Three touchdowns in the third quarter helped Rockville win the Battle of Rt. 83, 40-20, over Ellington in another Thanksgiving classic.
High emotions and playoff hopes were on the menu, as Rockville visited Ellington for the annual matchup. The first half started slow, until Rockville blocked a punt and recovered the ball on the Ellington 5-yard line and senior running back Malachi Mapp punched it in.
Ellington answered on the next drive, capping it with a 5-yard run by quarterback Dante Mangiafico.
With fewer than three minutes left in the first half, Rockville drove down the field and Mapp found the end zone again. Mangiafico answered with a 25-yard TD pass to Emil Johnson, and the Knights went into the locker room up 14-12.
Sophomore quarterback Brady Ramsdell showed he has big game stuff, by taking a play-action pass and launching it to wide-open receiver Joey Christian for a 50-yard score and a Rams’ 20-14 lead.
Rockville struck again for a 49-yard hook-and-ladder play that ended with junior running back Lexington Hunter scampering into the end zone.
Ellington appeared deflated, committing penalties that backed them up against their own zone, and then a pass from Mangiafico to Cooper Koehnke was caught, and then fumbled away, setting up Rockville deep in Ellington territory.
One play later, Hunter got wide open and Ramsdell hit him with a 20-yard touchdown pass.
A 50-yard run by Mangiafico and an 18-yard run by Amarion Lee made Ellington look like they had a chance for a comeback in the 4th, but an interception by Rockville’s Aaron Ladr ended that hope.
With 2:23 left in the game, Rockville iced the win with another Ramsdell TD pass to Christian. Ellington finished the game with a TD pass from Mangiafico to Johnson, but it was too little, much too late.
Rockville coach Erick Knickerbocker said his team has sometimes taken a while to get going in games this year, and this one was no different.
“We weren’t happy with some of the mistakes we made [in the first half],” Knickerbocker said. “We were worried so much about them, instead of playing football. That was the message at halftime - just go play football. Don’t be worried about what other people were doing.”
Knickerbocker praised Ramsdell’s (12-of-21 for 204 yards and 3 TDs) performance.
“For a sophomore quarterback to come out like that in the second half shows you where he’s come from,” the coach said. “Those throws he made in the third quarter really got us going. Today, he really carried us with his arm.”
Mapp had 24 carries for 134 yards, 1 TD, two 2-pt. conversions. Hunter had 101 yards and 2 TDs. Christian, who said he only weighed about 100 lbs. as a freshman, was named Rockville’s MVP of the game.
“It feels great,” he said, “because I was kind of doubted because I’m small. I kind of proved everybody wrong, and I could really do it. I worked hard through the off-season.”
“Steak, meat, maybe Thanksgiving turkey,” Christian said, when asked what his favorite “bulk-up” foods are.
Ellington coach Keith Tautkus said his team had a great year, and were just unable to keep up with Rockville in the second half.
“The second half just got away from us. We had some injuries so we had some subs out there, so we just couldn’t function. Our margin for error is very small. We only have like 35 guys, so it’s not like I can make many subs or changes,” Tautkus said. “They got some momentum, and we couldn’t get it back.”
Ellington (7-3) needed a win to keep its playoff hopes alive, while Rockville (8-2) is locked into the 4-seed in the Class M bracket, and is likely to play Abbott Tech (Danbury) in the first round of the tournament.
Knickerbocker said his team wasn’t expected to make the playoff this season, but will be ready to go.
“I feel like we’re still kind of in the making here,” he said. “After the beginning part of the year, we were thinking maybe it’s a rebuilding year. We had some major injuries, but a lot of guys really stepped up. But, these guys really bought in starting in January, so they’ve been working for this.”
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