GRANBY >> Granby High senior Matthew Holmes played in the soccer program for three years before trying out for the football team this fall. A year ago, he was a midfielder on the varsity boys soccer team.
“I thought I would get more of an opportunity to play,” he said.
Holmes is getting the chance and he made some big plays in Saturday’s Homecoming game against Lewis Mills.
With the score tied, he intercepted Mills quarterback Lucas Lanning with 1:54 remaining in the game to stop a potential game-winning scoring drive. With 3.6 seconds left in the game, he hit a 36-yard field goal to lift the Bears to an exciting 17-14 Pequot West Division victory over Lewis Mills.
“Now, that is a win!” exclaimed one Granby player as he celebrated with his teammates.
Holmes’ field goal capped off a 94-yard march that began on the Bears’ six-yard line. Granby quarterback Curtis Field completed 3-of-5 passes on the drive for 28 yards. He had completed just six of his previous 15 passes with one interception before the game-winning drive.
Field had a crucial 12-yard run to the Lewis Mills 19-yard line with 24 seconds remaining to put the Bears into field goal range. On the play, Field got a key block from his brother, Connor.
The Bears nearly missed their opportunity for the field goal when the ball was fumbled on a handoff two plays later. But Granby’s Nathaniel Sindland outfought Mills’ Dominick Jankowski to keep possession of the ball. The bad news was that Granby lost five yards to the Mills 24-yard line.
Holmes lined up for a 41-yard attempt. But then the whistles blew and a lone yellow penalty flag flew to the ground. Lewis Mills had 12 men on the field. The penalty resulted in moving the ball five yards closer to the Mills 19 for a 36-yard attempt.
Holmes’ kick, the longest of his young career, just cleared the crossbar. He had missed two field goals of 31 and 34 yards in a 6-0 OT loss to Hyde earlier this year.
“You just try to take the emotion out of your head,” he said. “It’s a lot like taking a penalty kick in soccer. You can’t feel the pressure in situations like that.”
Lewis Mills (0-5, 0-3 Pequot West) had taken their first lead with 4:23 left in the game on a one-yard run from Lanning. That completed a 22-yard, seven-play drive after Collin Thorn had intercepted Curtis Field. Lanning also completed a two-point conversion pass to Jankowski for a 14-7 lead.
“We fought hard,” Mills coach Jose Santana said. “But we’re still young and we’re still making a lot of mistakes.” He took the blame for the 12 men on the field penalty that allowed Holmes to get five yards closer for his game-winning field goal.
Mills’ Max Stone ran for 160 yards on 29 carries, which is probably a school record. He ran 65 yards for an apparent touchdown in the first quarter but the run was cut to 25 yards on a holding penalty. He also a 43-yard run in the third quarter.
Granby took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard run from John Brucker.
Mills responded with a 13-play, 71-yard drive with Lanning finding Thorn open in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Stone ran for 53 yards on the drive. Granby’s Jacob Largay blocked the extra point to give Granby a 7-6 lead.
With 7:55 left in the game, Thorn intercepted Field and returned the ball to the Granby 36. A little over three minutes later, Lanning scored on fourth down from the one-yard line and the successful two-point conversion gave Mills a 14-7 lead.
But on its next offensive play, Granby scored on a 55-yard pass from halfback Dom Pagano, who found Ian Downey wide open behind the defensive backs. Downey had to stretch to catch the ball but he did in stride to allow Granby to tie the game at 14-14.
“The key is to stay focused and believe in yourself,” Granby coach Rich Gadoury said. “When you do, good things will happen. With each win, the confidence is growing.”
For the first time, Granby (2-3, 1-2 Pequot West) has won two straight games.
Not only did Downey catch a big pass from Pagano, he had 11 tackles and a sack. It was his first game at linebacker. He was formerly a defensive back.
“We need to move players into positions where they can believe in themselves,” Gadoury said. “He could see the hole and was flying into the holes.”
Sophomore Logan Strain led the Bears with 12 tackles and one sack while freshman Gabe Florentino had 10 tackles. Brucker had two of Granby’s four sacks.
The Bears have another challenge on Saturday night when they travel to face Avon (4-2, 3-1 Pequot West) under the lights at 6:30 p.m. in Avon.
Granby 17, Lewis Mills 14
Lewis Mills (0-5) 0 6 0 8 — 14
Granby (2-3) 7 0 0 10 – 17
G: John Brucker 5 run (Matthews Holmes kick), 1:43
LM: Collin Thorn 14 pass from Lucas Lanning (kick blocked), 8:09
LM: Lanning 1 run (Dom Jankowski pass from Lanning), 4:23
G: Ian Downey 55 pass from Dominic Pagano (Holmes kick), 4:07
G: Matthew Holmes 36 FG, 08.8
RUSHING: Lewis Mills – Lucas Lanning 11-8, Max Stone 29-160, Jared Czarnecki 1-minus 4, Cody Lessard 2-0; Granby – John Brucker 6-28, Dominic Pagano 9-52, Curtis Field 3-13, Jacob Largay 4-11, Anthony LaTorre 5-16, Logan Strain 1-0, Nathan Sindland 1-minus 4
PASSING: Lewis Mills – Lucas Lanning 3-7-1, 74 yards; Granby – Curtis Field 9-21-1, 96; Dominic Pagano 1-1-0, 55
RECEIVING: Lewis Mills – Collin Thorn 1-14, Trevor Watts 1-44, Dom Jankowski 1-16; Granby – Jacob Largay 2-38, Connor Field 2-18, Dominic Pagano 2-16, Ian Downey 4-79