Gutsy Pingree fails to convert
The most crucial decision of Pingree coach Chris Powers’s season really wasn’t so tough for him to make.
After Nick Antenucci scored on a 17-yard run with 1:10 left in regulation to bring the Highlanders to within a point of Rye Country Day, Powers was faced with the decision: kick the extra point to tie the score, or go for the 2-point conversion to all but win it.
Powers opted for the latter.
“It’s what the kids wanted to do, it’s what the coaches wanted to do, so we went for it,’’ he said. Antenucci agreed with the decision.
“I love it,’’ he said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do.’’
However, the junior running back took the handoff from Jerome Cappadona and was stuffed near the line of scrimmage by Rye’s Dan Alderson-Smith. Pingree’s subsequent onside kick was recovered by Rye’s Sam Stern, and the Wildcats held on for a 27-26 victory yesterday in the Dan Rorke Bowl at Loomis Chaffee’s Pratt Field in Windsor, Conn.
“This was an outstanding game,’’ Powers said. “You look back at three years in a row for us, the games have been right down to the wire and they’ve been exciting. Those are memories you can never take away.’’
Pingree had won its past two NEPSAC Bowl games down to the wire before falling short yesterday. The Highlanders finished 7-2 overall; Rye completed a perfect 10-0 season.
Rye took a 21-6 lead midway through the second quarter despite having three touchdowns (including a 90-yard kick return) called back on penalties. But Cappadona scored on a 39-yard run, and after Rye failed to convert on a fake punt, the Highlanders took over at the Rye 43 with 19 seconds left in the half. On third-and-12, Cappadona connected with bruising tight end Kyle Lentini on a 45-yard scoring play as time expired.
“Jerome threw a nice ball, Kyle made a great catch and lowered his shoulder into the end zone,’’ Powers said. “It was a great pick-me-up for us, one that we needed.’’
Cappadona ran in the 2-point conversion to get Pingree within 21-20 at the half.
Neither team scored on the first three possessions in the second half until Stern reached the end zone on a 27-yard scamper with 7:20 left to play. The extra-point attempt was wide right.
Pingree seemed primed to tie the score or take the lead when Cappadona took a keeper from the Rye 9 and appeared set to dive into the end zone from about the 2. But Rye’s Garrette Washington stripped him of the ball and Stern recovered in the end zone with 3:08 to play. Rye couldn’t notch a first down to clinch the victory, however, and Pingree took over on its 32 with less than two minutes left. A 46-yard connection from Cappadona to Luis Rodriguez brought the ball to the Rye 17, and Antenucci scored on the next play.
Then came the decision.
“We’ve struggled with extra points all year long,’’ Powers said. “They battled hard, you’ve got to give the boys a shot to try and win it, right then and there.’’
Cappadona rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and also completed 11 of 21 passes for 207 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Antenucci ran for 88 yards on 10 carries and made three receptions for 45 yards. Lentini also had three catches for 76 yards.
Norm Walker Bowl
Taft 28, Kent 18 - Alex Huard returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown and the Rhinos used their potent ground game (152 yards) to capture the Norm Walker Bowl.
Martha’s Vineyard 10, Nantucket 7 - In the Island Cup, Ryan Fisher preserved the victory with an interception on the 11-yard line with 27 seconds left.
Tri-County 29, Old Colony 14 - Tyler Kaufman rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown for the Cougars (8-2).