SIMSBURY, Sept. 24 – The uniforms are the same. The coaches are the same. And All-Star quarterback Kyle Decker is back under center for the Simsbury High football team after leading the Trojans to a share of the CCC Division I championship a year ago and the Class L semifinals.
But that is about it for returning players on the Trojan football team. Another two starters are back but the rest are starting on the varsity for the first time, including seven sophomores.
That youth was exposed in a 42-6 loss to Windsor on opening night. “We had so many mistakes to correct after the Windsor game,” Simsbury coach Jeff Osborne said. “We spent the next week just correcting mistakes.”
On Friday night, Simsbury showed poise and maturity with a strong second half effort to come from behind and beat Newington, 22-19. In the second half, Decker scored a pair of touchdowns and ran for 154 of his career-high 209 yards.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Decker said. “We were 1,000 times better than against Windsor. I gave to give it out to Chris Henry, my left guard. He was my horse today. He’s the guy I really relied on, going behind him. He played big.”
Simsbury’s defense also rose to the occasion. In the first half, the Trojans were able to pressure Newington’s junior quarterback Jon Snyder, who was able to scramble away for 72 yards on 10 carries. But Simsbury sharpened its play in the second half, limiting Snyder to just 12 yards on six carries.
“Our defensive line did a good job of getting pressure on him,” Decker said. “We have a good core of linebackers with (Josh) Gowdy and (Dylan) Sullivan in the middle and Omari (Archer), who flies all over the field.”
Trailing 12-7 at halftime, Simsbury marched 60 yards on 10 plays on its second drive to take a 15-12 lead. Gowdy picked up 24 yards on a key third down to keep the drive alive and Decker scored from the five on fourth and goal. Decker’s two-point conversion run extended the lead to three points.
Two plays later, Simsbury recovered a Newington fumble on its own 19-yard line after a poor handoff. Mistakes crippled Newington, which had a whopping 10 penalties for 70 yards and allowed Snyder to be sacked four times.
On third and six, Decker scrambled nine yards for the first down. He scored on the next play from six yards out for a 22-12 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Simsbury seemed to have the game in its control. With about five minutes left, Simsbury’s Austin O’Seep and Stephon King had back-to-back sacks of Snyder for a combined loss of 19 yards. Simsbury got the ball back and Decker rambled 48 yards to the two-yard line.
Two plays later, Decker tried to score from the one but the ball was popped out of his hands and flew into the end zone. Newington’s Jeremy Rodriguez scooped the ball in the end zone and raced down the right sideline for a 103-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 2:16 remaining. The extra point was good, cutting the Simsbury lead to three, 22-19.
Simsbury came inches short of getting a first down with 1:05 left that would have clinched the game but they had to punt. Newington drove to the Simsbury 33 but ran out of time. Snyder completed 13-of-25 passes for 117 yards, including a 27-yard pass to Rodriguez that put Newington into Simsbury territory.
Trailing 6-0, Simsbury rallied to take the lead in the waning seconds of the first quarter. Decker made a nice fake inside and broke free for a 39-yard gain to the Newington 35-yard line. There, he lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Omari Archer with five seconds left in the quarter. Andrew Melanson kicked the extra point for a 7-6 lead.
Newington regained the lead after a 63-yard, 11-play drive that ate up nearly the final 3:29 of the second quarter. Snyder completed a three-yard pass to Freddy Burgos with 19 seconds left to give the Indians a 12-6 lead. The two-point conversion run failed. Snyder completed 4 of 6 passes on the drive for 46 yards.
“We didn’t make too many changes at halftime,” Simsbury coach Jeff Osborne said. “Just wrap up better and contain the quarterback.”
TITLES: A new championship banner that includes Simsbury’s 2009 Central Connecticut Conference Division I title was raised before the game. As part of that ceremony, former Simsbury High coaches Rollie Morrison (1958-76) and Joe Grace (1990-2006) were introduced to the crowd. Both men won over 100 career games with Simsbury.
Simsbury 22, Newington 19
Newington (0-2) 6 6 0 7 — 19
Simsbury (1-1) 7 0 15 0 – 22
N: David Kyem 7 run (kick wide), 3:34
S: Omari Archer 35 pass from Kyle Decker (Andrew Melanson kick), 0:05
N: Freddy Burgos 3 pass from Jon Snyder (run fails), 0:19
S: Decker 5 run (Decker run), 3:41
S: Decker 6 run (Melanson kick), 0:36
N: Jeremy Rodriguez 103 fumble return (Christian Beauford kick), 2:16
RUSHING – Simsbury: Kyle Decker 23-209, Andrew Girard 8-23, Omari Archer 1-minus 3, Josh Gowdy 5-25, Steven Stejn 1-minus 8, Stephen King 1-0; Newington: Jon Snyder 16-86, David Kyem 8-24, Jeremy Rodriguez 4-5, Freddy Burgos 1-minus 2
PASSING – Simsbury: Kyle Decker 1-2-0, 35; Newington: Jon Snyder 13-25-0, 117
RECEIVING: Simsbury: Omari Archer 1-35; Newington: Freddy Burgos 3-21, Eric Ryan 4-16, Alex Lomaglio 3-26, Jeremy Rodriguez 2-40, Jorge Premto 1-14