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Weather challenges football teams in season-opening games

Simsbury’s Zach Tartaglia (4) had an 89-yard kickoff return against Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday night. (Photo courtesy Scott Kerr)

It was a strange opening weekend with the thunderstorms and lightning playing havoc with games across the state. Games were moved and suspended to due excessive heat and delayed due to thunder and lightning in the area.

Three games with Simsbury, Farmington and Lewis Mills were completed with games with Granby/Canton and Avon suspended and in limbo with no dates to complete the games determined as of Sunday night.

RHAM 28, Avon 8, suspended
AVON, Sept. 9, 2023 — Avon’s season-opening contest with RHAM on the turf field in Avon was originally scheduled for Thursday but it was moved to Saturday because of excessive heat and humidity.  On Saturday, the two teams played into the third quarter before lightning caused a two-hour delay that eventually became a suspension of the game.

RHAM holds a 27-8 lead thanks to Raptor quarterback Brady Hilland throwing four touchdown passes to Joshua Weeks, who caught seven passes for 94 yards before the game was suspended with 7:10 left in the third quarter.

Bristol Eastern 35, Farmington 14
BRISTOL, Sept. 9, 2023 — Farmington’s season-opening contest with Bristol Eastern was postponed one day until Saturday when Eastern outlasted the River Hawks, 35-14, thanks to a pair of interceptions for touchdowns from Eastern’s Adam Zavecz that solidified the victory.

Eastern took a 21-14 lead with 5:31 remaining in the game on a two-yard touchdown run from Jaiden Fore. Zavecz returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:17 remaining to boost the lead to 14 points and did It again with a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:39 left in the game.

Zavecz is one of 22 players with two interception returns for a touchdown in a single game, according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book. The last time it occurred was in 2019.

Twice Eastern took the lead only to see Farmington (0-1) tie the game with a big play. Leading 7-0 at halftime, the River Hawks tied the game on Cayden Markowitz’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Jahkai Veal early in the third quarter.

Bristol Eastern took a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when Zion Otero recovered a Farmington fumble in the end zone with 9:38 left in the game. Twenty seconds later, Veal scored on an 81-yard TD pass from Markowitz to tie the game at 14-14.

Veal caught five passes for a school-record 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, breaking the mark of 184 yards set by Griffin Kiniry against Newington in 2021.

Fairfield Ludlowe 42, Simsbury 14
SIMSBURY, Sept. 9, 2023 — Simsbury played one half against Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday night at Holden Field before lightning and rain forced a suspension of the contest, which was finished the next day beginning at noon.

Big plays helped Ludlowe beat Simsbury. Ludlowe QB Chris Bellatoni completed 13-of-18 passes for 179 yards and four touchdown passes. Justin Toothaker caught six passes for 97 yards and two TDs for Ludlowe with teammates Ryan Menozzi (2-78) and Ryan Tompkins (2-53) each having individual TD receptions.

Simsbury’s Zach Tartaglia had an 89-yard kickoff return in the second quarter with Sam Pitbladoch returning an interception 18 yards for a touchdown in the third period.

Chad Mairano led the Trojans on the ground with 76 yards on 10 carries along with one reception for 10 yards. Shane Butler also caught a 19-yard pass from QB Patrick Matyczyk. Brodey Mills had 12 tackles for Simsbury with one tackle for a loss. Marshall Potter, who kicked two extra points, had six tackles, a sack and two tackles for a loss.

Rockville 7, Granby/Canton 0, suspended
GRANBY, Sept. 9, 2023 — Granby/Canton spent more time looking at their own field on Friday and Saturday than actually playing on it.

On Friday night, the Bears were scheduled to host Rockville beginning at 6:30 p.m. Lightning delayed the start of the Pequot Conference game to 8:25 p.m. The two schools managed to get in about seven minutes of playing time before another round of lightning lit up the skies in Granby and forced a suspension of the contest with 2:21 left in the first quarter at 9:30 p.m.

Original plans called for a 10 a.m. start on Saturday morning in Granby. But there were no officials available at that time so the start of the contest was pushed to 5 p.m. This time, the teams played about a quarter before once again the game was suspended due to lightning and heavy rain with 5:26 left in the second quarter.

Rockville took a 7-0 lead with 6:53 left in the second quarter on a five-yard run from Amir Knighton and an extra point from kicker Molly Wilson.

Montville 26, Lewis Mills 6
MONTVILLE, Sept. 9, 2023 — Lewis Mills was set to open their season on Thursday at Montville but it was delayed due to heat to Saturday. On Saturday, thunder and lightning delayed 90 minutes the start of the game until 7:30 p.m.


Bristol Eastern 35, Farmington 14
At Bristol

Farmington (0-1)             0  0  7    7  — 14
Bristol Eastern (1-0)       0  7  0  28  — 35
Second quarter
BE: Jaiden Fore 2 run (Gavin Damboise kick), 11:55
Third quarter
F: Jahkai Veal 80 pass from Cayden Markowitz (Harrison Slade kick), 11:47
Fourth quarter
BE: Zion Otero fumble recovery in end zone (Damboise kick), 9:38
F: Veal 81 pass from Merkewitz (Slade kick), 9:18
BE: Fore 2 run (Damboise kick), 5:31
BE: Adam Zavecz 37 interception return (Damboise kick), 2:17
BE: Zavecz 22 interception return (Damnoise kick), 1:39
Individual statistics
RUSHING: Farmington — Quincy Kiniry 10-18, Cayden Markowitz 4-minus 17, Ty Nogiec 1-minus 13, Andrew Ranucci 1-5, Matt Rodrigues 2-2, Jahkai Veal 1-2
PASSING: Farmington — Cayden Markowicz 11-23-3, 252
RECEIVING: Farmington — Quincy Kiniry 1-1, Andrew Ranucci 2-13. Jahkai Veal 5-233, Ethan O’Hara 3-15

Rockville 7, Granby/Canton 0 (suspended)
At Granby
Rockville (0-0)                    0  7  x x  –  xx
Granby/Canton (0-0)        0  0  x x   — xx
Second quarter
Ro: Amir Knighton 5 run (Molly Wilson kick), 6:53
Game suspended with 5:26 left in second quarter

RHAM 27, Avon 8 (suspended)
At Avon
RHAM (0-0)        0  20  7  x – xx
Avon (0-0)           8    0  0  x  –xx
First quarter
A: David Minami 1 run (Carter Davies run), 0:48
Second quarter
RHAM: Joshua Weers 13 pass from Brady Hulland (pass fails), 4:18
RHAM: Weers 20 pass from Hulland (Mason Little kick), 3:00
RHAM: Weers 9 pass from Hulland (Little kick), 1:14
Third quarter
RHAM: Weers 46 pass from Hullard (Little kick), 11:45
Game suspended with 7:10 left in the third quarter

Fairfield Ludlowe 41, Simsbury 14
At Simsbury
Fairfield Ludlowe (1-0)   0  21  21  0  — 42
Simsbury (0-1)                  0    7    7  0  — 14
Second quarter
F: Justin Toothaker 24 pass from Chris Bellatoni (Sam Graziano kick)
S: Zach Tartaglia 89 kickoff return (Marshall Potter kick)
F: Charles Mahoney 6 pass from Bellatoni (Graziano kick)
F: Toothaker 36 pass from Bellatoni (Graziano kick)
Third quarter
F: Ryan Tompkins 47 pass from Grant Stupak (kick blocked)
S: Sam Pitbladoch 18 interception (Potter kick)
F: Ryan Menozzi 76 pass from Stupak (xxx pass from Stupak)
F: Stupak 4 run (Graziano kick)
Individual statistics
RUSHING: Ludlowe – John Kleinbeck 11-157, Ryan Tompkins 3-15, Chris Bellatoni 3-13, Grant Stupak 4-7, Aiden Anderson 9-minus 3; Simsbury – Chad Mairano 10-76
PASSING: Ludlowe – Chris Bellatoni 13-18-0, 179, Grant Stupak 5-7-1, 109
RECEIVING: Ludlowe – Justin Toothaker 6-97, 2 TDs, Ryan Menozzi 2-78, TD; Ryan Tompkins 2-53, TD; Gerald Jacobs 2-27, Aiden Anderson 2-14, Jackson Frame 1-8, Charles Mahoney 1-6, Stupak 1-4, Kleinbeck 3-82; Simsbury – Mairano 1-10, Shane Butler 1-19

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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