EAST HARTFORD — Jeremy Clark’s Marines All-Stars didn’t win Saturday’s first annual CHSCA Hall of Fame Classic Military Bowl, but the former Woodland All-State lineman was one of the unsung stars at Rentschler Field.
Playing center for his team, Clark helped pave the way for Oxford quarterback Brennen Diaz to score a pair of 2-yard rushing touchdowns for the Marines, which also featured former Woodland wide receiver Rahmi Rountree. The National Guard All-Stars, which included Woodland’s Eric Collodel and Naugatuck’s Mick Pernell, prevailed in the game, 15-14.
Clark, who blocked the past two years for a pocket passer in Tanner Kingsley, enjoyed the opportunity to lead the way for a more mobile quarterback in Diaz.
“That was a lot of fun,” Clark said. “Brennen’s a hard-nosed kid. During the practice week he was going against linebackers and throwing them to the ground. That motivated me because I was like, I can’t look like a loser now so I have to throw somebody on the ground. He pushed me and I was glad to play for him.”
Collodel, an outside linebacker for the National Guard, made his impact felt on defense with a sack in the second half.
“I started on the second string so I had to make a name for myself,” Collodel said. “My WestConn coaches were here scouting me so I had to make them proud.”
Rountree suited up among a star-studded lineup in the Marines receiving corps, while Pernell patrolled the National Guard secondary and special teams. Pernell was part of a defense that held former Windsor All-State quarterback Quinn Fleeting to only 79 yards passing.
“We have a couple of good quarterbacks in the NVL, but playing with the state’s best quarterbacks and wide receivers was fun,” Pernell said.
The three Hawks in the game — which made Woodland the only Naugatuck Valley League school and one of just 12 schools in the state with a trio of participants — relished the opportunity to finally play at Rentschler Field after they fell one game short of reaching last year’s Class S final.
“It was about time I got to play here,” Collodel said. “My first time at the Rent was an unbelievable feeling.”
“Last season I thought we were going to end it here, and of course it didn’t work out,” said Clark, who was the No. 7 overall pick in April’s draft. “But to be able to come out to the combine, work my butt off for a few weeks, get in shape and come here to play was great.”
Saturday’s game was the last in each of the four local players’ high school careers, but three of the four will pursue football at the collegiate level. Clark is headed to the offensive line at Sacred Heart University. He got the chance to play with fellow future Pioneers.
“There were a few teammates on this team who are going to be on the offensive line at Sacred Heart next year, like Sean Merrill (of Sheehan),” Clark said. “I got to build some chemistry with them.”
Collodel will play in the defensive front at Western Connecticut, while Rountree is undecided on which school he will attend to play basketball. Pernell decided to attend Taft after originally planning to head to the Coast Guard Academy.
“I was looking at some military academies — Coast Guard was my No. 1 — but Taft came,” Pernell said, “and they’re one of the best prep schools in New England, so I couldn’t tell them no.”
Woodland head coach Tim Shea also participated in the game, which was preceded by an eight-day training camp. He was the offensive line coach for the National Guard.