Miranda uses speed to help National Guard pull out a win

East Hartford - Sam Miranda said he's not cocky.

"Arrogant," Miranda said with a grin.

"Fast" is one of Miranda's other traits. The recently graduated New London High School receiver caught a touchdown pass to help the National Guard beat Team Marines, 15-14, in Saturday's inaugural Hall of Fame Classic/Military Bowl Senior High School All-Star Football Game at Rentschler Field.

Miranda had a game-high six catches for 70 yards, including his 29-yard TD reception in the first half. He was the favorite target of UConn-bound quarterback Tim Boyle from Xavier.

"Let me tell you something about Tim - he's got a cannon," Miranda said.

The game replaced the Governors' Cup against the Rhode Island all-stars. It also featured a twist - the participants were drafted, meaning some high school teammates were on opposite sidelines.

The Eastern Connecticut Conference was well represented. The National Guard featured Ryan Murtha and Brandon Robertson of Montville, Mustapha Noibi and Lester Smith of Fitch, and Ledyard's Bobby Bozym, Cal Karpi, Ben Morales, and Kyle Wilson. Ledyard's Jim Buonocore was head coach. Jemal Davis of Norwich Free Academy called the offense, and Montville's Tanner Grove coached the receivers.

"It was good having these (ECC) guys around," Buonocore said. "We play pretty good football in the ECC."

Caleb Camacho (New London), Mike Semancik (Fitch), Lamont Waites (New London) and David Willox (Waterford) played for the Marines. New London head coach Duane Maranda coached the offensive line.

"I can only imagine what it was like to go against a teammate," Morales said. "I'm glad my last high school game was with three of my good teammates and our head coach.

"The day after the draft, (Buonocore) called us all into his office and played a joke. (He said), 'Okay, I got you. Didn't get you. Got you. Didn't get you. And he sort of looked at us for a good 20 seconds, then said, 'I'm just kidding - we got all of you."

The National Guard trailed late in the first half when Miranda ran past his defender, down the Marine sideline, and caught a 29-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown pass from Boyle. It gave his team an 8-7 lead.

"The corner was playing tight, and me and Tim had practiced that - if the corner plays tight, just run a go (route)," Miranda said. "Not to sound cocky or anything, but I'm fast, so I blew right past him and (Boyle) found me."

Maranda, watching from the Marines' coaches' box, knew what was going to happen as soon as Miranda slipped his defender.

"When the ball was in the air, I said, 'Oh, man, he got him,'" Maranda said. "I actually smiled for a split-second and had to remind myself that I'm on the other team and not to smile.

"You know what, if we're going to get beat, we might as well get beat by a New London kid."

The National Guard scored the game's first points on a safety. Marines quarterback Rob Fleeting Jr. was wrapped up by Branford's Andrew Klarmin and called for intentional grounding.

Oxford's Brennen Diaz ran for a 1-yard touchdown late in the first half to give the Marines a 7-2 edge. He scored on another 1-yard run to push the Marines ahead, 14-8, early in the third quarter.

Boyle ran for a 14-yard touchdown later in the quarter to put the National Guard ahead to stay.

n.griffen@theday.com

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