RIDGEFIELD — Adam Biernat saw his opportunity for redemption and he took it for all it was worth.
Ridgefield’s senior placekicker had missed his previous two field goals of the night, and with the Tigers and No. 3 New Canaan tied at 14-14 with 2.4 seconds left in the game, Beirnat stood 37 yards away from becoming the hero.
“I knew it was my shot, my chance,” Biernat said. “The team is on my back, everyone is cheering, the other team is booing. I just canceled it all out and made it through.”
Biernat’s kick was good and sent Tiger Hollow into a frenzy as Ridgefield pulled off an improbable 17-14 comeback win over the Rams.
“It’s a program defining win for us,” Ridgefield head coach Kevin Callahan said. “We believe in ourselves and think we have something special this year. The best thing about this bunch is we’re a cohesive team. They love each other, play for each other and work for each other. That’s why I’m so happy for them — they have an example now that this mentality works.”
Ridgefield quarterback Owen Matthews had a career day, completing 26-of-41 passes for 399 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Gianni Gorham led Ridgefield with nine catches for 141 yards.
New Canaan seemed to have the game in hand, up 14-7 with three minutes left to play.
Faced with a third-and-seven from the New Canaan 35-yard line, Matthews found a wide-open Owen Gaydos, who slipped behind the Rams’ secondary for a game-tying touchdown.
The Rams took the ensuing drive down to the Ridgefield 39 when junior defensive back Chris Lang picked off New Canaan quarterback Drew Pyne at the 12-yard line, one of three interceptions for Tigers on the night.
After picking up a first down, Matthews threw two consecutive incompletions, bringing up third-and-10 from the Ridgefield 26.
Matthews then hit sophomore receiver Kai Prohaszka for a 53-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline, setting up the Tigers with a first down at the New Canaan 21 with 53 seconds left.
Three plays later, Biernat put the game away, wrapping his kick inside the left upright.
“It was a great football game,” New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said. “You have to tip your hat to Ridgefield, they did a hell of a job. Those kids played their hearts out. We just couldn’t control the ball enough to swing things in our favor. They did a great job against us.”
Pyne completed 17 of 28 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Zach LaPolice was New Canaan’s leading receiver with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown while junior running back Johnny Wise picked up 55 yards on 13 carries and added three receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
From the game’s early moments, it looked like the ball was bouncing Ridgefield’s way — literally.
After Biernat missed a 38-yard field goal on Ridgefield’s first possession, the Tigers drew first blood. A tipped pass from Pyne ended up in the hands of Ridgefield linebacker Danny Moroney at the New Canaan 30.
Three plays later, Matthews heaved a ball to the end zone where it was tipped into the hands of wideout Nick Agliardo for a 7-0 Tiger lead with 3:33 left in the first.
Ridgefield started the second quarter by driving down to the New Canaan 26. A sack backed them up to the 35 and Biernat’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell well short.
New Canaan seemed to find its rhythm on the ensuing drive, marching 74 yards on 12 plays to the Ridgefield 12. Moroney stepped in front of Pyne’s pass intended for LaPolice for his second pick of the game to end the drive and maintain Ridgefield’s 7-0 lead heading into the half.
The Rams tied it up on their first possession of the second half, moving 66 yards in seven plays. Pyne hit LaPolice on a screen pass and after picking up a couple of blocks, the senior co-captain took it 51 yards for a touchdown, knotting the game at 7 with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
Ridgefield appeared poised to answer after Matthews connected with senior Gianni Gorham on a 49-yard pass play, setting the Tigers up with a first-and-goal at the New Canaan six. New Canaan senior linebacker Andrew Morse, however, ripped the ball out of Matthews’ hands on a QB keeper to turn possession over to the Rams.
Eight plays later, New Canaan took its first lead of the game. Pyne’s 31-yard pass to junior running back Johnny Wise capped off an eight-play, 93-yard drive that gave the Rams a 14-7 advantage with 43 seconds left in the third.
Both teams traded punts in the fourth quarter until the final minutes, when Ridgefield pulled off the stunning comeback.
“It was the greatest feeling in the world,” Biernat said. “I’m never going to forget it.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Adam Biernat, Ridgefield. The senior placekicker, in his first year with the program, wrote his name in Tiger lore with his clutch, last-second game-winner giving Ridgefield its first win over New Canaan since 2006.
“The most important thing is that they understand now that’s what the expectation is going to be and the bar is going to be high. For them to understand and remember how they feel right now, it’s going to keep them hungry.” — Ridgefield head coach Kevin Callahan