Five football players from the FCIAC were chosen First Team All-State when the 2022 Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State Football Teams were announced in December.
Tyler Clark and Caleb Smith of Staples High School, New Canaan’s Ty Groff, Trumbull’s Rowan Johnston, and Greenwich’s Jake Kiernan were those five conference players who were selected First Team All-State, which is also known as the Top 26.
The CHSCA has four categories of all-state recognition – the Top 26, and the Class LL/L, Class MM/M, and Class SS/S all-state teams.
The First Team All-State consisted of the top players voted on by the CHSCA coaches and those players were all moved up from their respective Class teams after the voting was tabulated. They are simply the top players with no distinction as to being selected on either offense or defense.
There were 96 more total players from the three Class categories who earned all-state honors. Sixteen players were selected on offense and another 16 on defense for the Class LL/L, Class MM/M, and Class SS/S all-state teams.
With Staples Wreckers teammates Clark and Smith having made the Top 26, Staples and Ansonia each had two selections and were the only teams with multiple Top 26 selections.
Clark was a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior wide receiver who led the Wreckers with 80 receptions, 11 touchdown catches, and 1,256 receiving years. He averaged 114.2 receiving yards per game and 15.7 yards per reception.
Smith, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior, was quite the dual threat at quarterback. He threw 27 TD passes and rushed for another 18 touchdowns. Smith completed 65 percent of his passes (180-of-277) and threw for 3,025 yards. He led the team in rushing with his 797 yards on 118 carries (6.8 yards per carry). Smith had a quarterback rating of 114.7.
Clark and Smith helped lead Staples to a 9-2 season. The Wreckers qualified as the fourth seed in the 2022 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL Football Playoffs and were nipped by fifth-seeded Fairfield Prep, 23-22, in the quarterfinals.
Groff was a versatile senior quarterback/placekicker who played a key role toward helping New Canaan win the CIAC Class L state championship. The Rams finished 12-1 after their 16-13 victory over third-seeded Maloney in the Class L final.
Groff was listed at the kicker position on this all-state team and he did indeed have a very strong leg along with accuracy, as exhibited by his 41-yard field goal among his three total field goals in that state championship game. Groff’s 19-yard field goal with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter snapped a 13-13 tie. Groff kicked seven field goals in the three-game state playoffs and set a state record with 27 field goals.
Groff missed several games early in the year at quarterback while recovering from an injury and then he completed 65-of-107 passes for 578 yards and threw a pair of TD passes for this New Canaan team which utilized a strong rushing attack and solid defense.
Johnston was an electrifying 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior running back who had an amazing year with 30 total touchdowns. He averaged 144.3 rushing yards per game in his 10 games with his 1,443 rushing yards on 216 carries (6.7 yards per carry). Johnston had 1,794 all-purpose yards as he also caught 29 passes for 351 receiving yards. He had 27 rushing touchdowns and caught three TD passes.
Kiernan excelled as a run blocker and pass protection blocker. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound senior offensive tackle was selected to the All-FCIAC Football First Team for the second straight year. Kiernan was a key reason why Class LL state champion Greenwich had such a potent offense which averaged 42 points per game. Greenwich’s Cardinals finished 11-2 after they outscored their opposition 126-24 in the three-game Class LL playoffs, culminating with their 37-17 victory over Fairfield Prep in the state championship game.
Nine more FCIAC players earned all-state status on their respective class teams.
Offensive lineman Peter Vomvolakis and quarterback Jack Wilson of Greenwich, Fairfield Ludlowe running back Aaron Field, Trumbull tight end Ben Carley, and Staples wide receiver James Hillhouse were five of the 16 players selected on offense to the CHSCA Class LL/L All-State Team. Earning selections to that all-state team on the defense from the FCIAC were defensive lineman Griffin Galletta and linebacker John Insinga of Greenwich, and St. Joseph defensive lineman Jack Kilmartin.
Wilton defensive lineman Jackson Duncan made the Class MM/M All-State Team.
There were 14 total football players from the FCIAC who earned CHSCA all-state recognition, including those five on the Top 26.