STRATFORD—For the most part, it has been a season to forget for the Bunnell High School football team.
On Friday night, though, the Bulldogs seniors gave themselves a night to remember.
Seniors Jovan Eggleston and Tyreek Smith scored two touchdowns each while classmate quarterback Brian Carrafiello hit fellow senior James Savko for another score as Bunnell posted an exciting 32-24 victory over Brookfield at Mastroni Field.
It was the second win of the season for Bunnell, which improved to 2-7 following its penultimate game of the season.
The Bulldogs will wrap up the 2019 campaign, and first under rookie head coach Ty Jenkins, on Thanksgiving morning facing rival Stratford at Penders Field.
Against Brookfield, the Bulldogs still struggled with the season’s theme of shooting themselves in their collective feet.
On this night, though, Bunnell found a way to win.
“I just told them how proud I was of them,” Jenkins said. “Even though this season didn’t go as they planned, they never turned on their back on this program. These seniors, they entrusted me with what’s going on, and I told them the future success of this program is going to be built off this class.”
Smith scored his second 55-yard touchdown run of the night with 2:51 left to play, and then added the two-point conversion rush, to snap a 24-24 tie and give the Bulldogs their winning margin.
“It feels really good to get a win at our last game on our home field,” said Smith, who had more than 160 yards rushing in the game. “I knew I had to score for us to get up. I saw a crease and did a jump cut and just ran from there.”
It was the type of effort Jenkins has been seeing all year out of Smith.
“We showed how special Tyreek Smith is and there’s a reason some Division 1 schools are knocking on the door to talk to him,” Jenkins said.
It was Smith’s backfield-mate Eggleston who got Bunnell on the board.
Brookfield had struck first before Eggleston’s first touchdown, a 5-yard run, cut the Bobcats lead to 7-6.
Later in the half, Eggleston scored on a 23-yard run to make it a 12-6 game in favor of the Bulldogs.
After stopping Brookfield again, Bunnell got the ball back and pushed the lead even higher.
Carrafiello scrambled out of the pocket and hit Savko on a short pass. Savko did the rest of the work, zigging and zagging his way to the end zone for an 18-7 lead with just 1:38 left in the half.
Brookfield would answer on a 51-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bunnell lead to 18-14 with just 28.5 seconds to play.
What could have been a huge moment in the game then occurred as Bunnell got greedy.
Instead of taking a knee to run out the first half (the Bulldogs would have gotten the kick-off to open the second half), Carrafiello made his lone mistake in the game, throwing a pass that was intercepted by the Bobcats.
Bunnell’s defense held on two plays, although a 32-yard field goal by the Bobcats made it an 18-17 game at the half.
“I did get greedy and that’s on me 100 percent,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes it’s a risk-reward business. Had it worked and had we gone for 60 (yards and a touchdown) I’d have been a genius.”
Holding the Bobcats to three points instead of a touchdown and giving up the lead, was big for Bunnell.
Brookfield coach Bryan Muller was just happy to get some points.
“Any time you put seven points on the board, it’s a bigger blow than going three, but we got points so I was happy with that,” Muller said.
Just a couple of plays into the second half, Smith broke loose for his first 55-yard touchdown run of the night to give Bunnell a 24-17 lead.
With 6:38 left in the third quarter, though, Bunnell’s defense could have gotten off the field on a fourth-and-three, but instead gave up the game-tying touchdown run.
After Brookfield missed a 30-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Bobcats the lead, the Bulldogs answered with Smith’s second 55-yard touchdown run of the game to take the lead for good.
Isaiah Price’s interception with 2:06 to play helped clinch the win as Bunnell ran out the clock from there.
“Listen, we fight hard, but all of our good games down to making a couple of plays,” Muller said. “Give credit to (Bunnell). They made that long touchdown run. The kid broke a couple of tackles and got in. They made the plays.”
In getting the win, Bunnell had to overcome a host of penalties and mistakes.
“We account for it now,” Jenkins said. “With so many young players, nine sophomore starters, those mistakes are going to happen, but you have to make sure they understand it and grow from it.”
Up on New Fairfield, Stratford lost again by a 41-0 score leading into Thanksgiving’s rivalry game.
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