The CLCF fourth grade football team had high hopes this season, but they couldn’t have scripted an ending like the one they delivered on Sunday at Brown University.
No one could have.
“Only in Hollywood,” said head coach Bryan Stetson.
CLCF won the American Youth Football Blackstone Valley championship earlier this month and earned a spot in the regional title game with a victory over Derry, N.H. In Sunday’s championship, the Chiefs lined up opposite a talented team from Hartford, Conn., and figured to be the underdogs. But CLCF battled the whole way, forced overtime and won by a point in double overtime on a highlight reel conversion play.
“I’ve been a football guy my whole life,” Stetson said. “That game – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The victory earned the AYF New England Championships for CLCF. Fourth-grade teams do not participate in national championships, which meant that Sunday was the end of the road.
The Chiefs were ecstatic to finish it like they did.
“Coming in, we had high expectations,” Stetson said. “We went to a Super Bowl last year and we had some veteran guys coming back. But I did not expect to do what we did.”
CLCF beat Lincoln for the Blackstone Valley championship then traveled to New Hampshire and came home with a 33-0 victory over the Derry team. After a week off while Connecticut played Massachusetts for the other title game spot, CLCF took the field Sunday and found itself in a dogfight.
At the end of regulation, the game was tied 12-12. In overtime periods, both teams would get a possession from the 10-yard line with four downs to score. Hartford won the toss in the first overtime and elected to go on offense. On third down, the team found the end zone, but CLCF stopped the conversion.
CLCF took over on offense and wasted no time tying the game, as quarterback Chris Carbone scampered in on a keeper. A botched snap kept CLCF from converting its extra point, which sent the game to a second overtime.
This time, the Chiefs elected to go on defense. Hartford needed four plays but scored on fourth-and-goal to go in front. The Chiefs once again stopped the conversion to stay within six.
Back on offense, the Chiefs got to the 7-yard line on two runs by Brennan Stetson. On third down, they went to the air, and Carbone found tight end Raffaele Davis for a touchdown.
“We called a timeout right before that play because we knew we had to do something different,” Bryan Stetson said. “We ran that play earlier and it went for a touchdown but it got called back. We went to it again.”
CLCF then lined up for the conversion with a chance to win. Carbone faked a hand-off to Brennan Stetson and rolled out. He took off for the corner, but the Connecticut defense closed in. Carbone faked a cutback then continued for the end zone. As he was getting chased to the sideline, he dove for the pylon and stretched the ball out. It hit the top of the pylon, and as the players fell to the ground, the referee put his hands in the air.
It was good, and CLCF had the win.
“It was just an eruption from there,” Bryan Stetson said. “Just joy. I can’t even express the feelings everyone had – players, parents, coaches. It was great. I think people thought we were in over our heads against that team. Connecticut outnumbered us in athletes. Like I told the kids, we outnumbered them in football players.”
The win capped off a memorable season for the fourth grade squad, which went undefeated in the regular season and continued its run in the playoffs. CLCF was invited to participate in a round robin event at the National Championships in Florida, but the team opted not to attend, citing too much expense and time out of school for what essentially would be a scrimmage.
Going out on top in New England was more than enough.
“As the season went on, we realized we had something special,” Stetson said. “It was a total team effort the whole season. Every single player on the team contributed.”
Team members are Andrew Travieso, Robert Tennett, Mike Grenier, Joe Bruen, Raffaele Davis, Chris Carbone, Nick Fortes, Chris Gomez, Haiman Mohammed, Brennan Stetson, Nick Castriotta, Tyler Stephenson, Preston Murphy, Javeis Carpenter, Dan Meola, Nick Ricci, Miccolo Delarosa, Antonio Aceto, Ben Rao, Jayson Rocchio, Dion Wilson and John Olink.
The regional championship was part of a big year for the entire CLCF football organization. Three CLCF teams won Blackstone Valley Super Bowls, and the sixth grade team joined the fourth graders in the regional championship round. The sixth grade squad lost to a team from Connecticut.