Sunday, October 11, 2015

A trip to remember for UConn's Sunshine State contingent

Making my way to the press box, I walked by plenty of folks heading to yesterday's UConn/Central Florida game but it seemed like I couldn't walk more than 10 feet without seeing friends or family members of the 11 Florida-born players for the Huskies.

Whether it was a couple of people wearing the No. 17 Puyol jerseys or even a couple of family members of injured offensive lineman Ryan Crozier proudly wearing his number 63, it figured to be a day those Sunshine State natives won't soon forget. If that was the mood before the game just imagine what it must have been like when the Huskies, behind stellar play from so many of the hometown products, raced off to a 40-3 lead en route to a 27-point victory.

Whether it was Jhavon Williams coming up with a crucial interception, Ron Johnson scoring a touchdown, Ellis Marder returning a muffed punt or Puyol going 5 for 5 on extra points and booting a 21-yard field goal, this had to feel like a walk into paradise for the former Florida high school football stars who made the difficult decision to head all the way up to Connecticut for college.

"They had a lot of fans down here," UConn junior safety Obi Melifonwu said. "I know Jhavon Williams' family came down, Bobby Puyol's family came down, Ellis Marder's family came down so it was great to see a lot of fans out here that support UConn football and will continue to support UConn football."

Williams, who intercepted a pass for the second game in a row and third straight road game, said he had 47 family members or friends in attendance.

"That was phenomenal to come here and be able to make a play in front of my parents, my godparents, my grandmother, it just feels so good, so surreal," said Williams, whose four career interceptions have come against Michigan, Missouri, BYU and now UCF. "It is a great feeling to know that something you worked so hard for all season came true tonight. They were running around with the trophy, celebrating, doing a song and dance in the locker room. It is so surreal feeling to be successful on the road."

If Williams was giddy about Saturday's festivities, imagine the emotions Johnson was feeling as his family had a chance to be reunited.

"I got to play in front of my brother who never got to see me play before," Johnson said. "It was a special moment for my mother having all of her kids together (for the first time) in almost 10 years, it was an amazing feeling.

"We wanted to come home in front of our family an put on a show and that is what we did."

Puyol said he felt as much joy seeing Williams or Marder make a game-changing play as he did when all six of his kicks went through the uprights.

"Today was for our team, our brothers and it was cool to see guys, especially Jhavon," Puyol said. "Jhavon lives 10 miles down the road from me so it was awesome seeing him do well, it was awesome seeing Ellis grab a fumble, he's my roommate. Ron, (Javon) Hadley it was great to see all of these guys perform because that is the greatest thing.

"In the beginning Coach Diaco said the swirl of game day but when we are going home, it is the swirl of game day. My mom telling me 'I've got this (number of) people coming' and she is saying 'oh, they are putting this on Facebook' and I said 'well, I might not get enough tickets' but I think the coolest thing about it is that we get to play in front of our families and our friends.

"We have been through a lot of ups and downs and to beat UCF, one of the top teams in our conference every single year, it was special and everybody sees you on ESPN. These are my guys, we are a brotherhood so it was cool to do."

Eight of the 11 Florida natives got into the game. Here is the breakdown

John Green, cornerback from Miami: One tackle and one pass breakup
Javon Hadley, cornerback from Miami: One tackle and one pass breakup
Ellis Marder, safety from Windermere: Had two tackles and a fumble recovery
Ron Johnson, running back from Naples: Ran for 21 yards including 12-yard TD and had two catches
Dan Oak, center from Fort Myers: Saw first action of career in the fourth quarter
Dallas Parker, tight end/h-back from Ponta Vedra Beach: Saw perhaps his most extended duty of the season
Bobby Puyol, kicker from North Palm Beach: Was 5 for 5 on extra points and had a 21-yard field goal
Jhavon Williams, cornerback from Delray Beach: Had three tackles and an interception

Plenty has been written about the early success enjoyed by in-state UConn commits Keyion Dixon and Jasen Rose but other future Huskies are also having impactful senior seasons.

Donovan Williams was 11 of 13 passing for 190 yards and four touchdowns in less than two quarters as Hylton High defeated Gar-Field 61-20.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home