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Late interception keys Wildcats past pesky Saints

St. Bernard Saints - 2009 Season
Posted Sunday, November 22, 2009 by By TIM EHRENS
 From the game’s opening play from scrimmage, it looked as if this might be the week the St. Bernard/Norwich Tech football team would get its first win.

A 69-yard Sean Hurley jaunt to the end zone gave a jolt of life to the Saints, who were coming off of a crushing three-point loss to winless Putnam last week.

But Norwich Free Academy — coming off of a disappointing loss of its own — dashed those hopes once it got some big plays and its Wildcat formation going to capture a 44-20 victory on Friday at Delaporta Field.

“The objective is to always play well in all phases of the game, and I felt we were able to do that,” NFA coach Jemal Davis said. “It was just a nice all-around day for us.”

The game was much closer than the final score suggested as St. Bernard (0-8) trailed by just 10 at halftime and cut the Wildcats’ lead to seven with two minutes left in the third.

But with the shift from the third to the fourth quarter, momentum also shifted in NFA’s favor when Nico Jones intercepted Saints quarterback John Rainey at the St. Bernard 20-yard line and easily jogged in for the score, giving his team a 14-point lead.

That was the end of the Saints’ (0-8) hopes of keeping it close.

“A little bit,” St. Bernard coach Sean Ladyga said when asked if the interception took the wind out of his team’s sails. “Our quarterback had to throw over a kid who’s 6-foot-5, and then, all of a sudden, you see the ball come out and it’s slightly behind our receiver and (Jones) just stayed put, caught it and ran it in. It’s a learning thing; it’s one of the things that happens.”

The game-changing play also gave the Wildcats (3-5) a mental boost and the confidence to avoid another letdown like last week’s 21-18 loss to Woodstock.

“Emotionally, it got the kids back into it,” Davis said. “It wasn’t like last week where it was like, ‘Here they come again.’ With that play, guys were like, ‘OK, we’re not going to let (the game) fall through our hands.’”

While passing wasn’t a main component of either team’s attack, Rainey  — a freshman making his first start at quarterback — made passes of 30 and 35 yards while Hurley threw a touchdown to Mike McKeon on a halfback pass to cut the NFA lead to seven in the third quarter. NFA, which mainly used direct snaps out of the Wildcat formation, also saw a 44-yard touchdown from quarterback Erik Washburn to Jake Hynds in the second quarter.

“They definitely came out and played,” said NFA running back Anthony Facchini, who rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns. “They’ve seen our record and I think we came in a little too cocky, which we shouldn’t have. But they definitely stayed with us. They played hard and battled back.”

The Wildcats kept adding to their lead when a fortuitous fumble recovery came their way at the St. Bernard 2-yard line after their defense stopped two Saints runs for losses. NFA took advantage and picked up the easy score when Washburn snuck into the end zone to make the score 41-20.

St. Bernard was undoubtedly feeling confident from the start after Hurley’s electrifying run gave it a quick 6-0 lead. But in the Wildcats’ second offensive series, Facchini ran for 78 yards on an 83-yard scoring drive to put the visitors ahead, 7-6. He also had a 51-yard run for a score in the next series to tie the game at 14-14.

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