Tied against a scrappy opponent -- with its state playoff hopes hanging in the balance -- the Fairfield Prep football team found itself in uncharted territory in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
The senior scored the go-ahead touchdown with just 4:16 left and Prep eked out a 27-20 win over Hamden at Alumni Field.
"Relieved is how I am, we came close to losing this," Prep coach Tom Shea said. "For some reason we didn't give them the respect they deserve and we almost paid the ultimate price for it."
Joseph Ganim and John Moten both also rushed for touchdowns for Prep and Golger also caught a touchdown pass as the Jesuits improved to 5-1. Prep -- which had outscored its opposition 175-9 in its four previous wins -- remains locked into Class LL's last playoff seed, edging out Ridgefield and West Haven thanks to tiebreakers with just four games left.
"Good teams find ways to win," Golger said. "That's what we did. We never gave up."
"I think it was a great game," Hamden assistant coach Todd Dowty said. "We stepped up our game and they stepped up their game."
Trailing 20-12 with less than 10 minutes left, Bonadies orchestrated a nine-play, 78 yard drive in less than five minutes. The senior quarterback capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown throw to Trevor Perry making it 20-18. Then Bonadies hit Derrick Bonaparte for the two-point conversion, tying the game at 20 with just 5:44 left.
But Prep answered in just 1:23, as Golger bulled through the line on third-and-1 at the 50, and broke free, putting the Jesuits back ahead, 27-20.
"I give all the credit to the line," Golger said. "They opened a huge hole for me. All I had to make was one cut and I was gone."
Matt Montani's leaping interception with 3:30 left on Hamden's subsequent drive capped Prep's victory.
"He read it, dropped back in a zone and made a play on the ball," Shea said. "It's what we practiced and it's rewarding as a coach to see the guys do what you drill them on ... and get a great result."
After failing to score when Prep fumbled the opening kickoff, the upstart Dragons scored first on their second possession when Bonadies found Atkinson on fourth-and-7 for a 24-yard touchdown strike, giving Hamden a 6-0 lead just 4:35 into the game.
Atkinson's stunning, 75-yard, catch-and-run became the Dragons' second touchdown, cutting Prep's advantage to 14-12 late in the third quarter.
"We came out slow," Golger said. "When you let a team like that hang around, they're going to get you."
But Prep answered that score with a nine-play, 64-yard drive, capped by Backe's seven-yard pass to Golger that enhanced Prep's advantage to 20-12.
HAMDEN 6 0 6 8-- 20
FAIRFIELD PREP 7 0 7 13-- 27
H-- Eli Bonadies 24 pass to Derrick Atkinson (pass failed)
FP-- Joseph Ganim 3 run (Coyle kick)
H-- Bonadies 75 pass to Atkinson (pass failed)
FP-- Strecker Backe 7 pass to Chris Golger (kick failed)
H-- Bonadies 15 pass to Trevor Perry (Bonadies to Derrick Bonaparte)
FP-- Golger 50 run (Coyle kick)
Records: FP-- 5-1; H-- 1-5.