STRATFORD—The Bunnell football team may have been one play away from giving Ty Jenkins his first victory as the Bulldogs’ coach.
But a faked punt turned around the game as Fitch scored three touchdowns in the final 5:06 to keep Bunnell winless with a 26-7 victory Friday at Mastroni Field.
Having just taken a 7-6 lead on Jovan Eggleston’s 2-yard touchdown run with exactly seven minutes remaining, the Bulldogs (0-3) forced a fourth down on Fitch’s ensuing possession.
But on fourth-and-4 from the Falcons’ 38, quarterback Joshua Letellier completed a 9-yard pass to Noah Charron on the right sideline to keep the drive alive.
Three plays later, Ethan Mojica ripped off a 46-yard TD run down the left sideline to put the Falcons (2-1) ahead for good at 13-7 with just over five minutes remaining.
”It was a great ball,” Jenkins said. “(Letellier) threw a big ball. (Charron) caught in on the sideline. It was a controversial call. (The refs) gave it to him and my hat is off to (Fitch) coach (Mike) Ellis on that call. That’s a gutsy call on fourth-and-4.
”We were one play away from getting the ball back and running four plays and putting the game away,” Jenkins added.
After allowing 98 points in season-opening losses to Barlow and North Haven, Bunnell’s defense dominated for more than three quarters, keeping the Bulldogs in the game.
Before Mojica’s touchdown, the Bulldogs had allowed only two runs of more than 10 yards.
The Falcons had a major territorial edge in the first half in terms of field position, crossing midfield on all five of their possessions.
But the only score Bunnell allowed in the first half came on Letellier’s 2-yard TD run with 2:07 left in the second quarter — and the drive was aided by penalties against Bunnell on consecutive plays.
Evan Burdy’s extra point caromed off the right crossbar and for a while, it appeared that could be a crucial play in determining the outcome of the contest.
“We’re playing with a lot of sophomores on the field, “Jenkins said. “We’re still down what I think is one of the best linebackers in the state (James Savko, who remains sidelined with a wrist injury).
”We’re still without our starting quarterback (Brian Ciarrafiello, who remains ineligible), so we’re plugging in the pieces and the young guys stepped up and played very well tonight. It came down to assignment football and we missed two assignments.”
Still, Bunnell managed minus-eight yards of total offense in the first half, turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions, and twice snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Dylan Vancho.
Bunnell got a huge break hen it recovered a mishandled punt at the Falcons’ 25 midway through the third period, but the momentum was short-lived as the Bulldogs fumbled just two plays later.
Eggleston finally provided an offensive spark with some power running on the Bulldogs’ lone scoring drive, starting with a 40-yard burst up the middle that set Bunnell up at the Falcons’ 20.
Eggleston added runs of three and six yards, sandwiched around Vancho’s 9-yard completion to Tyler Staggs on 3rd-and-7 from the 17, leaving Bunnell with second-and-goal from the 2.
Eggleston plowed in on the next play, capping an eight-play, 68-yard drive, and Dom Gerardi’s extra point gave the Bulldogs’ a 7-6 lead.
Unfortunately for Bunnell, however, things began to unravel following the successful fake punt.
Following Mojica’s score, an interception by Lashier Edwards on Bunnell’s next possession set up Charron’s 14-yard TD reception with 2:56 remaining.
James Deichler capped the scoring by returning a 38-yard interception for a touchdown in the final minute.
”We just weren’t clicking (on offense),” Jenkins added. “We had a few bad snaps today that threw it off and got us off a game plan a little bit.
”We needed to make big plays and we couldn’t do that so we had to make some changes. We went to the Wishbone but again, on third-and-7 there’s only so much you can do out of the Wishbone.”
The Bulldogs will again look for their first win next Friday at Masuk.
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