AVON – The visiting North Branford football team had the game in their command. Or so it seemed. After Avon had taken a 14-point lead after one quarter, the Thunderbirds scored 25 consecutive points. At one point, they scored touchdowns on four straight possessions.
However, Avon hung around and make some big plays, scoring two touchdowns in the final 26.6 seconds of the fourth quarter to hand a stunned North Branford squad its first loss of the season Saturday in a 41-38 Pequot Conference shootout.
“It was an attitude adjustment in the second half,” North Branford coach Mark Basil said. “We played better and we were more aggressive. We had a few mental mistakes in the first half. In the second half, we came out with a little more assertiveness.”
Thunderbird QB Eddie Miller threw four TD passes in the game – three in the second half to Shelby Acquah-Franklin (25 yards), Josh Melaccio (8) and Austin Calamita (51). The long pass to Calamita with 3:24 left in the third period gave North Branford a 32-21 lead.
Avon (3-2) cut the lead to five on a 37-yard touchdown run from All-State linebacker Jimmy Murphy early in the fourth quarter, 32-27. But North Branford (4-1) seemed to have the game under control after a 35-yard touchdown run from Miller with 7:14 remaining and a 38-27 lead.
With 1:42 remaining, Avon forced North Branford to punt and the Falcons took over on the Thunderbird 40-yard line. Avon QB Noah Hahn, who completed 11 of 17 passes for 151 yards in the second half, completed a 21-yard pass over the middle to Stephen Griffin. Avon got another 15 yards on a North Branford penalty because Griffin had his helmet ripped off on the tackle.
A 17-yard completion from Hahn to Justin Reichler put the ball on the North Branford 7 with 1:12 remaining. Two plays later, Hahn completed a 7-yard pass to Murphy with 26.6 seconds later. An attempted two-point conversion run failed and North Branford led, 38-33.
On the kickoff, Avon kicker John Burdick belted the ball off a North Branford defender. The ball sailed up into the air and Murphy leaped, grabbing the ball in mid-air. He landed and got it to the Avon 46-yard line before getting tackled.
A pass in the flat from Hahn to Murphy gained 28 yards to the Avon 26-yard line. The Falcons called timeout with 17.8 seconds remaining. On the next play, Hahn found Reichler running down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 11.4 seconds left. Hahn’s pass to Luke Meaney for the two-point conversion made the score, 41-38.
Murphy and the Falcon football family were playing with heavy hearts. Murphy’s uncle, Michael, who played football at Avon in 1979 and 1980, died unexpectedly earlier in the week.
Avon 41, North Branford 38
North Branford (4-1) 0 6 26 6 — 38
Avon (3-2) 14 0 7 20 — 41
- A: Jimmy Murphy 6 run (John Burdick kick), 6:24
- A: Justin Reichler 89 pass from Noah Hahn (Burdick kick), 0:24
- NB: Austin Calamita 51 pass from Eddie Miller (kick blocked), 1:35
- NB: Shelby Acquah-Franklin 25 pass from Miller (run fails), 11:37
- NB: Calamita 35 interception return (run fails), 10:42
- NB: Josh Melaccio 8 pass from Miller (Acquah-Franklin kick), 7:09
- A: Stephen Griffin 54 run (Burdick kick), 5:58
- NB: Calamita 67 pass from Miller (Acquah-Franklin kick), 3:24
- A: Murphy 37 run (pass fails), 11:49
- NB: Miller 35 run (pass fails), 7:14
- A: Murphy 7 pass from Hahn (run fails), 26.6
- A: Reichler 26 pass from Hahn (Luke Meaney pass from Hahn), 11.4