St. Joseph stomps Wilton in state playoffs

Jack DiRocco carries the ball during Wilton's loss to St. Joseph in the Class L quarterfinals Wednesday night.

Jack DiRocco carries the ball during Wilton's loss to St. Joseph in the Class L quarterfinals Wednesday night.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

One down, two to go.

Jaden Shirden scored six touchdowns Wednesday night, leading top-seed St. Joseph past eighth-seed Wilton, 49-7, in the Class L state quarterfinals at Jerry McDougall Stadium in Trumbull.

The victory leaves the unbeaten Cadets (11-0) two wins away from winning a third straight state title in its third different class, a feat never accomplished in CIAC playoff history. St. Joseph won the Class S championship in 2017 and the Class M title last year.

Next up for the unbeaten Cadets is fourth-seed New Canaan, a 42-7 winner over fifth-seed Wethersfield in its quarterfinal game Wednesday. The FCIAC rivals will meet on Monday night in the semifinals at Bunnell High in Stratford.

Shirden ran for 222 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns on his first five touches in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal. Shirden broke off a 53-yard touchdown run on the game’s third play from scrimmage. Austin Jose made the first of his seven conversion kicks, and St. Joseph led 7-0 only 45 seconds into the contest.

Wilton (7-4) countered with a 75-yard march to tie the game on Jimmy O’Brien’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Hyzy and Parker Woodring’s PAT.

Shirden, after a bobble, gathered himself and raced 88 yards for the go-ahead score on the ensuing kickoff.

Jack Wallace completed passes to Shirden (17 yards) and Brady Hutchson (20 yards) to set up Shirden’s 11-yard scamper for a 21-7 lead with 5:22 left in the first.

Wilton, behind the running of Drew Phillips and Jack DiRocco, was able to move the chains against a Cadet defense that had allowed only 58 points this season. But the Warriors couldn’t dent the end zone again.

Dennis Rotunno’s interception stopped the Warriors after they moved to the St. Joseph 17. After Daniel Sullivan got the ball back for Wilton with an interception of his own, Alex Pagliarini recovered a fumble forced by Davee Silas at the St. Joseph 32 midway through the second quarter.

Dealt a long field to traverse after DiRocco’s 52-yard punt, St. Joseph went 81 yards in five plays. Jose’s 44-yard reception set it up for Shirden to skirt the end for a 15-yard score and a 28-7 lead at 2:38 of the second period.

Wilton’s hopes of a comeback took a hit when Pagliarini recovered a Warrior fumble and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown 58 seconds into the third quarter.

Shirden’s 91-yard touchdown run came at the 5:13 mark of the third quarter, and his sixth score came on a 6-yard run after Owen DaSilva’s 37-yard catch kept the drive alive.