Connecticut Holds Off Rhode Island 14-8. Future Of Game In Doubt?
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Chalk up another win for Connecticut over Rhode Island. Although this game was very competitive and went down to the wire.
Saturday afternoon at UConn’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, the Connecticut All-Stars defeated the Rhode Island All-Stars 14-8 to win the 2012 Governor’s Cup football game. It was the 10th consecutive win for the kids from the Nutmeg State who lead the overall series 11-3. And now there is talk that things may change in the very near future.
First some details on this year’s game which was a good one.
Connecticut drew first blood on their opening drive midway through the first quarter. Xavier QB Pat D’Amato connected with Windsor WR Aaron Berardino on a 35-yard touchdown pass making it 7-0 with 8:31 to play in the first.
Rhode Island received great field position on their ensuing drive thanks to a 15-yard penalty on Berardino for excessive celebration when he spiked the ball following his touchdown. Kicking from their own 25 yard line, Connecticut watched Rhode Island’s Bryan Stetson (Cranston West) return the ball across midfield setting up the Rhody offense in Connecticut territory.
However, Rhody would turn the ball over on an interception thrown by Ryan Brannigan (Bishop Hendricken). A penalty on Connecticut on the interception return backed them up to their own 4-yard line.
Then, Rhody’s defense came up big. After giving up a 6-yard run to D’Amato on first down, they held Connecticut on the next two plays forcing them to punt from deep within their own territory.
Connecticut punter Adrian Sahinovic (New Fairfield) tried to pick up a low snap in his own endzone and inadvertently touched his knee to the ground in doing so. The result of the play was a safety making it 7-2.
After Connecticut’s free kick from their own 20, Rhody received another decent return, this one from Central’s Michael Washington to the Rhode Island 44. On the first play from scrimmage, Brannigan hit Barrington’s Drew Brown on a quick strike at the line of scrimmage. Brown scampered 56 yards for the touchdown putting Rhody up 8-7. Dan Thorpe (Portsmouth) missed the point after wide to the right keeping it a one-point game. That would remain the score at halftime.
In the third quarter, Connecticut took the opening drive of the third quarter and methodically marched down the field on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a go-ahead touchdown. Pat D’Amato hit Aaron Berardino on a nice back shoulder fade from 13-yards out. That put Connecticut on top 14-8.
Rhode Island mounted a couple of impressive drives after that but was thwarted by the Connecticut defense inside the 5-yard line twice. The final stop by Connecticut was made with less than a minute to play when Jevan Elmore (New London) intercepted Brannigan at the 1-yard line to seal the victory.
As for the future of this Governor’s Cup game, it is uncertain at best. Given the one-sided nature of it in recent years, there have been rumblings that last night’s game could be the final one between the two states. Or, at the very least, it may be a series that is played on a less frequent basis than the annual schedule it is currently on.
What’s interesting is the fact that this year’s game was very evenly matched which may very well mean that this series will continue into the future. If it is not, here’s what GoLocalProv.com has learned about some of the scenarios that could unfold.
Officials representing both states have nothing but admiration for the other side and do not want to end the series without some type of mutual understanding. And there does appear to be a groundswell of support to do something different moving forward.
For Rhode Island high school football, there appear to be a couple of options. First, they could go back to what they did years ago when the state held its own all-star football game with players from throughout the state meeting in some type of north-south type of showdown. The benefits of such a game would be that even more high school football players from Rhode Island could play in the game than those who currently play in the Governor’s Cup game. In addition, holding the game in Rhode Island would likely mean that you would have a solid crowd as family, friends and fans would not have to travel out of state to see them play.
Another option for Rhode Island might be to contact a more like-level state such as New Hampshire to begin a series like the one currently held with Connecticut. While there would be a bit more travel involved than heading to Connecticut, it could be structured as a home-and-home series whereby the team would only have to travel every other year. Rhode Island is also considering playing the all-stars from central Massachusetts which has about the same number of high schools as the Ocean State.
A third option is being discussed behind the scenes whereby Rhode Island would hold its own all-star football game as in the first scenario, but still continue the series with Connecticut on a less frequent basis.
Connecticut, meanwhile, would appear to have options as well. Reportedly both New Jersey and New York have approached the state about holding an all-star football game. It also may make sense it they were to talk to their neighbor to the north – Massachusetts – about starting a series.
Connecticut is also considering holding its own in-state all-star game with a possible interesting twist to it. They may have a draft which they would like to have on TV whereby every player is fair game to be selected to either team. That could mean that players from the same high school could, in theory, play for opposing teams in an all-star game. Rhode Island may also consider such a proposition.
While nothing formal is in the works, decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later about the future of the Governor’s Cup football game as preparations for the following year’s game begin almost immediately following the conclusion of the current contest.
One thing is for certain, if the series does come to an end, the Rhode Island all-stars will miss the great experience of playing in a big-time college facility like Rentschler Field. The natural grass surface looks and plays almost like field turf because of the pristine condition that it is in.
Still, the decision needs to be made based on what’s best for the kids on both sides and you have to wonder if continuing a series that has been so one-sided is good for either state?
-As everyone knows, Connecticut (3.6 million) has a much larger population than Rhode Island (1 million). This gives the state a much bigger pool of talent to draw from for this game. According to Connecticut head coach Harry Bellucci (Hartford Public), Connecticut had about 160 kids try out for the team. Rhode Island had less than half that try out for their all-star team.
-The weather was fantastic Saturday, if you like the beach! The temperature at kickoff was in the low 90’s and even warmer on the Rentschler Field turf making it difficult for the players. But both sides seemed to handle the heat well.
-I have been on a lot of pro and college football fields over the years and have never seen a natural grass surface in as good shape as Rentschler Field’s turf. To say that the field was in perfect condition would be an understatement. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that it was artificial turf. Ironically, last year’s Governor’s Cup game could not be played at Rentschler because the new grass surface was being put down.
-The award winners for Rhode Island were:
Offensive MVP: Drew Brown – Barrington
Defensive MVP: Aaron Webb – Bishop Hendricken
Coach’s Award: Matt Rousseau – Cranston West
-The award winners for Connecticut were:
Offensive MVP: Aaron Berardino – Windsor
Defensive MVP: Jevan Elmore – New London
Coach’s Award: Sebastian Little - Cheshire