AVON, Conn. — St. Sebastian’s coach Bob Souza has been at the helm of the football program since 1978, leading the Arrows to six Independent School League championships. However, St. Sebastian’s has not won a New England Prep School Athletic Conference bowl game in those 35 years, losing in 1994 and 1999.
Souza didn’t want his players to worry about losses from the 1990s. Saturday’s NEPSAC Arthur Valicenti bowl game against King School from Stamford, Conn., was their opportunity to win a bowl game and become the first team in school history to go 9-0.
“I told the kids that this one is for you,” Souza said. “You’re the ones that have done the work. Go out and win it for yourselves.”
St. Sebastian’s won in dominating fashion, rushing for 363 yards in a 40-7 victory over King at Avon Old Farms. The Arrows scored on their first two possessions, grabbing a 13-0 lead with just 7:19 gone in the first quarter.
St. Sebastian’s did it with its leading rusher, Brandon Daley, nursing a slight hamstring tear. Daley ran for 3 yards, although his 9-yard touchdown was called back before he retired to the sideline.
Connor Hilton ran for a game-high 134 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and quarterback Patrick Healy gained 106 yards and scored three TDs on 15 carries.
“This team has been together for three years,” Souza said. “Nine of them started as sophomores and we took our lumps. Last year, we were 7 points away from being undefeated. That is why the kids were on a mission.
“It didn’t come just because they were talented. These kids really worked hard.”
The Arrows defense also contributed, intercepting two passes, recovering a fumble, and pouncing on a kickoff that a King player let roll instead of scooping up the live ball. St. Sebastian’s limited the Vikings (6-2) to 16 yards rushing in the first half and 85 yards rushing.
Hilton’s 45-yard run up the middle was the key play in the opening drive as the Arrows marched 70 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead. After recovering a fumble on King’s second play, Healy scored from the 11 to give the Arrows a 13-0 lead.
King cut the lead to 13-7 on a 1-yard run from Joey Santoro (50 yards on 10 carries) with 1:28 left in the second quarter. The key play was a 71-yard pass completion from Nick Della Jacono (10-for-24 passing, 176 yards) to Brian Alebiuso.
But St. Sebastian’s responded, driving 59 yards on six plays, with Hilton scoring from the 3 with 12 seconds left for a 21-7 lead.
In the third quarter, James Fiore ended King’s first drive with an interception. The Arrows marched 60 yards on seven running plays with Healy scoring from the 8 for a 27-7 lead.
After recovering an onside kick, Healy threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Sweeney with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Healy added a 4-yard TD run with 6:13 left in the game.
“This is definitely special for me,” Souza said. “I told the seniors . . .” Souza paused as his players continued to celebrate around him on the turf. His voice cracked just a bit. “ . . . They are a very special group of kids. I was very happy to coach them. At this point in my career to have a group like this has really been gratifying.”