They call him the ‘Lion King,’ an endearing reference to his name, “Mufasha,” and the namesake of the titular character from the popular Disney franchise.
Like his namesake, Mufasha Abdul Basir grew up before our eyes Saturday at Darien High School. Called upon to make the biggest play of the young season, Abdul Basir, his legs pumping, his shoulders churning, squeezed through the Darien defensive front and fell — just barely — over the goal line to write himself into St. Joseph’s 2012 season highlight reel and lift the Hogs into contender status.
Of course, St. Joseph’s defense had to do some work to secure the exhilarating 35-28 victory. But it was Mufasha’s hard yards in double overtime, necessary after St. Joseph had shanked what would have been the winning chip-shot field goal in OT 1, that secured St. Joseph’s contender status.
“If you don’t want to play this game, you can’t play this game,” he said. “This is a hard-hitting game and you have to want to be great to play this game. And our team wanted to be great, I wanted to be great. I came in with a mindset that I wasn’t going to go down, no matter what. I’m going to keep my feet moving and whoever dares run toward me, I gotta go get it.”
His clutch, 1-yard plunge was reminiscent of the team’s last great running back, Tyler Matakevich, who helped St. Joseph win back-to-back state championships only two years ago. (Aside: Matakevich probably would have leaped over the pile, though).
With a week off from Temple, Matakevich was on the sidelines to watch his former teammates earn their biggest win since he played in the 2010 Class S championship over Ansonia. Mufasha was just an eight-grader then, but the presence of his idol had an effect.
“He’s a great guy and a great inspiration,” Abdul Basir said. “He works hella hard. I kinda wanted to win for him.”
The Blue Wave fell to 2-1 and coach Rob Trifone lamented his team playing without star back Peter Gesualdi for the second time and attributed its ineffectiveness during St. Joseph’s comeback to the limited availability of standout lineman Matt D’Andrea. “Put simply, it killed us,” he said. “He’s the best offensive and defensive player we have and when he got tired, it made it difficult.”
But he took some positives out of the close loss.
“…Playing the way we did without Peter Gesualdi, who will be back next week, shows we can play with anybody,” Trifone said.
And so St. Joseph-Darien lived up to its billing. It added St. Joseph, which went 4-6 a year ago, to a crowded house of early FCIAC contenders alongside Darien, Greenwich (2-0) Trinity Catholic (3-0), New Canaan (2-1), Ridgefield (2-1), Stamford (2-1), Westhill (2-1), Wilton (2-1) and Danbury (1-1, 2-1 overall). Staples (3-0) remains the hunted team. And, based on Week 4′s schedule, it doesn’t seem as if there will be much change as we head into midseason.
Same goes for the SWC, which saw little change from last week’s surprises. Barlow, Oxford, Masuk and Newtown won big. Brookfield beat New Milford to set up its grudge match with Newtown on Friday. Masuk at Bunnell is another game to watch.
In the SCC, Fairfield Prep earned some stripes by hanging tough with No. 1 Xavier despite allowing D’Angelo Berry to score two touchdowns on his first two touches of the day. It had the earmarks of a blowout, but Fairfield Prep kept the margin within two touchdowns until the fourth quarter.
“Maybe we had stars in our eyes,” coach Tom Shea said. “But we have to learn that games are 48 minutes long, not 46, unfortunately.”
Though they eventually lost 35-14, Fairfield Prep suddenly doesn’t look like it will be a pushover against some of the other squads on its schedule. The Jesuits don’t play Hand, get West Haven late. Hmm…
Shelton beat back a strong challenge from David Attolino and Amity to earn a critical 34-28 victory.
One of the league’s most surprising results from Friday was West Haven’s 34-13 victory over Notre Dame-West Haven. The score wasn’t surprising, but ND back Cameran Tucker’s performance was downright shocking. He blasted off for 323 yards and Notre Dame only scored 13 points. However it happened, Notre Dame is 1-2 and West Haven is 3-0.
And, finally, in the NVL, the only result of note was Torrington’s big, 24-21 upset victory over Holy Cross. The Crusaders will not be 3-0 heading into Friday’s game vs. Ansonia. Has the luster faded on the last great NVL hope?
EXTRA POINTS: Congratulations to Trumbull coach Bob Maffei for getting win No. 100 in Trumbull’s 35-7 win over Ludlowe. The Eagles snapped a 9-game losing streak dating back a week before program patriarch Jerry McDougall died. …Central quarterback Xavier Hardison suffered a concussion and was carted off the field during his team’s wild, 36-30, loss to Danbury. He was up and about Tweeting on Sunday morning that he was OK. His return to the field is doubtful for next week vs. Westhill.
- FCIAC: New Canaan 35, Fairfield Warde 6 | Wilton 31, Bassick 8 | St. Joseph 35, Darien 28 (2OT) | Danbury 36, Central 30 | Trumbull 35, Fairfield Ludlowe 7 | Trinity Catholic 34, Harding 0 | Westhill 13, Norwalk 0
- NVL: Wolcott 47, Crosby 26 | Torrington 24, Holy Cross 21 | Naugatuck 70, St. Paul Catholic 33 | Seymour 42, Kennedy 14
- SCC: Shelton 34, Amity 28 | Xavier 35, Fairfield Prep 14 | Hamden 30, Jonathan Law 6
- SWC: Newtown 43, Stratford 14 | Barlow 55, Notre Dame-Fairfield 12 | Brookfield 24, New Milford 0 | Masuk 53, Immaculate 8 | Oxford 40, Bethel 26
- CSC: Cheney Tech 36, Wilcox Tech 19 | Bullard Havens Tech 46, Abbott Tech 12 | Capital Prep 42, Wolcott Tech 7 | Platt Tech 21, Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech 19
ALSO: Ned Griffen of The Day has your Weekend ‘Polecat’ roundup for statewide news.