Most of his jubilant teammates had already made their way out of Rentschler Field when Matt Walsh took the slow walk towards locker room as if he was trying to absorb the magnitude of it all.
Walsh, who capped his impressive high school career by making 15 tackles and forcing two fumbles in Hand's 23-6 win over Windsor in the Class L final, plans on having many more glorious moments on this field as a member of the UConn football team. However, in the meantime he was going to enjoy the fruits of his labor after a dominant second-half defensive effort lifted the Tigers to their second straight Class L title.
"It is just like the icing on the cake here ending my high school career here with a great win and I will be starting my college career here hopefully with a big win," Walsh said. "I am 2-0 and I hope to keep that undefeated record for as long as I can."
Hand trailed 6-3 at halftime but wasted little time in showing that the second half was going to be a different story.
"It was like the Xavier game, we came back in the second half," Walsh said. "At halftime we realized what we had at stake. We had 10 years of football playing with each other and for this one moment to go out No. 1, state champions we weren’t going to let that opportunity go. We fought for each other, we fought for the man next to each other, we fought like we were in war for our lives the last 24 minutes and it paid off in the end. We came out and played Daniel Hand football.
"It felt unreal. Two years in a row, it is almost unreal. For us to do that senior year, it is an unreal feeling right now, no words can describe it."
Hand figures to be the No. 1 team when the final polls come out and that was about the only thing Walsh and his fellow seniors has yet to accomplish.
"There are four state champions in the state of Connecticut and to go out No. 1, you can’t compare that because there could be three teams better than you because you never know who is No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 and No. 4," Walsh said. "But to go out as No. 1, there is no doubt we are the best team in Connecticut this year."
Walsh was far from the only defensive star on display in the final of the four state championship games played at Rentschler.
Weston Staples and Yale-bound Pete Gerson had two sacks each for Hand and Gerson was also credited with blocking an extra points.
Keith Benjamin of Windsor, a junior defensive tackle, was the best player on the field in the first half. He was credited with six tackles including 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage. I can believe the second number but it seems to me like he was seriously shortchanged in the tackles department as I would have guessed he was closer to 16 tackles than six. If UConn doesn't take a good hard look at the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Benjamin something is seriously wrong.