From the time Rocky Hill’s kids play organized football for the first time, the assimilation process begins, passed along by coaches from generation to generation.
As old as the sport itself, the town’s preferred offense is the double-wing, a strange-looking configuration that depends on misdirection, blocking technique and precise execution.
“We call it The Hammer,” Rocky Hill senior tailback Joseph Ferreira said.
It’s an offense that features two tight ends, two wingbacks, one fullback and a quarterback and allows the offensive line to double team and down block defenders. When performed well, it is a powerhouse that spits out yards and drains the clock.
“Even in youth football we run a similar offense with similar plays,” Rocky Hill senior halfback Joe Catania said. “So when we come here [to the high school] we know exactly what the offense is. We have an idea of what we are about to run.”
On Sunday at Trumbull High, Rocky Hilla brings this offense to another grand stage when it plays St. Joseph, the No. 3 team in the state, in the Class S semifinals.
After losing to Ansonia in last season’s Class S title game, the Terriers have again run it to perfection, sweeping through the regular season 10-0 before pounding Valley Regional/Old Lyme 35-21 on Tuesday in the semifinals.
“We’ve been running this offense since I was in high school in 2006, so it’s been at least 10 or 11 years. It’s been a staple, people know us for it,” Terriers coach Mark Fritz said. “The kids grow up running it and have bought into it. When they come here, they expect to run it.
“But it’s not as easy to learn as other people think. There are many adjustments and blocking schemes that can be used out of it. … It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.”
From this offense, Rocky Hill does a number of things. Against Valley Regional/Old Lyme, the Terriers threw only one pass and gained 409 yards on 65 carries and scored five touchdowns. But there have been games when quarterback Danny Cavallaro has thrown for 300 yards.
“The game plan is to control the ball,” Cavallaro said. “When we played Berlin, we limited them to only five possessions the entire game and that’s what you have to do to keep a good offense off the field. The idea is to pick up three or four yards a clip.
“We see many different defensive fronts and the idea is to adjust to them during the game. Good teams face adversity during games. You need to have a good attitude.”
St. Joseph, a 12-time state champion, is coming off a 62-0 quarterfinal win over O’Brien Tech when its offense compiled 424 yards.
The Cadets’ defense handled O’Brien Tech’s running game by jamming the middle of the line. St. Joseph held the Condors to 21 yards of offense and only one first down. O’Brien also crossed into Cadets’ territory only once.
“That’s nothing new for us,” Fritz said. “People put 10 or 11 in the box all the time against us. We’ve seen it. There’s only so many ways you can defend what we do. We’ll do our best.
“It all comes down to what we’re doing. We certainly have our work cut out for us, for sure. Nothing against St. Joe’s. They are No. 3 in the state for a reason. What they do is pretty special. But if we are executing, doing our jobs, I think we will be OK.”
Catania, Cavallaro and Ferreira handle most of the carries. Against Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Catania ran 30 times for 171 yards and a touchdown. Ferreira ran 20 times for 135 yards and two scores. Cavallaro had nine carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
“We correct every mistake that happens. We will even come back on the field after a practice to make sure we are running things correctly,” Catania said. “It’s the way we want it to be. It’s who we are. We are so meticulous with our offense. And I believe that has led us to our success.”
Fritz said Cavallaro, like most quarterbacks, would like to throw the ball more often. But the coach also admitted the Terriers’ ultimate offensive game plan depends entirely on the pulse of the game.
“The running game could be the key to success, but I wouldn’t say it’s the ultimate key,” Cavallaro said. “We understand it’s likely we’ll need to air it out on Sunday. If it doesn’t turn out that way it’s fine. The only thing that matters to me is that we win.
“If something happens, we just try to shrug it off. We let the defense take care of things, but it has nothing to do with the offense. We just need to keep scoring. That’s our job.”