COLCHESTER >> You can’t earn your stripes in the ECC without proving it against the league’s top three programs. Bacon Academy had already taken out New London, now it was just seconds away from toppling mighty Ledyard, which it had never beaten. Ever.
The Bobcats appeared to have corralled Ledyard’s final, desperation play and when the clock hit double-zeroes and the scoreboard’s buzzer sounded, their sideline erupted onto the field.
But hang on. That was the buzzer, not the final whistle. The play was still live and referees flagged Bacon for a personal foul, giving Ledyard one, last shot at keeping its two-year unbeaten record in the ECC intact and forced Bacon coach Erik Larka to endure one, last nerve-wracking moment of doubt. “You never want to give a good team like Ledyard another chance to make the last play,” he said.
But Ledyard quarterback Ty Ebdon’s last pass fell harmlessly to the ground and Bacons hard-fought 25-22 victory was secured Saturday.
Now they could celebrate.
And celebrate they did.
“It was crazy,” Bacon senior quarterback Sean Kelly said of the game’s final seven minutes, which saw Ledyard cut Bacon’s commanding three-score lead to just one with a pair of touchdowns. “But I knew we had it. I knew our defense was going to step up and hold them. A shout out to Ledyard, they played hard they fought hard the whole second half. They played great the second half. It was a great game to play.”
“Oh yeah, a lot better,” Kelly said, comparing this victory to last week’s 34-18 win over New London. “Ledyard’s one of the powerhouses in the ECC. They play in the state finals in all the time and they were undefeated last year in the conference. So this was great.”
Kelly overcame a shaky first quarter, which saw him sacked for a safety and Ledyard take an 8-0 lead, and wound up throwing for for 360 yards and threw three touchdowns and ran for another as Bacon scored four consecutive touchdowns to take a 25-8 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) September 27, 2015
“That’s a good football team,” said Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore, whose team hadn’t surrendered a point this season until Saturday. “They’re very talented. They have size. They have speed. They have a great quarterback that’s got savvy and moxie and made some big plays for them.”
It wes Kelly’s receivers — especially junior Tyler Bolden — who did most of the work of the work for him by turning short routes into huge gains and touchdowns. Dan Narlock caught a 60-yard touchdown in stride to pull Bacon within 8-6.
Ahead 13-8 at halftime on Kelly’s 10-yard run, Bolden made perhaps the game’s biggest play to start the second half. He collected a short pass from Kelly, deked his defender and sprinted 70 yards for a 19-8 lead.
“He told me the play, I got ready and did my route as good as I can and just ran down the field for the touchdown,” said Bolden, who came into the game with just one catch. “Our linemen made good blocks. Sean threw a good ball. I turned the corner and ran as fast as I could.”
Kelly later added an insurance touchdown pass to Paul Chasse to make it 25-8 with 7:57 left.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) September 26, 2015
“It’s awesome,” Kelly said of his offense. “Our O-line’s the best they’ve ever played and the receivers make plays and it was great. I only need to throw six yards and they can make the run. It was awesome. …Especially, Tyler Bolden, he stepped up huge today.”
But Bacon couldn’t adequately run out the clock and Ledyard rallied with touchdowns by Manny Deshields-Sanabria and Ebdon’s 17-yard strike to Justin Carter with 2:44 left.
“Our defense was dominating them,” Larka said. “I think, as a high school kid or teenager and you look up, you see you’re up three scores on Ledyard with five minutes to go. Just mentally, I think our defense said, all right, we don’t have to be as aggressive and that let them back into it.”
Bacon had to punt one last time, giving Ledyard the ball at its own 15 with 34 seconds left. After one completion, Ebdon had to corral a bad snap and Bacon linebacker Jason Geary dropped him for 20-yard loss.
A few anxious moments later, Bacon was celebrating one of the biggest wins in program history… for the second week in a row.
“It feels great,” Kelly said. “There’s one more powerhouse in the ECC we want to beat and that’s NFA. That’s what we marked off before the season. If we want to make the state playoffs we’ve got to beat them.”
The loss was Ledyard’s first since November 2013. “We didn’t play good football today,” Buonocore said. “We didn’t defend well we didn’t tackle well and when you don’t do well, the other team has more points than you and that’s what happened.”
Bacon Academy 25, Ledyard 22
Ledyard 2 6 0 14 — 22
Bacon Academy 0 13 6 6 — 25
L—Safety, Matt Nova tackled Sean Kelly in end zone
L—Max Ebdon 10 run (run failed)
B—Dan Narlock 60 pass from Sean Kelly (pass failed)
B—Kelly 6 run (George Tsakiris kick)
B—Tyler Bolden 70 pass from Kelly (kick failed)
B—Paul Chasse 16 pass Kelly (kick failed)
L–Manny Deshields-Sanabria 9 run (Luc Saccone kick)
L–Justin Carter 17 pass from Justin Carter (Saccone kick)
Team records: Ledyard 2-1