FAIRFIELD >> It was the type of play you dream of making when you’re a little kid.
With the clock winding down and his team trailing by four points to Fairfield Prep in front of a couple thousand fans at Alumni Field, St. Joseph’s Jordan Vazzano took the snap, stepped back and heaved a Hail Mary pass down the right side of the field.
A streaking Lards Pedersen caught the ball for the game-winning 42-yard touchdown. All that was left was a Prep defender who had fallen down and a gleaming scoreboard that read “St. Joes 36, Fairfield Prep 34” with the clock at zeros.
“I don’t know, it was our last shot, and I threw it up and (Lars) made a great catch,” Vazzano said.
It was an oh-so-fitting ending to a historic Friday night involving St. Joe’s (2-0) and Prep (1-1). Rivals for decades, this was the first time the two schools played since 1993, when Prep won 18-12.
“This was a great rivalry a long time ago,” Fairfield Prep head coach Tom Shea said. “We haven’t seen each other in 20 years. I played in the first and second St. Joe’s games. But clearly there’s a lot of respect, I think, between the schools, and clearly each school wants to beat the other school. That added to some of the intensity, but they’re an outstanding football team and we had them on the ropes and let them slip out.”
Vazzano finished the game 29 of 46 for 378 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Pedersen had seven catches for 112 yards and two scores. Teammate Shane Miller added 11 catches for 180 yards, three touchdowns and a 52-yard run. The game-winning drive was led by Vazzano, who connected with Pederson for 12 yards, Miller for another 5 and Darren Jackson for 8.
“Defintiely the most exciting play of my career,” Vazzano said with a smile.
Down 30-14 headed to the fourth quarter, the Jesuits made an impressive rally in the final 12 minutes. Led by the brilliant play of junior quarterback Colton Smith, Prep’s Nicholas Crowle scored off a 1-yard TD to make it 30-20.
The Prep defense then recovered a fumbled handoff and immediately collected two first downs. Smith capped off the drive with a 36-yard dash to the end zone to make it a three-point game after the extra point went through.
With less than six minutes to play, Prep’s defense held Vazzano in check, highlighted by a pass breakup by Stephen Walsh to force the Cadets to punt. With the ball in hand and three minutes remaining, Smith drove his team down the field — running for 18 yards and then punching it in from the 10-yard line to give Prep the 34-30 advantage with 58.6 seconds remaining in the game.
He stepped up,” Shea said of Smith’s play. “He did a great job for us.”
Smith finished the night with 137 passing yards and ran for 94. Ganim had 108 on the ground.
Shea said the team didn’t lose the game just because of the final play. Throughout the night, Prep accumulated 12 penalties and hurt itself multiple times, stalling any momentum that was gained.
“We did our best to hamstring ourselves,” he said. “That was clearly a problem.”
St. Joseph 36, Fairfield Prep 34
St. Joseph 6 12 12 6 0 — 36
Fairfield Prep 0 7 7 20 0 — 34
S—Shane Miller 15 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Kick no good)
F—Joe Ganim 6 run (Kick good by Morrison)
S—Shane Miller 18 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Vazzano pass no good)
S—Lars Pedersen 6 run (Vazzano pass no good)
S—Shane Miller 78 run (Kick no good)
F—Andrew Johnson 18 pass from John Delisanti (Kick by Morrison)
S—Shane Miller 52 run (Kick no good)
F—Nick Crowle 1 run (Smith pass no good)
F—Colton Smith 36 run (Morrison kick )
F—Colton Smith 10 run (Morrison kick)
S—Lars Pedersen 42 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Game over)
Rushing—SJ: Shane Miller, 1-52;
Receiving—SJ: Lars Pedersen, 7-112; Shane Miller, 11-180;
Passing—SJ: Jordan Vazzano, 29-46-378-1;
Team records: Fairfield Prep 1-1; St. Joseph 2-0