Trinity beats Warde on last-second field goal
STAMFORD -- One of the FCIAC's last grass football fields has become the site of a great resurgence.
At Alumni Field Saturday, Trinity Catholic High School senior Sam Ruzzi kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1.1 seconds left to play, lifting the Crusaders to a 17-14 victory over Warde.
"It was absolutely the biggest kick of my life," Ruzzi said.
Ruzzi's fantastic finish left Trinity Catholic with a spotless and surprising 3-0 overall record and 2-0 in the FCIAC.
Welcome to Crusadermania 2014. A far cry from the 0-11 Trinity ledger in 2013.
"This 3-0 start to the season, it means so much to the entire school and the Trinity Catholic football program," Crusaders' second-year coach Donny Panapada said. "I said last year we were building the foundation. Our success this year proves it wasn't lip service."
Warde (2-1, 1-1 FCIAC) scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half, but that was it for the error-prone Mustangs.
Ruzzi's game-winning field goal was the icing on the cake to his afternoon. The senior ran for 14 yards and a first down on a punt fake which led to Trinity Catholic's second-quarter touchdown. Ruzzi also booted a 70-yard punt (which had some good bounces) to the Warde 10 which completely changed field position in the fourth quarter.
Trinity senior defensive back Justin Pryzpek played linebacker most of the fourth quarter for the first time in his high school career.
"Warde is a good team. Our teams are similar. We have hard-nosed guys on both sides of the ball," Panapada said. "We just made one more play than they did. But we had kids (some freshmen and sophomores) step up all over the place."
Trinity Catholic took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in 12 plays. On fourth down and 3 from the Warde 14, Crusader quarterback Anthony Lombardi found tight end Thomas Costigan in the corner of the end zone. Costigan made a one-hand circus catch for the touchdown before Courtlyn Victrum ran in the two-point conversion as Trinity lead 8-0 with 5:53 left in the first quarter.
"We went for two points on the touchdown because we wanted to put Warde in a position to chase points," Panapada said.
It became 14-0 Trinity with 4:18 left in the second quarter when Randy Polonia's 8-yard scoring run around left end capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive. The pass for two points failed.
Down two scores, Warde finally got untracked.
The Mustangs' passing attack went into high gear as Warde marched 80 yards in seven plays (six passes). Joey Potenza caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brandon Bisack. Chris Jones' conversion kick cut it to 14-7 with 1:28 left before intermission.
Warde used its timeouts and held Trinity to a three and out before regaining possession on the Crusaders' 46 with 37.7 seconds left.
Jones' PAT made it 14-14 at halftime.
"I was concerned as I entered the locker room at halftime," Panapada said. "But then I saw the look in the players' eyes. They were more upset about it than I was. One of our mottos when something goes wrong is `Turn the Page. It's history.' "
But Warde kept the momentum. TJ Gallagher returned the second-half kickoff to the TC 43. On fourth-and-goal from the Crusaders' 13, Trinity Catholic sophomore Sean Sullins made an interception in the end zone to kill that drive.
Returning to action Thursday against New Canaan leaves little time for Warde to analyze Saturday's game film.
In all, the Mustangs committed a fumble, two interceptions, 13 penalties for 140 yards (with more declined) as well three turnovers on downs.
"My post-game theme to the kids is you have to take the game seriously," Dellavolpe said. "If you don't practice at 100 percent, all these miscues show up on game day. We didn't execute. Too many penalties, turnovers, missed assignments. We covered it all today. You can't win in the FCIAC like this."
The officials also called nine penalties for 80 yards against Trinity.
On the final drive, Trinity took over on its own 33 with 3:12 left to play tied at 14-14. The big play to set up Ruzzi's field goal was a 45-yard completion from Lombardi to Polonia down the left sideline to reach the Warde 12.
Trinity Catholic 17, Warde 14
WARDE 0 14 0 0 --14
TRINITY CATHOLIC 8 6 0 3 --17
TC -- Thomas Costigan 14 pass from Anthony Lombardi (Courtlyn Victrum run)
TC -- Randy Polonia 8 run (pass failed)
W -- Joey Potenza 5 pass from Brandon Bisack (Chris Jones kick)
W -- Potenza 58 option pass from Nick Nardone (Jones kick)
TC -- Sam Ruzzi 22 field goal (1.1 seconds left)
Records: Warde 2-1, 1-1 FCIAC; Trinity Catholic 3-0, 2-0 FCIAC.