By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
AVON, Sept. 20 -- Berlin fullback Chris Laroche smiles a little more when he sees the Avon High football team on the schedule.
Chances are that Berlin will run the ball more when they face the Falcons, a team that Berlin has dominated over the last quarter century.
When starting quarterback P.J. Sanzo hurt his shoulder on a run late in the first quarter Saturday, the offensive workload shifted fully to the running game. But Laroche and teammate Sam Boccia didn't mind.
They kept running and bouncing off tacklers to help the Redcoats wear down Avon and earn a 32-8 Nutmeg League victory. Berlin held a 16-0 lead through three quarters but scored an additional 16 points in the final 12 minutes to beat Avon for the 18th straight year and for the 23rd time in 24 years.
Laroche turned in his second straight 100-yard performance with a game-high 111 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Boccia had a career-high 68 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. He also had a 37-pass reception, an interception and nearly intercepted a second ball in the game's final seconds.
"We did what we could," Boccia said. "We slacked off a bit in the second quarter but we don't come out here to lose. We just try to build on each game."
Added Laroche, "We came together more as a team."
Avon's first-year coach Brett Quinion was disappointed his Falcons couldn't make it a more competitive game. Avon blocked a Berlin field goal attempt and recovered a fumble in the second quarter.
"We should have given them more of a game," he said. "We had our chances but the inexperience of our offensive line showed up today. They were too physical for us."
Berlin established itself right away, marching 64 yards on 11 plays on the game's opening drive. Laroche ran seven times for 41 yards, a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Boccia intercepted a pass to stop Avon's first drive and Berlin responded with a 16-play, 79-yard drive sparked by eight rushes from Bryan Hill for 37 yards and a touchdown and two-point conversion for a 16-0 point lead.
Joel Hartunian had a nice 35-yard scamper to the Avon 14-yard line late in the second quarter and after an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Falcons, Berlin had the ball 1st and goal on the seven. But the drive stalled and Avon's Max Martinez blocked an attempted 25-yard field goal by Robert Dornfried.
Late in the third quarter, Boccia ripped off a 30-yard run to bring Berlin to the Avon 14-yard line. Two plays later, he scored on a 13-yard TD run for a 23-0 lead.
Avon scored its lone touchdown when Falcon QB Tony Casorio threw into triple coverage down field. But a Berlin tipped the ball forward to Avon's Matt Friedhoff, who was ahead of the trio and escaped downfield for a 46-yard TD pass.
But on Avon's next possession, James Neurath got his second sack of the day, tackling Casorio for an 11-yard loss in the end zone for a safety.
Boccia closed out the scoring with his second TD of the day, which was set up by a 41-yard run by Laroche.
"Defensively, we worked hard," Berlin coach Al Pelligrinelli said. Avon was limited to just 13 yards rushing and no yards rushing in the second half.
Sanzo should be available to play next week against Rocky Hill on Friday night in Berlin, Pelligrinelli said.