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Ledyard - The Ledyard High School coaching staff owes Drew Ebdon a thank you.
Jordan Kowalski was born into a baseball family. He played baseball and soccer most of his childhood. Organized football wasn't on his family's radar.
"Me and Ty (Ebdon, Ledyard quarterback), he's my neighbor, used to play (football) in the front yard all the time," Kowalski said. "Ty's dad (Drew) said to give it a try. I went out for it (in seventh grade) and played the offensive line. I didn't really do anything. I was like, 'this kind of stinks.' I went to (youth seniors) football and started running the ball. That's when I loved it."
Football has worked out well for Kowalski. He and his Ledyard teammates begin pursuit of the CIAC Class M state title tonight at 6:30 when the seventh-seeded Colonels play a quarterfinal game against No. 2 St. Joseph at Trumbull High School.
Kowalski, a senior receiver/defensive back, plays center field for the baseball team. His father, Jordan, was an all-state baseball player at Bacon Academy. Kowalski's grandfather, the late Robert Kowalski, also played baseball and was elected into the Connecticut Softball Hall of Fame in 2000.
"As soon as I was born, my dad starting having me throw the baseball," Kowalski said. "It's kind of uncommon for me to play football because no one in my family has."
Kowalski (6 feet, 190 pounds) is a natural at football, though. He began playing safety as a sophomore and is the only three-year starter on the team. He has good instincts on defense. He also has a unique running style.
"A lot of people say I kind of run like a horse," Kowalski said. "I take long strides."
He's also as difficult to bring down as a horse.
"He's got that stiff-arm," Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore said. "That's his patented move, which has always been his bread and butter. He's a big load. His yards after contact are pretty darn good. He doesn't go down on that first hit and that's really what sets him apart from some of the other runners we have."
Kowalski has 36 catches for 640 yards with 19 touchdowns. He also leads the team in tackles (113) and has four sacks.
Ebdon has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards and 29 touchdowns while JoJo Shumaker has rushed for 1,606 yards and 16 touchdowns. Receiver/defensive back Khary Childs (27 catches, 691 yards, 10 touchdowns) was limited by an ankle injury against Fitch on Thanksgiving and Buonocore said his availability will be a game-time decision.
"They have some pretty good skill kids," St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. "The running back (Shumaker), I like a lot. He's pretty quick. Their offensive line has a lot of tough kids that get after it. I think they're very aggressive on defense."
St. Joseph (10-1) will be the toughest team the Colonels have faced this season. The Cadets are ranked fifth in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll and have only lost to FCIAC champion New Canaan.
The Cadets' offense is problematic; the team throws as well as it runs. Three-year starting quarterback Jordan Vazzano (6-3, 225) has thrown for 2,568 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Mufasha Abdul Basir has rushed for 1,944 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"They're a good team," Kowalski said. "No doubt about it. I know they're the favorite to win.
"Our philosophy is you have to beat the best. We might as well go in there in the first round and try to take them out."