MIDDLETOWN >> The Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech football team ran out of time on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing Quinebaug Valley 20-14 with less than a minute to play, Bellhawks senior quarterback James Tharin engineered a potential game-winning drive with a nifty first down run and a pair of clutch first down completions.
When sophomore Nehemiah Brown hauled in a Tharin pass at the Pride 10-yard line, the Bellhawks, who were out of time outs, had to scramble to get the game’s final play off. The ball was snapped with just 1 second left and Tharin looked to the corner of the end zone for Justin Czeremcha, who had scored a touchdown on a similar play midway though the fourth quarter.
But this time Tharin’s toss sailed out of the Palmer Field end zone.
“It was about as exciting a finish as you’ll get,” Quinebaug Valley coach Joe Asermelly said.
And a certain sigh of relief for the Pride, a Constitution State Conference tri-op (Putnam, Tourtellotte, Ellis Tech) that earned their first win of the season.
“I’m just so proud because you’ve got to not only fight the team on the field but sometimes the demons off of it when you get into October and you’re still looking for a win,” Asermelly said. “So I’m proud of our teams’ mental toughness today.”
Vinal Tech coach Joe Cefaratti was upset with the officiating crew’s clock management on the last play. He felt the clock had started too early after Tharin’s 20-yard pass to Brown secured the first down.
“It was unfortunate we had to come up on the short end of the stick,” Cefaratti said.
Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech (1-6) grabbed an 8-0 lead on its first possession when Tharin hit Jared Reed with a 12-yard scoring toss and Mark Francis did a terrific job after a bad snap to find Dante Bell with a 2-point conversion pass.
The Pride (1-6) tied it late for in the first quarter on junior Bill McGlynn’s 14-yard touchdown run and sophomore quarterback Josh Dodd’s conversion run.
Quinebaug also scored on the last possession of the first half. The Pride drove 60 yards on eight plays, taking a 14-8 lead on Dodd’s perfect 7-yard slant pass to Jeff Reed.
“We didn’t play well in the first half defensively,” Cefaratti said. “After we scored the first touchdown all of a sudden there is a letdown. We go into halftime down 14-8.”
Vinal Tech’s defense, led by John Kumitis, Alex Rich, and Robert Burrus, was stingier in the second half. The Pride, however, extended the lead to 20-8 when Jamie Talbott caught a Dodd pass and outraced the Bellhawks secondary for a 71-yard touchdown play with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
Dodd finished 13 of 25 passing for 182 yards and two touchdowns, while McGlynn led all rushers with 95 yards on 27 carries. Reed added six catches for 74 yards and Talbott sparked the defense with two second half interceptions.
“We’re a very young team and we’re learning how to finish out games,” said Asermelly, who guided the Pride to the state playoffs two seasons ago (Quinebaug lost to eventual state champion Valley Regional/Old Lyme). “I’d like to see a little more out of our offense in the second half. But on the whole we were able to make one more play when we needed to today.”
Tharin completed 7 of 22 passes for 88 yards with two touchdowns, including an 11-yard toss to Czeremcha that made it 20-14 with 6:40 remaining. Tharin also gained 62 yards on 10 carries.
“We had some nice drives there in the second half,” Cefaratti said. “We always have a great game against Quinebaug whether it’s here or there. We’re two very highly competitive teams at the same caliber. So it was tough to come up short like that (at the end).”
Quinebaug Valley 20, Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech 14
(at Palmer Field, Middletown)
Quinebaug Valley 8-6-6-0 — 20
Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech 8-0-0-6 — 14
VT—Jared Reed 12 pass from James Tharin (Dante Bell pass from Mark Francis)
Q—Bill McGlynn 14 run (Josh Dodd run)
Q—Jeff Reed 12 pass from Josh Dodd (pass failed)
Q—Jamie Talbott 71 pass from Josh Dodd (run failed)
VT—Justin Czeremcha 11 pass from James Tharin (run failed)
Team records: Quinebaug Valley 1-6; Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech 1-6.