BRIDGEPORT — To start the second half, Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern decided to start calling Will Lucas’ number and he wasn’t going to stop calling it until someone on the Harding defense could stop his quarterback.
Five runs and 32 yards later, Lucas’ efforts on the ground set up a touchdown pass that got the Jesuits on the scoreboard and ignited a second straight second-half rally, as Prep awoke from a first-half slumber to knock off determined Harding 12-8 Friday afternoon at Kennedy Stadium.
“Let’s just say we talked a lot about starting the game off fast and we did exactly the opposite,” Hellstern said. “There is no way that we can sleepwalk through these next two games (North Haven and West Haven) … we’re resilient, but we have to be far more productive.”
Prep had just 22 yards rushing and 23 yards passing at halftime as Harding — in what seemed like a flashback to the golden days of the MBIAC — battled the Jesuits tooth and nail. In fact, the Presidents held an 8-0 halftime lead, thanks to a second quarter touchdown run from Coleman Adams and a conversion run from Jaharie Mack.
“It was a good fight,” Harding coach Eddie Santiago said. “We had some quality offense and we played some quality defense. But when they started to run the quarterback, they got a little ahead of us. There were plays that we didn’t hit where we were wide open and we have to connect with those plays.”
But after an apparently electric halftime speech from Hellstern, the Jesuits needed just six plays to go 65 yards and score as five straight running plays from Lucas took the ball from the Prep 35 to the Presidents’ 33. From there, Lucas found Finn Duran behind his defender for a 33-yard touchdown pass to get Prep within 8-6.
“We got into them a little bit at halftime,” Hellstern said. “Last week’s halftime (against Hamden) wasn’t nearly as animated as this one. Credit to Harding, they’ve got some good athletes, they’re much better than their record. They came to play and we let them in the game and that’s on us.”
But with Lucas’ finding holes in the Harding defense, Prep again marched 65 yards on its next possession with Lucas and Duran again hooking up for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in the third quarter that put the Jesuits on top 12-8.
“It seems like that’s been the story all year, we start off slow but we find ways to win,” Lucas said, who rushed for 95 yards, 93 coming in the second half. “I don’t know why we keep shooting ourselves in the foot, but we find ways to win and I guess that’s all that matters.”
Harding still had a chance to steal the game away, but on a fourth-and-14 from the Prep 16, quarterback Kevin Bednarz’s pass to Tion Hampton was broken up in the end zone and the Jesuits were able to hold on.
“We battled,” Santiago said. “We’ve competed in the SCC, this being our first year. The last couple of weeks, we’ve really been fighting. We’re known as the team that can fight and get gritty and you’re not going to come here and smack us around.”
Adams led Harding with 72 yards rushing on 18 carries while Bednarz completed 4 of 12 passes for 98 yards. Along with his 95 yards rushing, Lucas completed 6-of- 10 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Prep quarterback Will Lucas. 93 of his 95 yards rushing came in the second half and he also threw touchdown passes of 33 and 32 yards to Finn Duran. Of the Jesuits 211 yards of total offense, Lucas accounted for 188 of them.
DID YOU KNOW?
This was the first time since the 1992 season that Prep and Harding met on the football field. That was Jesuits coach Earl Lavery’s final season.
“That first drive in the second half with Will was critical. Getting us on the board was important. We found a way to win, we just have to find a way to win next week and the week after that.” — Prep coach Keith Hellstern
FAIRFIELD PREP 12, HARDING 8
FAIRFIELD PREP 0 0 12 0—12
HARDING 0 8 0 0—8
H—Coleman Adams 5 run (Jaharie Mack run)
FP— Finn Duran 33 pass Will Lucas (run failed)
FP—Duran 32 pass Lucas (run failed)
Records: Fairfield Prep 7-1, Harding (2-6)