MIDDLETOWN >> Welcome to the world of football coaches. The winning coach was unhappy – make that very unhappy – and the losing coach was, well, upbeat.
First, the facts.
Xavier picked up where it left off last year – and the year before that and the year before that – by beating Staples 30-22 in front of 1,500 at Palmer Field Wednesday night.
Xavier running back Andrew Meoli had a huge night, picking up 198 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Carbone ran for 86 yards and passed for 66 more on a 6-for-11 night. So things sound pretty good in Falcon Land, huh?
Xavier had three touchdowns called back on penalties, made tons of mental and physical mistakes, and let Staples stay in a game that maybe should have been much more one-sided than it was.
From Staples’ coach Marce Petroccio’s perspective, things were OK, all things considered.
“I thought our kids went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the state,” Petroccio said. “If not for a few mistakes, we might be having a different kind of conversation right now. While we didn’t win, I’m excited about what I saw for the rest of the season.”
Excited was not the word Xavier coach Sean Marinan chose.
“I’m not happy at all,” said Marinan. “We had them on the ropes and didn’t put them away. We let them hang around, let them stay in the game. We were just flat. I think we got tired and I haven’t said that too often. We pride ourselves on being in better condition than other teams and tonight we got tired.”
Xavier outgained Staples 364 yards to 275, but Staples’ quarterback Jack Massie, a four-year starter, had a big night. Massie completed 19 passes in 37 attempts for 232 yards. He brought Staples back so that the Wreckers were just one score down with a minute left and a chance to tie.
That doesn’t happen to Xavier at Palmer Field, or anywhere else, very often.
“Our inexperience was obvious at times,” said Marinan. “The mistakes we made are very concerning. I know it was hot, but we have to step up and play.”
Xavier got an early break and took a 7-0 lead right away. Xavier forced the Wreckers to go three-and-out on their first possession, and on fourth down a terrible snap from center sailed over punter Ryan Fitton’s head. He fell on the ball at his own 12-yard line. Three plays later Carbone ran it in from eight yards out.
On the first play of the second quarter Meoli scored his first touchdown from 12 yards out and Xavier led 14-0.
But a mistake gave Staples a chance. Jacob Melnick picked off a Carbone pass that set up Staples at the Xavier 44-yard line. Twelve plays later, Massie hit Bryan Porter from five yards out to cut the lead to 14-7 with 4:15 left in the first half.
But the Falcons restored order by zipping down the field on a scoring drive that was aided by a pass interference call. Meoli scored again on a 10-yard run with 25 seconds left in the half. Xavier 21-7 and appeared poised to put the game away.
Xavier got a safety on another bad snap on a punt to take a 23-7 lead in the third quarter, but the Falcons’ offense sputtered, wheezed and coughed and Staples took advantage. The Wreckers scored on a five yard run by Jack Greenwald with nine seconds left in the third to cut the lead to 23-14.
Xavier immediately answered. Meoli ran 55 yards on second down to the five yard line, then scored his third touchdown for a 30-14 lead.
But again the Falcons couldn’t seal the deal. Staples marched down the field and with 5:17 left as Massie scored on a nine yard scramble to cut the lead to 30-22.
On Xavier’s next possession, with a chance to run out the clock, the Falcons committed three penalties, one of which wiped out a 56-yard TD run by Carbone, which went nicely with the other wipeouts, a 71-yard kickoff return by Meoli and a 29-yard TD pass from Carbone to Noah Cruz in the third.
But the Wreckers could manage only one first down before Massie’s fourth down pass fell incomplete with eight seconds left.
“I’m glad for the win,” said Marinan. “Not taking anything away from Staples, it’s a very good program, but this game should not have been this close.”
Xavier plays at North Haven next Friday.
STAPLES 0 7 7 8 — 22
XAVIER 7 14 2 7–30
X–Joseph Carbone 8 run (Andrew Verre kick)
X–Andrew Meoli 12 run (Verre kick)
S–Bryan Porter 5 pass from Jack Massie (Michael Gifford kick)
X–Meoli 10 run (Verre kick)
X–Safety, ball snapped out of end zone
S–Jack Greenwald 5 run (Gifford kick)
X–Meoli 5 run (Verre kick)
S–Massie 9 run (Porter pass Massie)
Records: Staples 0-1; Xavier 1-0.