Harding coach Cochran misses team's loss
FAIRFIELD -- It was such a crazy play that offensive coordinators never would imagine victory coming from anything of the like, even in their wildest dreams. Conversely, defensive coordinators would never suffer a nightmare over such an unlikely play spelling doom.
But it happened nevertheless.
In reality, Ludlowe benefitted from a triple-deflection for a long come-from-behind touchdown reception that erased a three-touchdown fourth-quarter rally by Harding Saturday afternoon at Taft Field in an FCIAC football game. Falcons wide receiver Michael Arman saw the ball bounce off his hands, bound off a falling defender before ricocheting off teammate Patrick O'Leary's facemask and into his hands. Startled, and with the ball in his possession, he raced another 30-plus yards for a 66-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that lifted the Falcons to a 35-31 victory.
"I didn't realize what happened," said Arman, whose Falcons stand at 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the FCIAC following the win.
A mere 20 seconds earlier, it was his punt near the goal line with Ludlowe leading by 29-25 that was blocked and scooped up by Jahzaari Mullins for the Presidents' go-ahead touchdown and a 31-29 lead.
Harding's second straight loss sent the Presidents to records of 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the conference. They played without head coach Jack Cochran, who missed the game with "a minor health problem," said Bridgeport city-wide athletic director Neil Kavey. While attempts to reach Cochran Saturday night were unsuccessful, one social media report appeared to confirm that's what happened.
"It went straight to my hands," said Arman, a senior who will play baseball at Central Connecticut and decided earlier this year to play football for the first time since eighth grade.
Harding kept rallying, and momentum had been firmly wrestled from the Falcons before the wacky pass from Ludlowe senior Matt White turned into the decisive play.
"We've got to stay disciplined," said Presidents' defensive coordinator Eddie Santiago, filling in for Cochran. "There were all mental errors on the field. We cannot come down 14 points and expect to play in the fourth quarter. We came out flat for the second straight week. We cannot do that."
The Presidents, though, almost got away with it.
A 30-yard touchdown pass by White to Stephan Zadravec and a 71-yard run by Jimmy Gasper through middle of Harding's defense gave Ludlowe a 14-0 lead within the first nine minutes. Then Harding began to rally. Two plays after Gasper's run, Antoine Sistrunk scored on 1-yard run that was set up by his 64-yard catch-and-run play the play before. It was 14-7 Ludlowe entering the second quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Presidents' quarterback Christian Hopkins raced around the right side for a 17-yard scoring run, and Harding trailed 14-13 when the running conversion failed. Gasper scored on a 1-yard run to give the Falcons a 22-13 lead at halftime. And their lead grew to 29-13 on a three-yard touchdown carry by Warren Davis midway through the third quarter.
Then Harding struck.
Reggie David busted free for an 89-yard touchdown run with three Presidents' receivers lined up to the right side almost three minutes into the fourth quarter. Jeffery Rogers than recovered a Ludlowe fumble and ran 33 yards for a touchdown that made it 29-25 Falcons 67 seconds later. Harding's defense held firm on the next possession for the Falcons, leading to Arman's blocked punt by Mullins that he returned 11 yards for the Presidens' go-ahead touchdown.
"It wasn't pretty," Ludlowe coach Vince Camera said. "This is not how we would have designed it.
"Our defense looked good at times, then gave up (yardage) on the edge. Up front, we played well in the first half, then we got a little stale in the second half. Our defense was not really consistent. We're not going to cry about it (giving up the lead); we weren't going to lie down. We talk about playing the next play, and that's what we did."
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FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 35, HARDING 31
HARDING 7 6 0 18--31
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 14 8 7 6--35
FL--Jimmy Gasper 71 run (Kottler kick)
H--Antoine Sistrunk 5 run (D.J. Smith kick)
H--Christian Hopkins 17 run (run failed)
FL--Gasper 1 run (Patrick O'Leary pass White)
FL--Warren Davis 3 run (Kottler kick)
H--Reggie David 89 run (pass fails)
H--Jeffery Rogers 33 fumble recovery (run failed)
H--Jahzaari Mullins 11 blocked punt (kick failed)
FL--Michael Arman 66 pass White (pass failed)
Records: Harding 2-2, 1-2 FCIAC; Fairfield Ludlowe 3-1, 2-1 FCIAC