STRATFORD -- That loud rumble you heard coming from Bulldog Field Thursday night?
It was the St. Joseph football team serving notice that it will be a team to be reckoned with in the upcoming Class M playoffs.
St. Joseph took care of its business, sweeping aside one-time FCIAC title contender Trinity Catholic 49-14 and retaining control of its own state playoff destiny.
The Cadets -- who would likely clinch a playoff spot with a win against rival Trumbull on Thanksgiving Eve -- scored the final 28 points of the game, which was played at Bunnell.
Jake Pelletier and the hard running of sophomore Mufasa Abdul-Basir led the way for St. Joseph, which piled up close to 600 yards of offense -- 330 on the ground. Pelletier ran, threw and caught a touchdown along with handling the kicking duties.
"We came out with the mindset we had to get this win and everything was perfect," Pelletier said. "Our offensive line was fantastic. Everything was just right tonight."
The loss was the second straight for Trinity Catholic, which now must defeat Wilton on Thanksgiving to clinch a Class S playoff spot.
"I think I got my point across," Crusaders coach Pete Stokes said. "I told them to get to school tomorrow (today) and we're practicing hard tomorrow (today)."
All told, St. Joseph outgained Trinity Catholic 594 yards to 232.
Running behind its dominant offensive line, St. Joseph pulled away in the third quarter.
Up 28-14, the Cadets scored 14 unanswered points in the frame, first with a 5-yard Jordan Vazzano pass to Mike Pulaski. On the ensuing possession, St. Joseph forced a fumble from Trinity Catholic running back Shaquan Howsie near midfield, which Pulaski recovered.
On the next play, St. Joseph broke out the razzle-dazzle with Vazzano throwing a lateral sideways pass to Pelletier, who then wound up and found Denzel Moscova streaking behind the Trinity Catholic defense for a 52-yard score.
"I thought we could run the ball on them," St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. "I didn't really think they could stop us on offense. They were so deep in coverage we said `let's go at them.'"
St. Joseph blanked Trinity Catholic in the second half, forcing three turnovers.
Before kickoff, both teams knew what was at stake: a win for Trinity Catholic would put the Crusaders in the Class S playoffs for the first time since 1993, while a win for St. Joseph would keep them in control of their own Class M playoff destiny heading into their Thanksgiving Eve clash with rival Trumbull.
Randy Polonia, who ran mainly as a wildcat quarterback, finished with over 100 yards rushing for the Crusaders.
"That's a good football team and we knew it when we had them on tape and watched them," Stokes said. "They're very good."
St. Joseph jumped out to an early 14-0 lead thanks to first-quarter touchdown runs by Kyron Crawford and Abdul-Basir. The Cadets, somewhat against type, opted to keep it on the ground to the tune of 162 yards in the first half.
Abdul-Basir's bruising 19-yard run, which saw him drag two tacklers into the end zone, put the Cadets up 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Trinity responded immediately as Neno Merritt ran back the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a score to halve the St. Joseph advantage.
St. Joseph reestablished its two-touchdown advantage on Pelletier's 1-yard run in the second quarter.
Again the Crusaders bounced back, this time with Howsie dragging tacklers into the end zone from 11 yards out, making it 21-14.
The back-and-forth half culminated with Pelletier catching a 15-yard pass from Vazzano, bumping the Cadets' lead back to two touchdowns.
St. Joseph came close to taking firm control of the game in the final seconds of the half, driving deep into Trinity Catholic territory. Merritt, though, had other ideas and intercepted Vazzano. He nearly changed the game, sprinting toward the end zone but was run down by Abdul-Basir on the St. Joseph 15-yard line as time expired in the half.
TRINITY CATHOLIC 7 7 0 0--14
ST. JOSEPH 14 14 14 7--49
SJ--Kyron Crawford 5 run (Jake Pelletier kick)
SJ--Mufasa Abdul-Basir 19 run (Pelletier kick)
TC--Neno Merritt 96 kick return (John Benalcazar kick)
SJ--Pelletier 1 run (Pelletier kick)
TC--Shaquan Howsie 11 run (Benalcazar kick)
SJ--Pelletier 15 pass Jordan Vazzano (Pelletier kick)
SJ--Mike Pulaski 6 pass Vazzano (Pelletier kick)
SJ--Denzel Moscova 52 pass Pelletier (Pelletier kick)
SJ--Crawford 5 run (Pelletier kick)
Records: Trinity Catholic 7-2; St. Joseph 7-2