Football: Masuk blasts Fitch, to host New Canaan

Mickey Zuk scored two touchdowns for Masuk in its win over Fitch.

The Masuk High football team’s mantra is play together for one more game.

Coach Joe Lato’s No. 5 seed Panthers went on the road and disposed of No. 4 seed Fitch High, 43-7, in a CIAC Class L quarterfinal game in Groton on Tuesday night.

Masuk (10-1) will host No. 8 seed New Canaan (9-2) in the semifinals on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

The four-time defending champion Rams knocked off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Middletown High, 24-9, in their quarterfinal game.

Last season, second-seeded New Canaan defeated seventh-seeded Masuk, 31-28, on its way to winning the title.

Lato gave a half-shrug and a full smile when reminded of the rematch.

“The kids were hungry,” Lato said of his team’s mindset entering states. “And they will be hungry moving forward. We had razor-sharp focus (coming into the Fitch game) and throughout our preparation.”

Masuk got right after Fitch, forcing a pair of three-and-outs and then blocking a punt on the Falcons’ third series.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team win,” said junior Jack Roberge, who blocked the punt that was recovered by Nick Lebinski. “I’ll do anything I can to get us one more game.”

Roberge was the workhorse, running for 125 yards on 22 carries. He caught a 38-yard TD pass and ran 18 yards for another score. He tacked on a two-point conversion after Masuk’s first score and had one of Masuk’s four interceptions.

Jack Duignan returned his interception 18 yards for a TD to counter Fitch’s only score, which came on Zach Lettelier’s blocked punt that the senior returned for a touchdown on the opening series of the third quarter.

Ben Vickowski and Chris Tillotson added interceptions, as the Panther defense limited the Falcon offense that entered the contest with a 35.7 point per game average.

“We felt like it was one of the few times this year where our D-line was kind of on the same size level as the offensive line they were going against,” Lato said. “It was a good matchup. I thought our kids really did a good job of coming off the ball and playing really, really fast. We were establishing the line of scrimmage.”

Matt Hersch completed 13-of-19 passes for 251 yards, including TD strikes to Nick Lorusso (79 yards) and Roberge.

Mickey Zuk scored the game’s first two touchdown. He tallied from 4 yards out with 6:54 to go in the first quarter and ran for a 3-yard score at the 4:49 mark of the period.

Hersch put his pass to Lorusso on the mark, and his senior classmate caught the ball in stride on the 42 and went the distance to complete the 79-yard TD two minutes into the second quarter.

Peter Fox took a screen pass from the Masuk 34, broke a tackle at midfield, and took the ball to the Fitch 19.

Three plays later, Roberge caught a shovel pass from Hersch and cut to his right on his way to a 38-yard score.

Nolan McCarter’s third of seven conversion kicks made it 29-0 with 2:47 left in the first half.

Notes: The Panthers have won their last two trips to title games, 56-13 over Newington in 2008 and 50-20 victory over New Canaan in 2010. They are 3-9 overall, with an 18-12 win over Fitch in 1998.

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