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Killingly wins Class M quarterfinal

Killingly — The Killingly football team needed a pick me up early in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s CIAC Class M quarterfinal as it was off to a blah start by its lofty standards.

Killingly found that spark in the form of 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior Justin Baker.

Baker blocked a punt, caught the ball and rumbled 13 yards for his first career touchdown to give top-seeded Killingly a 15-point lead.

Killingly kept on rolling and took out the eighth-seeded Gilbert/Northwestern/Housatonic co-op, 49-14.

“(The coaches) had me line up on the inside gap,” Baker said. “(They) trusted me that I could get through that gap pretty easily towards the ball before (the punter) could kick it.”

The ball hit Baker in the chest.

“I was lucky enough that it landed right in my hands,” Baker smiled.

Killingly heads to its sixth straight semifinal and will host No. 5 Branford (8-3) in Sunday’s semfinals at 12:30 p.m.

The Hornets edged Avon, 7-6, in their quarterfinal.

Killingly (10-0) may have won by 35 points but didn’t feel like it played up to its usual level.

“We were fortunate tonight that they turned the ball over and we capitalized on some turnovers because we didn’t play our best game tonight,” Killingly head coach Chad Neal said. “It’s frustrating because we talked to the kids (about it). We want to play at a higher level, and we didn’t play at a high level. We made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t be making at this point.

“We just hoped that we flushed that our of our system tonight.”

Jack Sharpe ran 24 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns for Killingly, ranked ninth in The Day Top 10 state coaches’ poll.

Thomas Dreibholz completed 7 of 10 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns while Soren Rief ran 16 times for 109 yards and recovered a fumble. Nate Keefe (three catches, 74 yards) and Ben Jax (three catches, 55 yards) both caught touchdown passes, too.

The Yellowjackets (6-3) didn’t allow Killingly to run as free and easy as it’s used to doing. They also had chances to score but couldn’t hold on to the ball — they fumbled 11 times and lost four of them, including two at the Killingly 1-yard line.

Seth Dootson recovered two of those fumbles for Killingly and Noah Colangelo added an interception.

Fred Camp ran 10 times for 94 yards and a touchdown, caught a 45-yard pass to set up a to set up another touchdown and threw a 25-yard pass on a halfback option play for the Yellowjackets.

Aiden Avenia scored Gilbert’s other touchdown on a 3-yard run.

Killingly fumbled the opening kickoff and it was recovered by Gilbert’s Colby Sanden at the latter’s 34-yard line.

Camp scored on a 2-yard run to give the Yellowjackets a 6-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game.

Killingly went to the air on its next drive after a sack by Bradley Mason gave it third-and-17 from the Gilbert 42.

Dreibholz threw a 40-yard pass to Jax followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Sharpe as Killingly went ahead, 7-6, with 8:14 remaining in the first quarter.

Dreibholz and Keefe hooked up again on fourth-and-goal for a 9-yard touchdown to give Killingly a 14-6 lead with 8:11 left in the first half.

Killingly then began getting opportunistic on defense and special teams. Baker scored on his blocked punt to push his team ahead, 21-6, with 6:26 remaining in the half.

“That was great,” Neal said. “He’s an athletic kid. He got right through that A-gap.”

Rief recovered a Gilbert fumble at the latter’s 40-yard line. Sharpe scored several plays later to put Killingly up 27-6 with 2:46 left in the half.

The Yellowjackets had a chance to score at the end of the half as Camp returned the ensuing kickoff to the Killingly 47. He took off on second-and-2 and was just about to score when Jax stripped him short of the goal line and Colangelo recovered the ball in the end zone.

“We saw on film (Camp) does (hold the ball out),” Neal said. “The great thing was that (Jax) didn’t give up on the play. A lot of kids might just give up on the play. He didn’t give up on the play. That was a key point in the game.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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