You gotta believe: Montville upsets top-seeded Wolcott

Montville's Jake Basilica, front, celebrates with his teammates following the eighth-seeded Indians' 32-14 victory over No. 1 Wolcott in the CIAC Class M tournament quarterfinals Wednesday.
Montville's Jake Basilica, front, celebrates with his teammates following the eighth-seeded Indians' 32-14 victory over No. 1 Wolcott in the CIAC Class M tournament quarterfinals Wednesday.

Wolcott - It's a safe bet that few people outside the Montville football family believed the Indians had any shot to win Wednesday's Class M football quarterfinal.

After all, the Indians earned a late invitation to the postseason party and came in as the eighth seed.

And they had to travel to No. 1 Wolcott.

But Montville kept pounding away on both sides of the football until finally wearing down Wolcott for a 32-14 upset victory.

"Just beating the No. 1 team, nobody thought we could do it," junior Will Thompson said. "So we made some believers."

Montville will play No. 4 Hillhouse in the semifinals on Sunday at a site and time to be announced today.

"Any time you're the eighth seed and you have to travel to the one, there's that expectation that you're just happy that you got in and you're going to go down there and lay down," Montville coach Tanner Grove said. "And then everyone is going to tell you, 'That's OK, you lost to No. 1.'

"? We got out of here with a pretty good win."

It's hard not to believe in the Indians (9-2) now.

They controlled the line of scrimmage, especially during a dominating second-half performance in which Wolcott (9-2) managed only 25 yards. Elusive junior Jeremiah Crowley finished with 200 yards for Montville, including 139 in the second half, and scored two touchdowns.

Crowley's 50-yard run on the second drive of the third quarter put Montville in control at 25-14 and senior Izak Tibbett scored on his first carry of the game, bolting in from 18 yards out early in the fourth quarter to basically seal the win.

"We just started pounding the ball up the middle and wore them out," Crowley said. "Most of their players are on defense and offense, so that was a good thing, that we could wear them out. Without their energy, they're not that good."

Montville seemed to gain strength as the game progressed. Thompson and Jake Basilica led the charge on the defensive line and helped hold Wolcott in check until Montville's running game started rolling.

"We came in with the mindset that we had to control the offensive and defensive lines," Grove said. "We thought we might have had an advantage there."

Quarterback Nick Clemons' 14-yard touchdown run with four minutes left in the second quarter handed Montville the lead for good, 19-14.

The momentum began to shift in Montville's favor near the end of the second quarter

With Montville holding a 19-14 lead, Wolcott mounted a long drive, setting up first and 10 from the Montville 11. After two incomplete passes, Thompson, Basilica and company combined for consecutive sacks to end the threat.

"That killed them," Thompson said. "It brought us the momentum. ... We just shut them down after that."

After Wolcott held a huge edge in possession in the first half and scored twice - on Joseph Lynch's 36-yard run on the game's opening drive and quarterback Mike Nicol's 9-yard pass to Ryan Caggiano with seven minutes left in the first half for a 14-13 lead - it bogged down under constant pressure.

Nicol, who came into the game with 1,352 rushing yards, 1,226 passing yards and 38 touchdowns, threw for 181 yards in the first half, but just 24 after that.

"We wanted to make him one-dimensional or we were going to be in for a long night," Grove said.

Montville came up with several big plays.

With the Indians struggling offensively after Crowley scored on a 19-yard run on their first drive, their defense pitched in. Sophomore Buddy Dewaine Jr. made a nice one-handed interception near the sideline and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

A gamble paid off near the end of the third quarter, as Montville faked a punt for the first time all season on a fourth-and-three from the Wolcott 40. Clemons, the punter, caught a pass from sophomore Tyler Quidgeon and fought his way past the first down marker.

The special teams play set up Tibbetts' game-clinching touchdown run.

"I think (people) are going to start believing in Montville again," Crowley said.

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