By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Crosby and St. Paul football teams combined to put 105 points on the scoreboard in its Naugatuck Valley League showdown from Bristol on Saturday, Sept. 22.
And while past NVL showdowns have not gone in the favor of the Falcons, the home team did everything in its power to win its first conference game since Oct. 23 of 2010.
St. Paul battled and battled and battled the Bulldogs to a stalemate and with 5:15 left in the game, the teams were ensnared in a 42-42 test of wills.
But the Falcons ran out of gas late and even as Crosby went up by two possessions late, St. Paul still had a chance to tie or win it on the final play of the game.
One, long last pass by St. Paul QB Logan Marchi interception by Crosby ended the contest as the Bulldogs hung on for dear life and posted a 56-49 victory.
“When you score 49 points, you’re supposed to win,” Falcons coach Jude Kelly said. “I know last week was just a huge disappointment. This week, it was just a matter of finding a way to win.”
St. Paul had its way offensively and outside the three intercepts, Marchi was once again near brilliant.
He connected on 27-of-52 passes for 385 yards and struck for five touchdowns.
Then, there was a trio of young receivers who, at times, looked like seasoned pros in making some big catches and gaining critical yardage for the Falcons.
Daiji Fitzpatrick, Brendan Carroll, and Reid Morin keep those chains moving on the sidelines and combined for 19 catches for an impressive 320 total yards.
Fitzpatrick (8 catches, 133 yards), Morin (7-103), and Carroll (4-84) made huge gains and pushed the Crosby defense to the brink.
And during stretches of game, St. Paul made some stops and matched the Bulldogs tit-for-tat into the later stages of the game.
“We executed both offensively and defensively,” said Kelly. “We executed some plays but it’s just a matter of consistency. It’s just a big mistake that kills us at some point. I just guess we have to be more consistent doing the good things.”
Each team scored in every period and it was a wild and wooly affair from the onset.
Crosby’s Myles Goulbourne took in a 24 yard pass from quarterback Mike Reyes four minutes into the game to get on the board while Jordan Rowley made a 11 yard scoring run for the Falcons as the Bulldogs led 8-7 after one.
In the second period, Morin scored off an 11-yard reception and St. Paul went ahead 14-8 with 10:11 left to play in the half but that edge didn’t last long.
The Bulldogs’ Chris Herrera scored off a two yard dash into the end zone and six minutes later, Edward Ellis snatched a pass from Reyes and his 12 yard touchdown reception made it a 22-14 score at the half as St. Paul trailed going into the locker-room.
Then, the contest became an offensive coordinators dream and defensive guru’s nightmare.
Out of the intermission break, Morin took a 28-yard-pass from Marchi into the end zone to make it a one-point affair and after another outstanding stop by the defense, the quarterback found his receiver again.
This time, Morin’s 12 yard touchdown reception propelled the Falcons to a 28-22 push with 6:22 left in the third frame.
Again, the St. Paul defense held and with the six point lead in hand, St. Paul was going for the throat.
But on Crosby’s 21 yard line, Marchi went to pass a ball into the Bulldogs end zone.
The pass was picked off by Crosby’s Jayson Morrison as he marched 97 yards into the goal and interception return tied the thing up at 28-all with 1:06 left in the period.
“The interception for a touchdown in the third quarter was a killer,” said Kelly. “It was just one of those where you have to find ways to win and you also have to find ways not to lose. We have to find ways to eliminate those kind of mistakes and just be able to make more good plays.”
The scoring binge continued into the fourth quarter as Elijah Parks dashed in the goal for six points and with 10:23 left to go in the game, St. Paul moved in front again 35-28.
Crosby scored four plays later off a six yard sprint by Herrera for a score but off a failed conversion attempt, the Falcons still led 35-34 with 8:42 left.
Off a sustained drive, Fitzpatrick beat everyone into the end zone as his 24-yard reception put St. Paul up by eight with 5:58 remaining while off a nearly 70-yard punt return, Roshawn Gainey finished it off with a 30 yard jaunt to net six points.
Herrera then ran it in for two and with 5:15 showing on the clock, the exciting contest was bolted up at 42-42 each.
St. Paul was unable to score off the ensuing drive and then Gainey returned the favor with a 13 yard run for a touchdown to put Crosby in front once again 50-42.
Three plays later, Myles Goulbourne picked off a Marchi pass, leading to a 19 yard TD sprint by Reyes.
And with 2:10 left, Crosby was in command at 56-42.
St. Paul responded in quick fashion and in five plays that consumed 91 yards, Fitzpatrick made a 22 yard touchdown reception and with 1:10 remaining, the Falcons trailed by seven points at 56-49.
Crosby tried to run out the clock but with two timeouts at its disposal, St. Paul got the ball back with two seconds left and a chance at one last touchdown strike.
However, Marchi’s final pass was picked off and St. Paul’s comeback bid just fell short.
“I was kind of hoping today might have been a step forward (of getting over the hump),” said Kelly. “Now it’s a matter of our discipline, hanging in there, and buying into where we’re doing.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE