— Derek Turner (@DCT_Sports) October 22, 2016
BRISTOL >> In a back and forth offensive affair it was up to a defense to make a stop. And when it mattered most Maloney’s defense rose to the challenge.
The Spartans stopped the Rams three times in the second half, twice within the red zone to escape a foggy and soggy Muzzy Field with a 34-27 win.
Maloney is in sole possession of first place in the Central Connecticut Conference Division II West at 3-0 and Bristol Central is now 2-1.
“The defense shut them down in the second half,” Maloney coach Kevin Frederick said. “I can’t be more proud of these guys — huge win for our football program.”
The Spartans first big defensive stop came after they gave the ball away on an interception.
Already leading by the would-be final score, Maloney quarterback Larue Graham was picked off by Dathan Hickey and he got the ball to the Spartans 15-yard-line. Two runs by quarterback Isaiah Miller got the Rams to the Maloney 4, but two run-stuffing stops and two incomplete passes gave Maloney the ball back.
“It’s the D-Line,” Maloney senior Mitchell McEwen said. “The D-Line stepped up today, they did what they had to do. I owe it all to the D-Line, they did their jobs, they won us the game.”
After using all, but 49 seconds left in the game the Spartans were forced to punt from their side of the field, but the kicked was blocked and Bristol Central had one more chance.
“Defensively we’ve been struggling a little bit,” Frederick said. “We knew these guys had a great run game. They’re a well-coached team and we just made a couple more plays than they did.”
A roughing the passer penalty got the ball within the 10-yard-line, but after a series of incomplete passes it was down to 13 seconds left and fourth down.
“We’d been a pretty good red zone team all year,” Bristol Central coach Jeff Papazian said. “Credit their kids, they rose to the occasion and made a play when they needed to.”
Papazian called a play where tight end Conner Staubley would drag from left to right in the end zone, but McEwen dove in front of him and intercepted the pass to seal the win for the Spartans.
“It was just instincts,” McEwen said. “I wasn’t thinking. It just happened.”
Maloney’s defense actually stopped the Rams on the first possession of the game, but after that it was back and forth.
The Spartans struck first on a 10-yard pass from Graham to Victor Marquez, his first of three touchdown catches in the game.
“Lineman did a great job blocking up front,” Marquez said. “Gave Larue great time to throw the ball and our receivers just made ours plays.”
Miller got Bristol Central on the board with a 5-yard run and the Rams had their only lead of the game, because the first Maloney extra point try was blocked.
Maurice Brackett hauled in a 25-yard TD pass for Maloney and Staubley caught a 59-yard pass to make it 14-14.
Marquez came up big in the second quarter for the Spartans when he set up his own second touchdown with a 47-yard catch down to the 2-yard-line. But after that score, Justus Fitzpatrick caught a 54-yard TD pass and it was 21-21.
Marquez’s third TD catch came just before half which gave Maloney a 27-21 lead.
“We’re cooking,” Frederick said. “We had the run game working. We had the pass game working, it was great.”
Things seemed to turn in Bristol Central’s favor out of the break when it picked up a fumble on the first play of the half and turned it into six points on a Miller run, but the point after was blocked keeping it a tie game.
“Their offense is built to kind of produce that big play,” Papazian said. “Ours is more of a grind it out type of offense and we had a hard time playing catch-up all night.”
Alejandro Ortiz, who had been seeing double coverage most of the night, caught an 8-yard touchdown with 8:31 left in the third quarter for the game-winner.
Then the Maloney defense did its thing.
Maloney 34, Bristol Central 27
Maloney: 14 13 7 0 — 34
Bristol Central: 7 14 6 0 — 27
(at Muzzy Field, Bristol)
M — Victor Marquez 10 pass from Larue Graham (Colin Paddock kick blocked)
BC — Isaiah Miller 2 run (Brett Adams kick)
M — Maurice Brackett 25 pass from Graham (Alejandro Ortiz pass from Graham)
BC — Conner Staubley 59 pass from Miller (Adams kick)
M — Marquez 3 pass from Graham (Paddock kick)
BC — Justus Fitzpatrick 54 pass from Miller (Adams kick)
M — Marquez 5 pass from Graham (Paddock kick missed)
BC — Miller 4 run (Adams kick blocked)
M — Ortiz 8 pass from Graham (Paddock kick)
No scoring plays
Team records: Maloney 4-2 (3-0 CCC D-II West); Bristol Central 3-3 (2-1 CCC D-II West)