The 90th Annual New Haven Register All-State Football First Team

The 90th New Haven Register All-State Football presented by GameTimeCT.com. Compiled by Sean Patrick Bowley, Michael Fornabaio and Pete Paguaga. Written by Michael Fornabaio. Designed by Sean Patrick Bowley. Portraits by Arnold Gold with Sean Patrick Bowley and Pete Paguaga. Video montages produced and edited by Pete Paguaga with footage by Sean Patrick Bowley, Pete Paguaga, Will Aldam and various team Hudl pages.

This is the presentation for the Register's all-state first team offense and defense. For second team, third team and honorable mention selections, click the links below.

COMPLETE NHR All-STATE LINEUPS  | ALL-TIME NHR ALL-STATE TEAMS

FIRST TEAM OFFENSE

The 90th New Haven Register All-State Football First Team Offense

The 90th New Haven Register All-State Football First Team Offense

Sean Patrick Bowley / Hearst Connecticut Media

Athlete


Player of the Year
DANNY SHABAN, Joel Barlow

Triple-option quarterback led the Falcons to their first CIAC championship, scoring five touchdowns in a 61-6 win over Valley Regional/Old Lyme in the Class SS championship game. ... Ran the ball 219 times for 2,067 yards, second-most in Connecticut, and 35 touchdowns, best in the state. ... His 214 points led the state. ... Completed 25 of 44 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns, for 721 yards; his 2,788 yards of total offense were a school record, and the 46 combined touchdowns were as well. ... At defensive end, credited with 41 solo tackles and 27 assisted, with 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, forcing four fumbles. ... Also an all-state lacrosse midfielder. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26 player. ... Two-time All-SWC. ... Two-time high honors student. ... Third-team New Haven Register all-state in 2021. 

Up Next: Undecided; wants to play Division I football.

Quarterback


JOHN NEIDER, Law

Led the Lawmen to the SCC Tier III championship, to their second CIAC tournament appearance and to their first victory in a playoff game. ... Law scored 75 touchdowns; he had a hand in 55 of them. ... Completed 155 of 236 passes, racking up 2,289 yards and 30 touchdowns against six interceptions. .. Ran for another 1,696 yards on 131 carries, scoring 24 touchdowns. ... Also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass. ... Also plays basketball and baseball at Law. ... Law’s first New Haven Register first-team all-state selection since punter Fred Baldieri in 1989. 

Honors: Two-time SCC Tier 3 Player of the Year. ... CHSCA Top 26 player. ... New Haven Register All-State honorable mention in 2021. ... First honors student. 

Up Next: Looking at Sacred Heart and Stonehill. 

Running Back


LINCOLN CARDILLO, Southington

Ran for 1,690 yards on 244 carries for the top seed in Class LL. ... Scored 24 touchdowns. ... Ran for at least one touchdown in all 11 of the Blue Knights’ games, including a season-high four in their playoff loss to Trumbull. ... Had eight 100-yard games and four 200-yard games. ... Was also 39-for-46 on extra points as a kicker and put four punts inside the 20. ... Caught 15 passes, two for touchdowns. ... Also plays lacrosse for Southington.

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... Honor roll student. 

Up Next: Undecided. 

DAVID CASSETTI, Ansonia

Ran for 2,204 yards and 33 touchdowns to lead the Chargers, the state’s only unbeaten team, to the Class S championship, their first since 2016. ... Also had 85 tackles and five sacks at linebacker, plus one interception. ... Ran for 171 yards, threw a touchdown pass and scored the go-ahead two-point conversion in the championship game. ... Scored all three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving victory over Naugatuck. ... Cassetti is the eighth Ansonia running back named first-team all-state since 2003 and ninth since 1997; two of them were chosen three times. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... All-NVL. ... National Honor Society. ... MaxPreps Player of the Year. 

Up Next: Undecided; looking at Central Connecticut, University of New Haven, Bryant and Springfield. 

Wide Receiver


TYLER CLARK, Staples

Led the CIAC with 80 receptions in 11 games, tied for 18th in the Connecticut High School Football record book, helping the Wreckers to their first CIAC tournament berth since 2015. ... His 1,256 receiving yards were only 5 off the state lead. ... Caught 11 touchdown passes, including the game-winning touchdown reception against Trumbull, which completed a 222-yard day. ... Set school records in single-season receptions and receiving yards as well as single-game records, catching 12 passes against Stamford (for 208 yards). ... Had 160 yards receiving or better in four of the first six games. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... FCIAC Top 45. 

Up Next: A second-team All-FCIAC lacrosse player (he scored the overtime goal in last year’s CIAC Class L semifinals on the way to the Wreckers’ first championship), he’s committed to Army. 

DAVIEN KERR, Bloomfield 

Junior fell just shy of 1,000 yards receiving, catching 42 passes for 992 yards. ... Those catches included 13 touchdowns, three against RHAM, two against Berlin and two apiece in playoff games against Seymour and Woodland. ... Also gained 855 yards on 71 rushes with rushing touchdowns in each playoff game. ... Had three interceptions at safety, one that he returned 83 yards. He also recovered two fumbles and forced one. ... In on 73 tackles, 12 for a loss, with three sacks. ... Took three punt returns and one kickoff return back for touchdowns; the kickoff and one of the punt returns were both against Farmington, 85 and 83 yards, respectively. ... Also plays basketball for the Warhawks. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. 

BEN JAX, Killingly

Caught 18 touchdown passes, second in the state; according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book, only 19 players have ever caught more in a season. ... Led the state with 1,261 receiving yards for the Class MM finalists. In Killingly’s famous “Run People Over” offense of recent years, he set school records for receptions, yards and touchdowns while amassing more receiving yards this year than any entire Killingly team since 2014. ... Five catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the wild 54-51 semifinal win over Masuk. ... Had eight touchdown catches in 2021 to help his team to the Class M championship. ... Had two interceptions at defensive back, taking one back for a touchdown, and blocked two punts. 

Honors: CHSCA Class MM/M all-state. ... Two-time All-ECC Division 3. ... All-conference baseball player. ... Volunteers at a food pantry in November. 

Up Next: Undecided; looking at Assumption, American International, Southern Connecticut, Central Connecticut and Nichols. 

Offensive Line


JAKE KIERNAN, Greenwich

Left tackle for the Class LL champions helped the team rush for over 2,000 yards. ... Credited with 38 tackles, including 23 solo, on defense.

Honors: CHSCA Top 26, one of only two linemen named. ... FCIAC Top 45. ... Was a New Haven Register second-team all-state selection last year. ... Honor roll student.

Up Next: Undecided.

JOSH KUCZYNSKI, Notre Dame-West Haven

Left guard and defensive lineman for the Class M champions. ... The Green Knights passed for 2,000 yards and ran for over 2,700. ... Had 46 tackles in his senior year, four and a half of them for a loss. ... Had 110 career tackles. ... Also a Notre Dame wrestler.

Honors: CHSCA Class MM/M all-state, his second all-state selection. ... Two-time All-SCC Tier 1. ... National Honor Society; National English Honor Society; Foreign Language Honor Society, Math Honor Society. 

Up Next: Undecided. 

ALEX ROMANOWSKI, Ansonia

Right tackle and nose guard helped the Chargers win the Class S championship. ... Team rushed for well over 2,000 yards. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26, one of only two linemen named. ... Two-time all-state. ... All-NVL. ... Honor student.

Up Next: Undecided.

GIOVANNI CHIULLI, Southington

Tackle helped the Blue Knights run for almost 2,000 yards and throw for nearly 2,400. ... Southington was the top seed in Class LL and was No. 1 in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll for eight weeks this season. 

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... Second honors in this year’s first quarter. 

Up Next: Undecided; considering Husson University. 

PETER VOMVOLAKIS, Greenwich

Sophomore two-way lineman helped the Cardinals rush for over 2,000 yards and throw for almost 2,500. ... The Cardinals also rushed for 46 touchdowns. ... Credited with 16 tackles.

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... All-FCIAC Top 45. ... Freshman All-American last year. ... Honor Roll student.

Place Kicker


TY GROFF, New Canaan

Capped his senior season with a 16-13 win in the Class L final and two records: Kicking three field goals that day, including the game-winner, he became the state’s all-time leader in field goals with 27, breaking a tie with Middletown’s Michael Aresco (who had been the last two-time Register All-State kicker, 2016-17). He also set the single-season record with 15, passing Greenwich’s Zach Moore. ... Finished his season 46-for-47 on extra points and 92-for-93 for his career, according to MaxPreps. ... Field goals included a couple of 48-yarders (a school record), a 45-yarder and a 41-yard kick to open the scoring in the championship game. ... Recorded 23 touchbacks on 73 kickoffs; pinned seven punts out of 32 inside the 20, averaging 37.4 yards. ... Kicked four field goals in a game last year to claim a share of that state record. ... Broken hand cost him about half the season at quarterback; he was 65-for-107 for 578 yards. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26; two-time all-state. ... FCIAC Top 45. ... Participant in Service League of Boys (SLOBS) in the New Canaan area.

Up Next: Undecided.

 

FIRST TEAM DEFENSE

The 90th New Haven Register All-State First Team Defense.

The 90th New Haven Register All-State First Team Defense.

Sean Patrick Bowley / Hearst Connecticut Media

Defensive Line


GRIFFIN GALLETTA, Greenwich

Recorded 12 1/2 sacks and another 7 1/2 tackles for a loss to help the Cardinals to the CIAC Class LL championship. ... Recovered a fumble in the LL championship win over Fairfield Prep. ... Credited with 37 solo tackles. ... Earned his team a safety with a sack in the end zone against Danbury. 

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... FCIAC Top 45. ... Honor-roll student.

JACK KILMARTIN, St. Joseph

Injury limited him in the second half, but his first half was outstanding, with 35 tackles, 13 of them for a loss, in the Hogs’ first six games. ... Had three sacks and four and a half TFLs in a win over Staples, and two sacks against both Masuk and Ridgefield, finishing the year with 9 1/2. ... Also forced and recovered a fumble. ... Also an honorable-mention All-FCIAC as a lacrosse faceoff man for the Cadets.

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... FCIAC Top 45. ... Honor roll student. 

Up Next: Considering playing football and studying engineering at RPI, but other schools are a possibility. 

JACK CHAPPA, Newtown

Junior 11 1/2 sacks for the Nighthawks, a Class L playoff team. ... He had a piece of 76 tackles, 31 of them solo, with 19 tackles for a loss. ... Forced one fumble; recovered another. ... Had 2 1/2 sacks (and four TFLs) against Bunnell and two sacks against Stratford. ... Credited with 11 quarterback hurries. 

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... All-SWC. ... National Honor Society; World Language Honor Society.

BRETT ROCHFORD, Cheshire

Had eight sacks among 64 tackles for the Rams, who reached the Class L semifinals. ... Three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the season-opening win over New Milford. Four tackles for loss, including two and a half sacks, in a win over Xavier. Three tackles for loss in the Thanksgiving loss to Southington. 

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state. ... All-SCC Tier 1. 

Up Next: Undecided.

Linebacker


JACK PETRONE, Glastonbury

Had 5 1/2 sacks among his 97 tackles as the Guardians reached the Class LL semifinals. ... Had 70 tackles last year. ... Ran for 2,016 yards this season with 21 touchdowns. ... Also a national-champion skier. ... Glastonbury Little League volunteer. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26, named at running back. ... National Honor Society. 

Up Next: Undecided.

MATTHEW SALMINI, New Canaan

Was in on 113 tackles for the Class L champions, leading a defense that allowed under 10 points a game. ... Twice credited with 14 solo tackles and five assisted tackles in a single game: The first was the Rams’ only loss, to St. Joseph; the second was a quarterfinal win over Naugatuck. ... In that St. Joseph game, he ran back an interception 34 yards for a touchdown. That was the shortest return of his three interceptions; the others went for 60 and 41 yards. ... Blocked a field goal in the Class L semifinal win over Cheshire. ... Forced four fumbles and recovered two. 

Honors: FCIAC Top 45. 

JACOB STATON, Notre Dame-West Haven

Two-way standout for the Class M champions recorded 102 tackles, nine and a half of them for a loss, including three sacks. ... Was in on 16 tackles in a win over Bunnell. ... Had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. ... Rushed for 1,512 yards, 6.8 a carry. ... Eight of his 18 touchdowns came in the playoffs, including three in the semifinal win over Law in which he ran for 247 yards on 24 carries. 

Honors: SCC Tier 1 Player of the Year. ... CHSCA Top 26. ... National Honor Society.

Up Next: Plans to attend Loomis Chaffee for a postgraduate year. 

SOREN RIEF, Killingly

A two-way force for the second year in a row, helping his team to the Class MM final after helping win Class M in 2021. ... Had 45 tackles at linebacker and forced a fumble. ... Ran for 1,932 yards on 225 carries with 28 touchdowns. ... Had 315 yards on 17 carries with four touchdowns in an early-season win over Norwich Free Academy. ... Had five touchdowns and 295 yards on 27 carries in a midseason win over Fitch. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26, named as a running back. ... ECC Division 3 Player of the Year; twice all-conference. ... New Haven Register third-team all-state in 2021. 

Defensive Back


FREDDIE CAMP, Gilbert/Northwestern/Housatonic

Had seven interceptions, taking three back for touchdowns, helping his team to the Class SS semifinals. ... Had a 96-yard interception return against St. Paul. ... Scored at least one touchdown in each of GNH’s 12 games, including two by punt return, one by kickoff return, five receiving and 21 on the ground. ... Rushed for 1,189 yards and almost 11 yards a carry. Caught nine passes for 353 yards. ... His only two pass attempts went for touchdowns. ... Camp is a Northwestern student, but no one from Gilbert has been chosen first-team all-state since guard Anthony Rulli in Classes B-C 1969. 

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... All-NVL. ... Two-time all-state and all-league selection. ... New Haven Register all-state honorable mention in 2021. ... Invited to Offense-Defense Bowl.

Up Next: Undecided.

CHARLIE DIXON, Greenwich

Had an all-time night in the Class LL championship game, with three interceptions (returning one for the game’s first touchdown), seven tackles (including one memorable receiver-flipping stop), five catches for 61 yards and an entertaining time-killing safety near game’s end. ... His eight interceptions shared the state lead. ... Returned a fumble for a touchdown against Westhill. ... Caught 43 passes for 703 yards and seven touchdowns. Had seven catches for 115 yards in a win over St. Joseph. ... Also punted and returned kickoffs. 

Honors: FCIAC All-West at receiver. 

Up Next: Undecided

MATT JEFFERY, Cheshire

Junior started the year splitting time at quarterback, but after a shoulder injury became a standout receiver, running back and and defensive back to help the Rams into the CIAC Class L tournament. ... Had interceptions against New Milford, Xavier and, in a playoff-quarterfinal win, St. Joseph. ... Threw one last pass, a touchdown toss to Jeffery Gonzalez, to finish off a win over St. Joseph in the first round of the Class L playoffs.

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... All-SCC Tier 1 as a receiver.

Up Next: An All-America lacrosse player as a sophomore, he’s committed to Notre Dame.

DONTE KELLY, Maloney

Junior had a 79-yard punt return that broke a tie in the semifinals against Shelton and spurred the Spartans back to the Class L final. ... Finished with five interceptions and 37 tackles. ... Caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the Class L final against New Canaan that gave Maloney a lead, one of six catches in the game. ... Had 947 receiving yards with 13 touchdowns. 

Honors: CHSCA Class LL/L all-state at receiver. ... National Honor Society.

Punter


ADAM PANDOLFI, North Haven

Junior did a little bit of everything as the Nighthawks won their first CIAC championship, defeating Killingly for the Class MM title. ... Punted 27 times for an average of 45.5 yards, with a long of 67. ... Gained 921 yards on 102 rushes, scoring nine touchdowns, including two to break a halftime tie in the Class MM championship games. ... In on 70 tackles at safety, eight of them for a loss; had an interception, forced a fumble and was credited with 11 passes defended. ... Completed three passes for 125 yards.

Honors: CHSCA Top 26. ... SCC Tier I all-conference at defensive back. ... All-SCC Academic. ... High honors. ... Over 100 hours community service. ... Levi Jackson all-area team.

Coach of the Year

LOU MARINELLI, New Canaan

Named New Haven Register's All-State Coach of the Year for the first time. The award began in 1997. This was Marinelli's 17th season at New Canaan. ... Coached the Rams to the Class L championship — its first since 2016 — defeating Maloney 16-13 in the final. ... It was Marinelli’s 13th CIAC title at New Canaan. ...Rams went 12-1, with a defense that allowed under 10 points per game.  ... His career record at New Canaan is 362-105-6; All-time, his teams are 381-112-7. ... Member of several hall of fames, including the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Springfield College’s Hall of Fame.