Football

St. Joseph Builds Early Lead, Topples Notre Dame-West Haven

St. Joseph quarterback Jack Wallace prepares to release a pass. (Jane Charlton)

TRUMBULL — The St. Joseph football team, coming off successive state championships, entered this season with few question marks in preparation for a drive at a three-peat.

Perhaps the biggest unknown was how smoothly Jack Wallace would make the transition from cornerback to quarterback. Replacing All-State quarterback David Summers was going to put any replacement under the microscope.

After two games, Wallace has settled in as well as could be hoped. Today he threw three first-half touchdown passes to Will Diamantis and was involved in a fourth score as the Cadets routed Notre Dame-West Haven, 42-7.

“Switching from defense last year, I’m really comfortable,” Wallace said. “This summer coach got me ready. Because of the coaches and the players around me the transition has been easier. My job is easy. I’ve just got to get them the ball.”

Cadets quarterback Jack Wallace hands the ball off to Jaden Shirden. (Jane Charlton)

The Cadets (2-0) had a 14-0 lead after four plays. On their first possession, Wallace hit Diamantis for a 50-yard score.

Diamantis said he and the other receivers have developed a nice rhythm with their new quarterback.

“Things are getting down with timing and it’s like we never missed a beat,” Diamantis said.

When St. Joseph got the ball back, they used some trickery from their playbook. Wallace threw a pass behind the line to Diamantis, who found Austin Jose all alone on a 67-yard play for the score.

“We’d been working on it all week and coach told me yesterday we’re trying it, we’re bringing it out,” Diamantis said. “So I was getting ready all night, all day and we just executed it.”

St. Joseph’s Jaden Shirden looks for running room. (Jane Charlton)

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Notre Dame briefly made the game interesting when, three plays later, Jackson Zalinsky hit Thomas Candelora on an 82-yard play to cut the deficit in half.

After punting the next time they had the ball, the Cadets scored on four straight possessions. Wallace hit Diamantis on plays of 5 and 26 yards. Running back Jaden Shirden then took over, first scoring on a 32-yard run when he got to the outside.

Shirden got into the end zone from one yard out right before halftime.

Two touchdowns were set up by interceptions from Maxwell Warren.

“We try to get a jump every game,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “That’s our goal, get in front of people. Make them chase us. Try to play as fast as we can, try to score and let our defense go to work.”

Brady Hutchinson returns a punt for the Cadets. (Jane Charlton)

Della Vecchia said Wallace is ahead of schedule in his development. And Della Vecchia expected it to go rapidly from the outset.

“Jack did a real nice job of making his reads and hitting the right people when they were open,” Della Vecchia said. “There were a couple of things we had and there were a couple of things that we normally do and he read well. He made plays.”

It is hard to tell if the Cadets’ offense overshadows the defense, or if it is the other way around.

Take away the scoring play and Notre Dame finished with just 24 yards in the first half, before the game went to a running clock.

“It’s probably the best defense in the state,” Diamantis said. “I’m always watching them. It’s super fun watching them. They dominate the field.”