The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Maloney’s Arce turns around fortune


MERIDEN — In his first year as Maloney’s starting quarterbac­k, Angel Arce demonstrat­ed how much damage his right arm could do to opponents. He completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,003 yards and 26 touchdowns, included two games with five TD passes.

As a sophomore, he helped lead the Spartans to a 10-2 season that ended with a loss to Hand in the 2019 CIAC Class L semifinals.

Five months later, Angel Arce would demonstrat­e how much damage his right arm could do to his own life. He used it to hang onto a car from his bicycle. Silly games can lead to terrible consequenc­es and what Arce did near the end of his sophomore year caused a traumatic head injury.

Coach Kevin Frederick, who has built a 48-19 record and a formidable program at Maloney, has considerab­le expectatio­ns for his 6-0, 170-pound senior and his team this season. He needs Arce to match those expectatio­ns.

“I think Angel learned and grew from that experience,” Frederick said. “And now he’s back and he is battling to take us to a state championsh­ip.”

“I definitely feel I learned from what happened,” Arce said. “I feel like I matured and stopped doing stupid stuff like that.”

Part of what Arce had to learn stems from what he cannot remember from that mid-May day in 2020.

“What I do remember was me and a whole bunch of my friends together,” Arce said. “We were playing spin the bottle and whoever the bottle landed on we got to throw eggs at the people in the way. After that we went to my brother’s house and from there that’s where my memory stops.”

The next thing Angel Arce recalls was waking up in a hospital bed in Hartford. His cousin had been riding behind him and later would fill in the terrible blanks.

“I was on the bike holding on with my left hand and holding the car with my right hand,” Arce said. “I hit a pothole and flipped.”

Did I throw eggs at buddies when I was teenager? Yes.

Did I ever grab onto a car handle while riding my bike? Yes.

So there will be no holierthan-thou preaching here from the mighty gatekeeper of behavior. Only a strong reminder that each action has a consequenc­e and the sooner a young person accepts that the wiser he or she will be.

Frederick got the call from Angel’s father.

“It was very severe,” Frederick said. “He was in the hospital for some time in an induced coma. A lot of swelling of the brain. Yeah, it was a bad accident. He is lucky to come out of it, because the doctors weren’t too optimistic in the beginning. We feared for the worst.”

The team got a big prayer chain going for Arce.

“Each kid made a short clip video to talk about him hopefully perseverin­g, good luck, positive messages he would need,” Frederick said. “We sent it on to him. I think it helped him. The doctors did a great job. He was resilient. He battled back. He’s very fortunate to come out of it. Thank God, he’s not just able to play football but can come to school and do the things he normally does.”

Even after being released from the Connecticu­t Children’s Medical Center, Frederick didn’t know if he would be able to continue playing. You don’t mess around with head injuries in football.

“There were brain scans, I had a really bad concussion,” Arce said. “I had physical therapy. I was questionab­le to play. They took it slow. Yeah, it was kind of stressing.”

“We were nervous,” Frederick said. “But he had no lingering issues. No bad signs. He is back 100 percent.”

When COVID-19 canceled the CIAC season, some towns went to 7-on-7. Others, like Meriden, played independen­t football. As a junior Arce was able to make it back for the half dozen games.

“Me being me, I believed I would be able to get past it,” Arce said. “But I’ve got to say the first time I got out there, it felt great.”

He had no physical problems playing independen­t.

“That was helpful not only for him but for everyone playing in that league,” Frederick said. “It built his confidence a little bit to where I feel he is ready to hit the ground running this year.”

Arce started playing at age 7. He played tight end and defensive end. He switched to quarterbac­k in fourth grade. Even as an undersized ninth grader his strong arm and physical gifts were evident on a successful freshman team. He no longer plays defensive back — as much as he said he begs Frederick.

“He is a next-level quarterbac­k, for sure,” Frederick said. “He has a next-level arm. He can get the ball down field. He has all the physical attributes that you want. His big thing is to keep learning the ins and outs of our offense.

“My goal for him this year is for him to become more a vocal leader. That is something he wants to improve on, too. Take charge of the offense. Be that guy that the team can look at to pick them up when things are going wrong.”

Maloney runs a a nohuddle, run-pass option system.

“So the quarterbac­k has a lot on his plate,” Frederick said. “For him to handle all that is going to be important. We’re looking at him to be a beast. He has to go out there and get this offense rolling. With him losing James Tarver (the all-state running back playing at Morgan State) and some

offensive line guys, we’re looking for him to step up.”

Frederick also has said senior Spencer Studley, the junior varsity quarterbac­k in 2019, is pushing Arce hard for the starting job. There are no gimmes. Arce understand­s this.

“I lead by example, but I haven’t been a vocal leader,” Arce said. “That’s one thing I need to work on. I hope we win a state championsh­ip. I feel like we have the talent. Half of these kids I’ve played with since the second grade. So we have good chemistry.

“We want to start off fast in our first game against Southingto­n. I’m looking forward to revenge from what happened against them during COVID season. We went out there good and then we fell short because of mental mistakes.” Playing for Frederick? “It’s really good,” Arce said. “Except when you get on his bad side. Then it’s, oh, brother.”

Arce has attended college camps. Some schools have shown interest, no offers yet. His senior season is important. So are higher grades to boost his cumulative GPA. Arce said he’d like to go to a school outside Connecticu­t, see new things.

“A lot of colleges are looking at senior films,” Frederick said. “For him, it is what fits academical­ly. What fits him location-wise. He’ll have some good options, I think. He has to really stand out to do that.

“I think he realizes he is fortunate. His work ethic improved. He didn’t take his day-to-day life for granted. It’s, hey, let me put forth my best effort every day and see where it leads me. He improved in the classroom drasticall­y last year, the fourth quarter and third quarter too. To be a quarterbac­k at the next level you’ve got to have the grades to go along with the ability.”

Arce smiled when asked about academics. He admires Peyton Manning and Patrick Mahomes as quarterbac­ks. He has learned to admire his accomplish­ed schoolmate­s in the classroom.

“Yeah, I was on the (honor) roll,” he said. “I finished the fourth quarter with a 4.1. It felt really good. I worked hard for it. The way kids work like that all year, man …”

Opening with Southingto­n, Maloney has seven CCC games against Class LL teams. The schedule is demanding. So is the coach.

“We got rewarded for being really good,” Frederick said. “So we got bumped up, which is fine. Do I think it’s fair? No, but we’re excited about it. It’s a challenge for us. We feel like we’re the best L team in the area. Now we really want to put Maloney on the map.

“For me, Angel will never be good enough. I’m always going to try to push him to be better and better. Not just for football, but later down the road.”

His close teammates understand this, too.

“They tell me to stop being a dumb ass,” he said. “I laugh. I tell them I don’t remember what I did. I can’t change what already happened.”

Angel Arce now knows better than anyone he can change what can happen.

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 ?? Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Maloney’s Angel Arce throws a pass against Middletown in 2019.
Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Maloney’s Angel Arce throws a pass against Middletown in 2019.
 ?? Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Maloney’s Angel Arce throws a pass against Middletown in 2019.
Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Maloney’s Angel Arce throws a pass against Middletown in 2019.

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