Xavier junior Mike Mastroianni is all of 5 feet, 9 inches and 175 pounds, but he goes on, and on, and on.
The Falcons rode Mastroianni all the way to a state championship Friday night, as the running back ran for 229 yards and two touchdowns and top-ranked Xavier capped a perfect season with a dominating 24-13 victory over No. 3 Trumbull at Rentschler Field in East Hartford in the Class LL state championship game.
It was the second state championship in five years for the Falcons (13-0), who racked up 499 yards and intercepted Trumbull quarterback Ian Milne (6 of 17 81 yards) three times in the first half.
And when the clock struck 0:00, the Falcons doused coach Sean Marinan with Gatorade and pranced around the field waving their helmets joyously.
"It's for life. No one can ever take it away from you," Marinan said. "There's nothing like being the best at what you do at one point in time. I've been so fortunate to win it a second time."
Kosi Broderick had four catches for 162 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown catch at the start of the second half that helped Xavier take command.
Behind Mastroianni, Xavier set the tone early, moving the ball at will against the smaller Golden Eagles. The junior ran for 165 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns in the first half alone.
"He's a workhorse," Marinan said. "That's what he does. He's like the Energizer bunny. He just keeps going and going. He's not a big kid. He's an extremely tough kid."
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Mastroianni, who had rushed for more than 1,500 yards entering this contest. He added that he didn't mind the heavy workload.
"I wasn't really tired. We are a very well-conditioned team. I was dinged up a little (in the first half), but nothing major. They kept calling my number and I was just thinking 'just do what you have to do.'"
What he did was gash one of the better defenses in the state. Trumbull entered allowing just 12.8 points per game and held Norwich Free Academy's 1,000-yard rusher Tony Facchini to 69 yards in a semifinal win. But the Golden Eagles, who were playing in their first state championship game since 1997, were no match for the Falcons' physical and "robotic" offensive line.
"They have an absolutely terrific line," said Trumbull linebacker/running back Don Cherry, who recorded 19 tackles and ran for a touchdown. "If you were out there you would see they move like robots. They all move in sync; they all play great together, so that was tough dealing with. It's tough dealing with almost robotic lineman."
Trumbull coach Bob Maffei noted that there was no shame in losing to the Falcons.
"Our kids played hard the whole game," Trumbull coach Bob Maffei said. "They were just better than us tonight."
Xavier outgained Trumbull 309-101 in the first half. The Falcons held the Golden Eagles to just five first downs, but two turnovers prevented them from putting the game out of reach. They led 17-7 at halftime.
Trumbull received the ball to start the second half, but failed to pick up a first down. Xavier then took control thanks to a 69-yard touchdown pass from Pat D'Amato (5 of 8, 195 yards) to Broderick that made it 24-7 with 9:12 left in the third.
"They hit that one pass in the beginning (of the second half) and it broke our back," Maffei said. "Instead of being down 10 we were down 17."
Xavier seemed to come up with one big play after another. They also got a little lucky. A back-and-forth first half was tilted in the Falcons' favor when Trumbull's Ian Milne underthrew a wide open receiver midway through the second quarter.
The Eagles had just recovered a fumble by Mastroianni in Falcons' territory and were driving. Nick Lombardi slipped past the Xavier defense and was all alone, but Milne floated the ball and Ryan Murphy made an easy interception at the 2-yard line.
"He was wide open," Maffei said. "That was a big play in the game."
Xavier quickly capitalized with a momentum-changing 7-play, 98-yard drive for a touchdown, the highlight of which was Broderick's acrobatic 65-yard reception. Mastroianni made amends for his fumble two plays later when he scored from 5 yards out to make it 17-7 with 2:19 left in the half. Broderick's back-breaking touchdown 1:48 into the third gave the Falcons a cushion, and their ball-control offense did the rest.
The result was a raucous celebration among players and the large Xavier contingent that made the 20-minute trip from Middletown. Graham Stewart, Xavier's star linebacker who is headed to Boston College next season, summed up the night for the Falcons.
"What a way to go out," he said. "Like coach said, 'It's for life' and no one can take it from you."