Football: Trumbull Eagles 'sneak' past Danbury Hatters

When the Trumbull High football team took on the Danbury Hatters on Friday night, it was a play designed to attain the smallest of objectives that made the difference in a game filled with big plays at McDougall Stadium in Trumbull.

Trumbull won a 37-26 decision, and yes Eagle quarterback Colton Nicholas showed off his strong arm with three touchdowns. But it was when Nicholas called his own number on a 3rd-and-1 play that the large contingent of Trumbull students could finally take a deep breath and exhale.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, after Danbury (3-3) had closed within 30-20 with a quick 57-yard drive for a score, Nicholas looked to sneak for a first down.

Stood up at the line of scrimmage, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder slid to his left, took two steps forward while blanketed by defenders, then broke out of the pack for a 59-yard touchdown.

“Colton was phenomenal,” Trumbull coach Marce Petroccio said of his senior. “He threw for three and ran for two (touchdowns). On that (TD run) he would not go down. He is a strong kid and spent a lot of time in the weight room to get ready for this season.”

Petroccio was proud of how his team handled adversity.

“We overcame a lot,” he said. “We were playing well on defense, and we were scoring. Our effort has always been there, what I liked was we took a step up when bad things happened.

“Our defense shut down what they like to do — their running game. Our o-line did a great job and then we were nicked up a bit in the second half. We made big plays and we are 3-3.”

Nicholas, who finished with 244 yards passing, ran for a 4-yard touchdown on Trumbull’s game-opening drive.

Kyle Atherton caught TD passes good for 32 and 65 yards in the second period.

Nicholas found Adam Tolk coming out of the backfield for a 52-yard catch-and-run to the end zone in the third quarter

His 60-yard sneak took the score to 37-20.

Danbury’s Malachi Hopkins turned out to be the answer man for the Hatters, but not in the way that Trumbull expected.

“That team (Danbury) with their quarterback leads the league in rushing,” Petroccio said, signaling out Hopkins. “For two weeks (coming off a bye) we worked on stopping the run. I thought our defense played great, and then those big pass plays would bite us.”

Hopkins got his share of yards on the ground, but none of the chain-moving variety. Instead the 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior showed off his accurate left arm to keep Danbury in position to steal a win.

Hopkins found receivers in all areas of the field, and with different arm angles on his throws, to compile 290 yards and three touchdowns.

At 14-0, Hopkins looked left as if to throw a bubble pass to freeze the corner for a split second. That was enough time for R.J. Hopkins to break free and haul in a 91-yard TD pass.

At 23-7, after a Danbury fumble into the end zone resulted in a 2-point safety, Malachi Hopkins led a last-minute drive that ended when Jude Umunakwe made a great catch on a 25-yard pass into the end zone with 7.3 remaining in the half.

Trumbull went 58 yards in five plays to score on its first series of the third quarter.

Nicolas completed 3-of-4 passes, including his 52 yarder to Tolk.

Ryan Cranston’s fourth of five conversion kicks made it a seemingly comfortable 30-13 at the 9:12 mark of the third period.

Malachi Hopkins brought his team back once more.

Fumbling a snap on a 3rd-and-5 play from his 35-yard line, he rolled left under pressure and found Umunakwe coming back toward the middle of the field. His throw was on target and Umunakwe raced to the Trumbull three.

Malik Thomas bucked over the goal line, Lucas Amaral kicked his second PAT, and the Hatters were back in it at 30-20 with 10.8 left in the period.

Then, Nicholas took a slow-ride through the defense and and took off for six.

Danbury completed the scoring with a last-second score, when Bernie DeLaCruz caught a 25-yarder as the buzzer sounded.