football team was reliving a nightmare during last Sunday's CIAC Class L semifinal game.
The Warriors had a substantial lead on New Canaan, just as they did last season. The Rams rallied back and were again within striking distance of taking the lead, just as they did in 2011.See all Connecticut football brackets, results and championship game schedules.Sign up to Qwixcore a CIAC championship game
Windsor flipped the script the second time around, however, as it held on to beat New Canaan, 27-21, and avenge last season's kick-to-the-stomach elimination loss.
"I think the difference (between the two games) was not panicking," Windsor coach Rob Fleeting
said. "We were up 27-7 in the fourth quarter. Then, all of the sudden, within two-to-three minutes, crazy things start happening.
"I was telling everybody, ‘Calm down. Calm down.'"
Windsor (11-0), ranked fourth in state coaches poll, will play top-ranked and defending champion Hand (Madison, Conn.) in Saturday's final at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Everything was going great for Windsor during last season's Class L semifinal. Although it had only one offensive touchdown, it scored twice on defense and led New Canaan, 27-7, in the second quarter.
New Canaan rallied to tie Windsor with over three minutes left in the game. Collin Shapiro's 33-yard field goal with four seconds left gave New Canaan a 27-24 win.
"It was crazy," quarterback Quinn Fleeting
said. "It was really heartbreaking. We had a chance to go to the state final and just basically blew it."
Imagine the Warriors reaction, then, when the Class L pairings were set and provided them a chance to play New Canaan in the semifinals again.
"It's what we wanted," Quinn Fleeting said. "We were really looking forward to that game."
Rob Fleeting said, "Yeah, I didn't have to say anything motivation-wise. I just had to keep them focused on the game. You still have to be disciplined. You can't forget what your task is. Don't lose all your energy hyperventilating about getting another opportunity to play (New Canaan)."
Windsor seemed to have Sunday's game in Stratford well in hand as it led, 27-7, with over seven minutes remaining.
New Canaan scored less than two minutes later to cut the Warriors' lead to 27-14.
In the final minute, Quinn Fleeting couldn't handle a snap. The Rams' Michael DiCosmo grabbed the ball and returned it for a 78-yard touchdown. Neal Koller's extra point shaved Windsor's lead to 27-21 with 47 seconds left.
"Yeah, I was nervous," Quinn Fleeting said. "I was like, ‘What's going on?' It (history) was repeating itself. ... but I felt confident that we were going to win."
Windsor's Devonte Dillon
recovered the onside kick and allowed his team to run out the clock.
"We wanted our revenge," Quinn Fleeting said. "We got it."
Fleeting completed 12 of 20 passes for 120 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran 11 times for 44 yards and a touchdown.Ryheime Moore
had six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Dillon added 11 carries for 75 yards and two scores.
Windsor ran 44 times for 266 yards. To put that in perspective, New Canaan had just 196 yards total offense.
"I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is that we couldn't run the ball (last season)," Rob Fleeting said. "We were jumping from one formation to another formation, from one type of series to another type of series. We were all over the playbook. There wasn't any rhyme or reason to what we were trying to do.
"We were able to get into a rhythm of running the ball and we were able to push them off the ball, which we couldn't do last year. No matter what formation you line up in, the spread or whatever, you've got to be able to run the ball."
Windsor now gets a shot at its first state title, as well as the state's No. 1 team. Hand has won 26 straight games dating back to 2010.
"They're a great football team," Rob Fleeting said. "That's what makes it (the final) even more special. If you play for the championship, you want to play No. 1."
Quinn Fleeting said, "We'd like to prove ourselves to the state. (Hand is) the No. 1 team in the state. They're a good team, but we want to come out here and try to get an upset."Ned
Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the
Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated
Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org