Eagles win wild one, 44-42
No way, no how did the Trumbull High football team want to go to overtime with Bridgeport Central at Kennedy Stadium on Friday night.
Coach Bob Maffei’s Eagles and coach Dave Cadelina’s Hilltoppers had upped the ante on every possession, and it was all-in after Central’s Mykeel Morris found the end zone with 22 seconds remaining in this bruising FCIAC contest.
Trumbull still had a 44-42 lead, and with a stop on the two-point conversion would improve to 4-4.
Central (1-6) was three yards and two points away from extending the game.
“I rushed outside off the edge and they forced him [Morris] back inside,” Daniel Paolino said after he, Thomas Hayduk and Rob Christiani bull-dogged Morris to the turf to maintain the lead.
“We just build off each other.”
“We’re 4-4 right now and we’re playing, we’re getting better and better each week. I tell you what, we can’t wait to play New Canaan.”
The energized Eagles will look to maintain the momentum from this win when the Rams (7-1) visit McDougall Stadium.
And, Maffei hopes New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli won’t have as many things in the playbook as Cadelina and the Hilltoppers sprung on the Eagles.
“They didn’t show any of this stuff,” Maffei said of Central’s relentless ground game out of its Wing-T, with Morris following his large line on sweeps from his wingback position.
“They were in one formation all year and we had to make an adjustment at halftime.”
Trumbull rolled to a 7-0 lead on three straight runs by Ryan Pearson to open the game, culminating in a 19-yard burst to paydirt.
Central, aided by a blocked punt, scored 22 straight points in the second period to take a 22-7 lead into the half.
Morris, who ran for 238 yards, scored on runs of one, three and 54 yards during this stretch.
Trumbull needed a spark and received it from special teams.
Pearson pooched the ball over the front line of Central’s kickoff return, and Trumbull recovered back-to-back onside kicks to open the second half.
Will Polito recovered the first kick, and seven plays later quarterback Nick Roberts patiently surveyed his receivers before he spotted Paolino open in the end zone from 20 yards out.
Mike Williams caught the two-point conversion to make it 22-15.
Roberts, who was 3-for-15 passing in the first half, with three dropped throws, two sacks, and 57 total yards (37 on a screen pass), was at his best after intermission.
The junior tossed five scoring passes in the final two quarters, when he completed 15-of-20 throws for 257 yards.
Trumbull went with the pooch kick again, and this time Jack Kelly recovered the ball at the Central 41-yard line.
Four plays later, Paolino, who caught six passes for 141 yards and three scores, took a quick look-in pass from Roberts and went the distance for a 30-yard touchdown.
Pearson kicked the third of four PAT’s and in 3:30 Trumbull had went from 15 points down to a 22-22 tie.
The Eagles’ defense, which was led by Liam Moore, Nick DeRosa and Hayduk in the secondary, Kelly, Ryan Keklik, Christiani and Paolino at linebacker, Mike Garrity, Paul Angelucci, Chris Scott and Josh Dumas up front, forced a three-and-out, and Trumbull moved the ball 55 yards in six plays to take the lead.
With great protection from Polito, Phil Reardon, John Delfino, Zach Thompson and Angelucci, Roberts had time to check down on his options and found Williams open for a 30-yard score.
Central took the lead back with a seven-play, 56-yard drive capped by Dominique Hancock’s two-yard run and Morris’ successful conversion carry.
Trumbull trailed, 30-29 and had possession on its 27 as the third quarter came to a close.
On third-and-three, Williams made a great catch on a ball that reached him just as he came out of his break for an 18-yard gain.
Angelucci’s block gave Pearson room for 14 yards, and from the 39, Paolino caught a slip screen and raced the distance.
A celebration penalty on the touchdown brought the ball back to the 18 for the all-important conversion.
Roberts rolled right and Eric Anderson reached over Morris and made a juggling catch in the corner of the end zone to give Trumbull a seven-point lead at 37-30.
Again, Central responded this time with a short field. It converted a key fourth-down on Xavier Hardison’s 19-yard scramble before Morris scored on a six-yard run.
Maffei called out to his defense that with a stop here on the two-point conversion, his Eagles would win the game.
Asked for and answered, as Hayduk and Paolino brought Morris down before he could make the corner.
Trumbull held a 37-36 lead with 6:47 remaining.
The Eagles took time off the clock and added to their advantage, when Roberts pump-faked the defender and put a perfect throw into Paolino’s hands for 35-yard touchdown.
Pearson’s PAT made it 44-36 with 3:27 remaining in regulation.
Central methodically moved the chains four times, and keyed by Andrew Louis’ 21-yard run to the four, tied the game with 22.7 on the clock.
Game day notes
“We were off two weeks and had three practices,” Maffei said of schedule changes due to Hurricane Sandy,
“On Tuesday, we worked on that [pooch kick approach]. We watched my son’s team at Central Connecticut use it and put it in.”
Bobby Maffei, a former Eagle quarterback and a University of Nebraska graduate, is in his second year on coach Jeff McInerny’s staff as wide receiver coach and Director of football operations.