TORRINGTON – The game was on the verge of getting away from the Capital Prep/Achievement First co-op football team early in the third quarter of Saturday’s Class S Small semifinal against Canton.
The Trailblazers trailed by 13 points and after two mistakes on their first series of the third quarter, Canton had the ball, first and goal, on the Capital Prep/AF 9-yard line.
But the Trailblazers didn’t wilt. They sacked Canton quarterback Cam Daley for a six-yard loss on first down. Canton was penalized for holding on second down. After an incompletion, it was fourth down and goal from the 23. Under pressure, Daley threw downfield and was intercepted by Capital Prep/AF’s Dexter Lawson who weaved his way 61 yards upfield to the Canton 29-yard line.
Five plays later, Capital Prep scored and was back in the ballgame.
The Trailblazers scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to become the first Constitution State Conference team to win a CIAC football playoff game with a rousing 28-20 decision over Canton in a steady rain at the Robert H. Sports Complex at Torrington High.
Capital Prep/AF (11-1) will play North Branford for the Class S Small state championship next weekend.
“That turned the game around for us,” Capital Prep/AF coach Chris Fulton said. “We gave them some big plays early. We just had to persevere.”
“That was a huge, huge moment in the game, no doubt,” agreed Canton coach Paul Philippon. “People talk about momentum all the time and you could clearly see it more from one sideline to another and we couldn’t wrestle it back.”
Capital Prep/AF took Canton out of their comfort zone. The Trailblazers had 12 tackles for a loss. They limited Canton to just 42 yards rushing in the second half and the Warriors took to the air, something they have had limited success with in 2014.
“They outplayed us,” Philippon said. “There were certainly winning most of the one-on-one battles. We were just getting beat. When a team takes away your inside game, takes away your outside game and the misdirection you’ve used all year, it’s because the other team is doing something really good. They certainly earned the win and we tip our hats to them.”
“This feels great,” Fulton said. “The kids have been through so much this week and we’ve lost games like this before when we’ve gotten down. We adjusted.”
Capital’s junior quarterback Rayshawn Phillips had an excellent game completing 18-of-28 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Phillips ran for a team-high 106 yards and the other two touchdowns. Throughout halftime, he walked through the locker room buoying the spirits of his teammates on both sides of the ball. “We’ll get it done, “ he told his teammates. “We’re the better team.”
After Lawson’s interception and the 61-yard return, Capital took over on the Canton 29 and promptly lost nine yards on a mishandled snap. An illegal motion penalty pushed Capital back another five yards.
But Phillips scrambled for 13 yards and on the next play, he hit Jakai Gill for a 14-yard gain and a first down. Terrell Boseman caught a seven-yard pass from Phillips to cut the Canton lead to 21-14 with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
On its next drive, Canton drove to the Capital Prep 40-yard line. But on fourth down and one, the Trailblazer defense didn’t give up a yard and Canton turned the ball over on downs.
Capital Prep marched 60 yards on five plays in 1:03 to score on a 12-yard run by Phillips with 3:27 left in the third quarter. The conversion run failed and Canton still held a slight 21-20 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Phillips converted on a 66-yard pass to Boseman, who broke a few tackles and snuck down the left sideline to the Canton 16-yard line. A few plays later, Phillips scored from the two with 8:52 remaining. The conversion pass to Nasir Williams was good to give the Trailblazers their first lead of the day, 28-21.
Canton (10-2) gained just one first down on its remaining two possessions.
“We had our chance and we actually did it,” Capital defensive lineman Sidney Jones said. “It feels great. We learned from previous games. You can’t get discouraged. We just have to keep working. We gave them the first half. It was our time in the second half.”
Canton, making its first-ever CIAC football playoff appearance, took a 14-0 lead on a four-yard run from Dan Delos and a 80-yard run by Sebby Gumbs down the left sideline. The Trailblazers cut the lead to six on a 19-yard pass from Phillips to Lawson and a two-point conversion pass to Jakob Verda with 1:38 remaining in the second quarter.
Canton took a 21-8 lead when Daley found Melton behind the Trailblazer defense for a 65-yard touchdown pass with 1:00 minute left in the first half. It was just the fourth TD pass of the year for the Warriors and its longest TD pass. Gumbs led Canton with 119 yards rushing on 17 carries.
For Capital, Boseman caught four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Capital Prep/AF 28, Canton 21
Canton 0 21 0 0 — 21
Capital Prep/AF 0 8 12 8 — 28
C — Dan Delos 4 run (Eddie Melton kick), 11:55
C — Sebby Gumbs 80 run (Melton kick), 9:42
CP/AF — Dexter Lawson 19 pass from Rayshawn Phillips (Jakob Verda pass from Phillips), 1:38
C — Melton 65 pass from Cam Daley (Melton kick), 1:00
CP/AF — Terrell Boseman 16 pass from Phillips (pass fails), 6:53
CP/AF — Phillips 12 run (run fails), 3:27
CP/AF — Phillips 2 run (Nasir Williams pass from Phillips), 8:52