Pictured: Dalton Modehn (back row center, holding football) stands behind his offensive line, the guys who made it all possible. Kneeling, from left: John Bruder, Thomas Perry, Kevin Giulini, Trey Callender and Chris Moore. Modehn broke Josh Parmelee’s H-K single-game rushing record of 316 yards set in 2003. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
HIGGANUM — So this is what could have been.
Haddam-Killingworth lost its all-world running back Dalton Modehn to injury shortly before halftime of its second game of the season. Over the next six and a half games, without Modehn, the Cougars struggled to find any offensive consistency, losing five of those six contests.
Modehn, a senior and H-K’s career rushing leader, finally returned last week against Stafford/East Windsor/Somers, but only played about half the time, rushing for 50 yards. This week, as the Cougars prepared to face Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial, he was finally ready to play a full game at full speed.
The result, a 55-43 H-K victory, makes you wonder just how good the Cougars might have been this year, in the Pequot Conference at least, had Modehn been able to play a full schedule.
“That was a special game. The offense really came together tonight,” H-K coach Mike Baklik said. “It was a bit of a rough night for our defense and our special teams, but the offense kept putting points on the board.”
Nodding in Modehn’s direction, the coach added: “It’s really good to have him back.”
All Modehn did Thursday night was carry the ball 44 times for a school single-game rushing record of 403 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught a pass from quarterback Alex Riccitelli for 11 yards and a seventh touchdown and converted a two-point conversion.
Riccitelli also had a big night, throwing for a touchdown, rushing for another and scoring a two-point conversion. He finished with 94 rushing yards on 14 carries while completing three of his 11 passes for 23 yards and a touchdown.
The win improves H-K’s record to 2-7 heading into its annual Thanksgiving rivalry game against Valley Regional/Old Lyme on Tuesday night.
“The offensive line was really a key factor tonight,” Baklik said, praising the work of tackles Chris Moore and John Bruder and interior linemen Trey Callender, Kevin Giulini and Tom Perry. “They’ve continued to work hard even though we haven’t had a lot of positive results this year. They never stopped working, they never stopped trying to improve.
“It’s really wonderful when you see those guys experience a positive night like this.”
The Cougars’ O-line paved the way for a team total of 526 yards rushing.
H-K scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions to race to a 23-8 lead after one quarter of play and never looked back.
Peter Bosco recovered a fumble to give H-K the ball at the Patriots’ 26 with the game less than four minutes old. Modehn, as he would all night, took over from there, eating up the 26 yards in just two carries, including a 19-yard touchdown run. Kevin Cavrell’s extra point kick made it 7-0 with slightly more than seven minutes to play in the quarter.
A 52-yard burst by talented Patriots senior Jordan Smith set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Smith three plays later, and his two-point conversion run gave the Patriots (2-8) their first and only lead at 8-7.
The Cougars responded by launching a 56-yard, seven-play drive that culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Modehn, then attempted an onside kick which Andrew Wiese recovered at the Coventry 33 to bring the H-K offense right back onto the field.
A 20-yard burst by Modehn, followed quickly by a 12-yard scamper, advanced the ball to the Patriot 1 from where Modehn scored his third touchdown of the opening quarter to pad H-K’s lead to 23-8.
An 11-yard run by Smith capped a short Coventry drive, enabling the Patriots to pull to within 23-16 early in the second quarter, but H-K closed the half with a pair of touchdowns, the first coming on a 15-yard Riccitelli run off a read-option and the second on a 14-yard run by Modehn to make it 37-16 at the half.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in third quarter, with H-K’s score coming on a 2-yard Modehn run, making the score 43-22 entering the fourth quarter. The biggest highlight of the quarter was Modehn’s breaking Josh Parmelee’s single-game rushing mark of 316 yards set in 2003.
Modehn finished his amazing night with his most amazing play of the game after Coventry had sandwiched a pair of touchdowns around Modehn’s sixth score of the evening to narrow the Cougars’ lead to 49-36.
With the Cougars facing second-and-6 at their own 24, Modehn sprinted through a small hole in the middle of Coventry’s defensive line, angled his way to the left sideline and then avoided six defenders with a series of fakes, jukes and spin moves on the way to a 76-yard touchdown run.
Some people just know how to close an act.
“I’ve missed a lot of time this year, so I was hoping to make some of it up in these last few games,” Modehn said.
“Football is a team game which is one of the things I love about it,” he added. “You really can’t get anything done without the help of your teammates, and tonight my teammates — especially my offensive line — were just incredible.”
The Patriots would score a late touchdown on an 8-yard run by Smith for the final outcom.
“He’s a very good player, very good,” Patriots coach Tom Hammon said of Modehn after the game. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s excellent, but we managed to make him look even better tonight with our lousy tackling. We were just awful tonight in terms of tackling people and wrapping them up.”
Hammon praised the play of Smith, who had a pretty incredible night of his own against the Cougars, finishing with 133 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. He also returned a kickoff 81 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night.
Patriot quarterback Devin Grover completed 9 of 18 passes for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Konnor Boucher had four catches for 148 yards and both scores.