Overtime thriller goes to Staples

Jack Greenwald’s 5-yard touchdown run on an option pitch in overtime proved to be the difference, as Staples High of Westport nicked Trumbull High, 49-42, at McDougall Stadium on Friday.

The Eagles had a chance to force a second overtime, but Staples’ defensive back Jake Melnick tackled Quentin Brunetti short of the end zone on Nick Roberts’ fourth-down pass to preserve the victory.

The Wreckers improved to 6-2, while Trumbull dropped to 6-2.

Tailback Marc Cesare scored all six of Trumbull’s touchdowns — including the go-ahead score with 1:25 left in regulation. Cesare was a one-man demolition crew for the Eagles, rushing for 246 yards on 37 carries. He also caught a two-point conversion pass from Roberts.

Trumbull will host Danbury High (3-4) Friday at 7 p.m.

Staples forced overtime when quarterback Jack Massie hit wide receiver Will Johnson on a back-shoulder fade in the corner of the end zone from 29 yards out.

Mike Gifford then kicked the extra point to tie the game at 42 with 25 seconds left. That capped a nine-play, 71-yard scoring drive that lasted just under one minute.

“The kid made a perfect throw and a perfect catch,” Trumbull coach Bob Maffei said. “We had good coverage. They just made the play and we didn’t.”

The Eagles nearly halted the drive on first down, but Massie’s deflected pass caromed past Eagle defensive back Jamar Robinson.

On Staples’ previous drive, in which the Wreckers were whistled for three personal fouls, Trumbull squandered another key opportunity.

Massie’s third-down pass was intercepted by Liam Moore, but the play was negated by an interference call on the Eagles away from the ball. Josh Dumas sacked Massie after the penalty yardage was marched off, setting up a fourth-and-18 from the Trumbull 39-yard line.

Teddy Coogan then hauled in a 26-yard pass from Massie to keep the drive going, which Patrick Lesch finished off two plays later after an 8-yard touchdown run.

“We had our shots,” Maffei said. “We picked the ball and we had pass interference on it. We could’ve ended it.”

With the game tied at 35, Trumbull took over and marched 66 yards in 10 plays to regain the lead.

Cesare, running behind Jon Newland, Zach Thompson, Cory Haslam, Greg Goldman and Phil Reardon, carried seven times for 44 yards on the drive.

Roberts, who completed 12-of-21 passes for 227 yards, also picked up crucial first downs with passes to Thomas Hayduk and Brunetti.

Taking a toss left, Cesare rumbled in from five yards out to stake the Eagles to a 42-35 edge following Lance Bragg’s fourth PAT.

Trumbull opened the scoring at 9:18 of the first quarter, when Cesare punched in a 2-yard touchdown. Roberts provided a big play on the drive, hitting Brunetti for a 36-yard gain to set up Cesare’s first score of the game.

As they did all evening, the Wreckers countered.

Massie reeled off a 49-yard run on Staples’ first snap of the game, before Lesch rumbled in from nine yards out to forge a 7-7 deadlock.

A 17-yard run from Cesare put Trumbull back on top, 14-7, with 4:52 left to play in the opening quarter. Both teams then turned the ball over on downs following lengthy drives.

Massie scrambled for a 28-yard touchdown to tie it up at 14 midway through the second quarter.

Cesare’s 8-yard run made it 20-14 Eagles on their ensuing possession, but Greenwald blocked the PAT with 36.8 seconds left in the half.

He then provided the Wreckers with their first lead of the game on the opening drive of the second half, rumbling for a 44-yard touchdown off of an inside run. Gifford’s extra point gave Staples a slim 21-20 edge.

Another toss to Cesare resulted in a Trumbull touchdown, with Roberts finding Cesare on the two-point conversion to make it 28-21.

Johnson then caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Massie to make it 35-35 at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter.

Cesare’s 3-yard touchdown run just under a minute later, keyed by Roberts’ 60-yard strike to Hunter Wnukowski, gave the Eagles the lead heading into the fourth quarter.