BRIDGEPORT - After fumbling for the second time in successive series late in the third quatrter, Warde’s Jack Curtis knew what he had to do.

He had to make a play.

“After that second fumble I really thought that I owed my team. I felt that I’d let everyone down and I knew I had to make it up,” Curtis said. “I knew I needed to make a play on offense or defense and if I did, I knew the team would step up. So, I stepped my game up.”

That’s exactly what he did.

Down 15 points to Harding with just over 11 minutes to play, Curtis didn’t just make one play, he made several.

With 8:28 left, Curtis scored on a two-yard run to make it 28-20 and with 1:08 to play, he recovered a Harding fumble at the Presidents 34-yard line and it was his 22-yard reception with six seconds left that set up a potential game-winning 40-yard field goal by David Summers (it just missed wide left). Then in OT, Curtis scored to put Warde in front and then made a great play on defense to force an incompletion and help seal a 36-28 overtime win last Friday night at Kennedy Stadium.

“He was extremely upset when he fumbled that second time,” Warde coach Duncan DellaVolpe said. “But he stepped up tonight. He carried us from the end of the third quarter, through the fourth, and he gave us a chance to win it in regulation. He’s a gamer.”

Curtis carried the ball 23 times for 56 tough yards and caught four passes for 36 yards, scoring two touchdowns. He also recovered a fumble and nearly sacked the quarterback in overtime, which led to a crucial incompletion.

It was the first win of the season for Warde (1-4) and the first loss of the season for Harding (1-4).

“It’s a big win because we were down, we were behind and Harding is a good team,” DellaVolpe said. “They’re athletic, they put us in bad spots, so it was important that we finally came out and executed in the second half, so I’m happy about that. I think this might be the wake-up call that we needed.”

Over the first half, Harding had Warde on the run as the Presidents racked up 342 yards and held a 20-6 lead thanks to three touchdown passes from quarterback Eric Jones. But in the second half, Harding managed just one more touchdown and just 139 total yards - thanks to an emotional halftime speech from DellaVolpe.

“I don’t know it was emotional but it was to the point,” DellaVolpe said. “We just haven’t played good football all year and I didn’t care if we were going to play good in the second half, I just wanted us to play with emotion and toughness and heart. And that was the best half of football I’ve seen in a while.”

The play of the night came with 7:13 left and the Presidents holding an eight-point lead when Harding coach Eddie Santiago called for a pass on fourth down from the Presidents two-yard line. It went incomplete and two plays later, Warde had tied the game.

“That was my call. I’ll take that one,” Sanitago said. “It was just unfortunate that we didn’t get it off. We thought we saw something on film that we could get and we didn’t get it. You want to win every one and we were excited about this one because it was an FCIAC school but we made a few mistakes and Warde won the game.”

Trey Saulnier caught touchdown passes of 11 and 16 yards from quarterback David Summers, who completed 24 of 39 passes for 205 yards. Saulnier caught four passes for 63 yards.

“At the start of the season, we had high expectations and I think the losses we’ve had have come from lack of execution,” Curtis said. “And in the second half we executed and I think that was the key to winning. In the first half, they were taking it to us and in the second half we took it to them. We played physical, we played hard and that was the key.”

celsberry@ctpost.com elsctpost@Twitter.com

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