but Ridgefield — behind new quarterback Connor Rowe — turned on the jets in the second half to pull away.
Stamford 53, Westhill 6 – It seems like only yesterday that I stood on Ridgefield’s Lancaster Field and witnessed the Tigers absolutely take apart Stamford 35-7. I remember thinking to myself, Stamford might not win a game all year. The story in The Advocate about how coach Bryan Hocter‘s players weren’t even getting enough food to eat, had just come out as well. But Stamford rallied at midseason, shocked playoff-bound Trumbull and then capped this amazing season off at 6-4 by winning the Frank Robotti trophy with a thorough beating of Westhill. Lots of people out there are suggesting Hocter as a Coach of the Year candidate. Either way, amazing job.