BEACON FALLS — A split-second decision, a battle of wills, and a freshman made all the difference for the Woodland football team Thanksgiving eve.
Jason Hicks batted down a potential game-tying conversion pass and Edit Krivca recovered a fumble with 59 seconds to play to help the Hawks hold on to defeat Seymour, 14-12, on the strength of two first-half touchdowns by rookie Jason Palmieri.
Woodland (9-1) beat Seymour (6-4) for the first time since 2014 and tied up the holiday series at eight wins apiece. The Hawks will play in the Class S quarterfinals Tuesday for the first time in five years.
The Wildcats had a chance to win the game on a drive inside Woodland territory in the closing minutes. On first down at the 37, Tyler Ganim cut back a run to the middle and lost control of the ball on a hit by Woodland’s Joe Shea. Krivca, a senior linebacker, pounced on the ball to seal the win.
“There was me and a Seymour offensive lineman going for it,” said Krivca, who also led Woodland with 20 carries for 100 yards. “I was like, OK, I want this ball more than you do.”
Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had a chance to tie the game after Jonathan Dumas hit Jacob Carfo for a 40-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10. But Hicks batted down the ensuing two-point conversion pass to preserve a 14-12 lead.
“I started going after the quarterback because I wanted to sack him,” Hicks said. “I saw his arm go up and there was no way I was going to get to the quarterback in time, so I was just going to jump in the air, put my hands up, and hopefully something happened.”
Palmieri starred in the first half of his first Thanksgiving eve game. After Brett Barrett recovered a fumble by Dumas, Palmieri darted deep and snared a 48-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bulinski. It gave the Hawks a 7-0 lead with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
Ganim cut Woodland’s lead to 7-6 with a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second period, but Palmieri responded again with a 2-yard touchdown run on a pitch from Bulinski to extend the Hawks’ lead to 14-6.
Palmieri finished the first half with 107 total yards. He added 10 rushing yards in the second half.
“We lean on him more and more every week,” Woodland coach Chris Moffo said. “He’s a tremendous athlete and he understands the game.”
Woodland’s James Champagne preserved the Hawks’ halftime lead by wrestling away an interception from Ganim at the 1-yard line with 3 ticks remaining.
Ganim led Seymour with 25 carries for 101 yards.