— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) October 15, 2016
WESTON >> It was on this field in Weston two years ago that Bunnell suffered one of the most excruciating of the Sean Mignone era. Weston snatched a sure Bunnell victory away when Peter Lummis caught a long touchdown pass with no time left.
The Bunnell seniors still cringe when they think about it, especially Brett Bogdwicz, who was in on the play as a sophomore defensive back. “No comment,” he said when asked to reminisce about it now.
He’ll look fondly back at this one, however. The rest of the Bulldogs will never forget it, either.
Bogdwicz atoned for that disastrous 2014 loss with one of the biggest plays of his four-year career. With Weston — once again — threatening to snatch a sure Bunnell victory away, the senior picked off a tipped pass by teammate Kyle Bannister in the end zone to preserve a wild 35-33 victory Friday night.
“I couldn’t really believe we were in that spot again,” said Bogdwicz, who caught six passes for 110 yards. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard (Clemson coach) Dabbo Swinney say ‘Bring your own guts.’ But that’s what we had to do tonight to pull this one out. We did what we had to do.
“It felt like a win. That’s what it felt like. It felt like a gift. I just slid down (into the end zone) and we got away with one.”
Bunnell, which was playing freshman quarterback Tyler Phommachanh in place of injured starter Mike Castelot for the third-consecutive game, improved to 4-1 heading into a showdown with unbeaten Newtown next week.
“I didn’t want to lose to (Weston) again because it wasn’t a great feeling the last time we played here,” senior Zhyaire Fernandes said. “I didn’t want that to happen again, especially on the last play. Kyle made a tremendous effort on the ball. He’s always in the right spot.”
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) October 14, 2016
For Weston, meanwhile, the loss dropped it to 3-2 and left head coach Chris Pace and his players crestfallen, almost unable to speak.
“This loss is on me,” Pace said, adding he should have played for a winning field goal attempt rather than attack the end zone. Then again, Weston had had plenty of trouble kicking all night. It was 1-for-4 on extra points. A 36-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter never got off the ground.
Still, Pace was inconsolable. “I take full blame for this,” he said. “My guys played with a lot of heart. My guys, in my book are still 3-1. Coach Pace is 0-1.”
Asked if this was the worst loss of his three-year tenure, Pace didn’t hesitate: “One hundred percent.”
It should never have really got to that point. Bunnell was in command of the game, up by nine with four minutes remaining. But, thinking back to a 2-yard punt from the end zone in the third quarter which led to a Weston touchdown, coach Sean Mignone elected to have Fernandes run on fourth and 4 from his own 45.
It made some sense. To that point, Fernandes was having an incredible evening. The senior caught a short pass he somehow turned into a 48-yard touchdown, he ran for two more scores and had an 72-yard kickoff return touchdown which had helped stake Bunnell to a 28-12 halftime lead.
“Zhyaire was an animal,” Mignone said. “He was an animal. When he starts going… he goes.
“My thinking — at the time, probably — was roll Z out and if he finds a gap, he can get four yards, because he was getting them all night.”
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) October 15, 2016
But this time, Weston easily dropped Fernandes short of the first down.
“Looking back now? I should absolutely have punted,” Mignone said. “It was stupid. Stupid.”
On cue, quarterback Alex Fruhbies, as he had done all evening, quickly brought the Trojans back from the dead. He connected with Jason Lawrence down to the 5-yard line and then ran for a short touchdown to pull Weston within 35-33 with 2:20 remaining.
Bunnell was still in decent shape, that is, until Weston’s Matt Oakes recovered the ensuing onside kick, invigorating the Weston sidelines and emboldening Fruhbeis. He marched the Trojans to the Bunnell 15 with a minute left.
“Standing on the sideline, it was like déjà vu all over again,” Mignone said, thinking back to that Weston loss two years ago. “I was like, holy crap, this is going to happen again. You’re trying everything you can do to stop it, but there’s nothing you can do.”
Fruhbeis dropped back to pass and wasn’t pressured at all on the final play. He looked to his left and followed George Goetz over the middle.
But Bunnell senior Kyle Bannister was just quick enough to disrupt the pass. The ball bounded off the two and Bogdwicz, running into help, reached back and plucked it from the air.
“Brett got his redemption this year,” Mignone said. “I don’t know where he came from. We’re fortunate. We were really fortunate. But 4-1 is better than 3-2.”
Fruhbeis threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two scores. Phommachanh threw for 266 yards. Fernandes caught five passes for 95 yards.
Bunnell 35, Weston 33
BUNNELL 7 21 0 7 — 35
WESTON 0 12 8 13 — 33
B— Brett Bogdwicz, 11 pass from Tyler Phommachanh (Avery Nunn kick)
B—Zhyaire Fernandes 48 pass from Phommachanh (Nunn kick)
B—Fernandes, 8 run (Nunn kick)
W—Scott Peyton 34 pass from Alex Fruhbeis (kick failed)
B—Fernandes 72 kickoff return (Nunn kick)
W—Jason Baisley 10 pass from Fruhbeis (kick failed)
W—Matthew Oakes 13 pass from Fruhbeis (Jason Lawrence pass from Fruhbeis)
B—Fernandes, 4 run (Nunn kick)
W—Fruhbeis, 1 run (kick failed)
W —Fruhbeis, 1 run (Ian Richling kick)
Team records: Bunnell 4-1; Weston 3-2