BRIDGEPORT — Jamai Duncan seriously considered not playing football this season.
The Bullard-Havens junior went to take a look at the season’s opening practice to give new coach Chris Pace a look-see. The next day, he rejoined the team.
On a cloud-covered Saturday afternoon at Kennedy Stadium, Duncan came up with two huge defensive plays on fourth down to give his Tigers a 14-8, come-from-behind win over Abbott Tech-Immaculate.
The victory kept Bullard-Havens undefeated at 5-0 on the season. ATI slipped to 3-2.
While Duncan thought about not playing this fall, Pace can’t take him off the field now.
“He was a guy that was on the fence about playing and we talked to him,” Pace said. “He’s very athletic and more than that he’s got a great attitude and he’s a great kid to coach. He’s flying all around and making plays for us. He doesn’t come off the field for us.”
Duncan recovered a fumble in the red zone to thwart one ATI drive in the second quarter and had a huge pass deflection on fourth down with 5:25 left to play to help the Tigers secure the victory.
“I did really good today,” Duncan said. “It was a helluva job by my defense. In the first half, we were alright but in the second half we did a lot better. Our defense came out really tight.”
In addition to prowess on defense, Duncan had a bit role in the Bullard-Havens’ offense, racking up 65 total yards—53 in the air on three catches and a 12-yard run.
“I went to practice on the first day and it was really good,” Duncan said. “The next day, I decided I’d play football again. I wanted to be a part of the change on the team. I’m feeling good right now.”
Duncan is just the latest player to step up and have a big game for the Tigers, Pace said.
“I told the guys after the game, the beauty about us is we’ve got different guys stepping up every week,” Pace said. “This week it was Jamai, last week it was somebody different. We’re a more dangerous team because we’re not relying on one guy and we pick each other up.”
Bullard-Havens, which has made a habit out of playing from behind this season, did so again on Saturday.
Trailing 8-0 and 8-6 at the half, the Tigers roared back to take the lead on the opening drive of the second half.
An Eddie Holmes 7-yard run got things off to a good start and seven plays later he burst in from the 2-yard line to give Bullard-Havens a 12-8 lead. Holmes 2-point conversion pushed the lead to 14-8.
“In the locker room, all (Pace) kept saying was, ‘This is it, this is it,” Holmes said. “We had to come out for the second half strong.”
While the offense got the lead, it was Bullard-Havens’ defense which preserved it.
After giving up 186 total yards in the first half, the Tigers only surrendered 62 in the second half.
“We just motivate ourselves,” Duncan said. “We get a little down, but in the second half we turn it up.”
AN IMMACULATE START
Things started well for the United as they jumped on top 2-0 by forcing a fumble out of the Bullard-Havens end zone.
Following the Tigers’ free kick, Abbott Tech-Immaculate went 58 yards in four plays—aided by a hit-to-the-head personal foul of 15 yards, as well.
With 5:20 left in the first quarter, it was Matt Christe sweeping left for a 38-yard touchdown run and an 8-0 United lead.
After Bullard-Havens answered with a 31-yard scoring pass from Cyrus Crotto to Barry Jean-Pierre to make it 8-6, ATI twice took the ball into the red zone but came away with zero points.
“We just couldn’t finish it up,” ATI coach Rich Holmes said. “They’re very well coached. We’d get a couple of yards and they’d clean up after that.”
Bullard-Havens’ Holmes was a bull of a back in the game, carrying the ball 26 times for 191 yards.
Other notable stats for Bullard-Havens, which piled up 316 total yards, include Crotto at QB. He was 8-for-15 for 104 yards while also gaining 39 yards on the ground.
For Abbott Tech-Immaculate, Anthony Frasier (85 yards on 30 carries) and Christe (79 yards on 15 carries) combined for 154 yards on the ground.
“I’m so proud of the fight we showed,” Pace said. “We’ve been down quite a few games this season, but we show a lot of heart. We dig a hole but these guys keep fighting out of it. That’s all you can ask.”
BULLARD HAVENS 14, ABBOTT TECH-IMMACULATE 8
Abbott Tech-Immaculate 8 0 0 0—8
Bullard-Havens 6 0 8 0-14
ATI—Safety, ball fumbled out of end zone
ATI—Matt Christe 38 run (rush failed)
BH—Barry Jean-Pierre 31 pass from Cyrus Cotto (rush failed)
BH—Eddie Holmes 2 run (Holmes rush)
Records: ATI 3-2, Bullard-Havens 5-0