Fairfield Prep rolls, 37-22, over Law
After a 13-game losing streak and winless 2009 season, any victory is important for Fairfield Prep's first-year head coach Tom Shea. Despite a 37-22 win over Jonathan Law in Milford on Friday night, Shea was not overjoyed.
The losing streak is now a thing of the past and expectations for the Jesuits are much higher.
"I was happy with the win, but not about the way we played," said Shea, who would have liked to have seen a stronger performance from his defense and offensive line.
"To score 37 points you should be able to take control of the line of scrimmage and we didn't. We have to work harder," he said.
The Jesuits (2-2, 1-2 Southern Conn. Conference) forced five turnovers to hold on for the victory at Jonathan Law Field, bouncing back from a loss to Wilbur Cross. Law (0-3, 0-3) moved the ball well on the ground (168 yards), but Prep was able to force timely offensive errors by the Lawmen to secure the win.
Last season, Law defeated Prep 33-7 and the Jesuits quarterback C.J. Donohue said his team marked this year's meeting on the calendar long ago.
"Tonight was a huge game and we really stepped up in a big situation. We've been playing these guys since freshman year and it was a great win," said the senior captain Donohue (10-16, two touchdowns). "After last year, which was tough, we are on track now."
Donohue also ran for 50 yards and a touchdown. The Prep offense was led on the ground by fellow captain Kyle Vignone, who had 60 rushing yards.
Shea continued the theme he has been preaching to his players all season, we are moving forward, but we need to win now.
"It's progress," Shea said. "I'm remembering where we started, but I'm greedy in that regard. We are building a program and this is a foundation."
It was a tough first quarter for the Lawmen, who did not convert a first down or complete a pass, playing all three of their drives in their own half of the field.
But the second quarter could not have started better. On the second play, Donohue fumbled and Law's Chris Laporte pounced on the ball, giving the Lawmen their first possession in Jesuits territory. Seven plays later, Law's Kenny Patrick (seven catches) caught a Ryan Falaguerra touchdown pass to cut Prep's lead to 10-7.
The Jesuits answered five minutes later as McBride scored his second touchdown of the game, this time a seven-yard run to increase the Prep lead to 16-7, following a missed extra point. The Law offense continued to grind down Prep's front line, moving the ball on the ground and scoring on a three-yard rush by Mark Elliott to complete a 16-play drive. But again, the Jesuits responded.
Leading 16-14 with just over two minutes left in the half they converted a third down and Donohue connected on a 50-yard pass to Vinny McAvey (five catches), followed by a touchdown pass to Dillon Ryan giving Prep a 23-14 halftime lead.
"We thought we could hit a play and we did and that ended up being a big difference. It gave us a little momentum and helped us separate a little bit," Shea said.
Then, in the second half, the Jesuit defense stepped up. The first four drives of the half resulted in turnovers for the Lawmen (fumble, three interceptions). Prep was able to score 14 points off the turnovers. The first touchdown came on a 40-yard Donohue rush after a Shane Dempsey interception giving the Jesuits a 30-14 lead. Dean Duffy added a 50-yard touchdown run after a Michael Niche interception on the next drive.
"Turnovers are key," Shea said. "Credit to our defense that we got some turnovers, but we gave up a lot of yards."
Law cut the Jesuits' lead to two touchdowns on a one-yard Josh Patterson run with 8:47 left in the game. A 2-point conversion made the score 37-22. But Prep's defense did not fold again, holding on for the victory.
"Prep is a good team, they are a lot better than they were last year and we knew they would be," said Law Coach Mark Robinson.
Donohue said he hopes this momentum will carry them to an "upset victory," next week, but the task is a tough one for the Jesuits, who match up with Xavier, a team ranked No. 1 in most state polls.
"This is the SCC so there is never a break," said Shea. "Law is one of the smaller teams that we play in our league and look at these guys, they are big and they are strong. It's not like other leagues where some of the teams you play aren't very good.
"But this is our conference and we love it," he said.
Fairfield Prep travels to Middletown to take on Xavier (4-0) at Palmer Field on Friday at 7 p.m.