— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) September 22, 2018
MIDDLETOWN — Junior quarterback Ryan Miner ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and Xavier outlasted Wilbur Cross for its first win of the season, 21-20 Friday night at Larry McHugh Field.
The Falcons (1-2), who led 21-0 early in the third quarter, held on after Cross (2-1) scored with less than 3:19 left in the game, powered in the conversion run, and then recovered the onside kick near midfield.
Xavier’s defense answered the challenge, however, stuffing Cross on downs in the SCC interdivision game, then picked up two first downs in the final 2:21 and ran out the clock.
“We got it done,” Xavier coach Andy Guyon said between deep breaths. “The growing-up process we’re going through, the kids understand when you’re up 21-0, you’ve got to finish.”
Miner was making his first start in place of junior Matt Ryan, who was held out for precautionary reasons after getting hurt in the first half of last week’s loss to Shelton. Miner started at safety in the Falcons’ first two games and took over for Ryan in the second half of the 38-7 loss to the Gaels.
“We had a good week of practice and I was excited to play,” said Miner, who carried 14 times for 44 yards behind an offensive line that consistently moved Cross off the ball. “I tried to show everyone what I’ve got.”
Miner capped a 25-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run in the opening minutes of the game. The drive was set up by Cross botching the snap on a punt.
On Cross’ third possession of the first half, a shanked punt and a personal foul gave Xavier a first down at the 10-yard line. On first down, Miner threw to Quinn Zdrojeski. Sam Norris’ extra point made it 14-0 in the opening 30 seconds of the second quarter.
“We played complementary football,” Guyon said. “We defended well, our pressure caused the shanked punt, we got the short field and away we go. That was team football.”
The Falcons opened the second half with a seven-play, 65-yard drive highlighted by Miner’s pass to Zdrojeski in the right flat for a 42-yard gain on third down. That put Xavier at the 5-yard line, and after Cross was called for a personal foul, Miner kept the snap and scored from a yard out.
“I thought Matt ran the offense well. He did a phenomenal job,” Guyon said. “Those were clutch plays on that drive.”
Cross scored its first touchdown on the ensuing possession, an 11-yard run by Josiah Barnes that trimmed Xavier’s lead to 21-6.
Cross stopped Xavier on downs, then put together a 70-yard drive that featured gains of 38 yards through the air and another 25 from Barnes. Cross quarterback Leshaun Hicks scord on a 6-yard run with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
Before Cross unsettled the Falcons with their third score, Xavier had two chances to open up the lead on their next drive. On third down at the 22, Miner hit Mike Goralski in stride in the end zone, only to see the ball pass through his receiver’s hands. On fourth down, Norris’ 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
“We still have a lot of stuff to work on and get better at,” Miner said.
Xavier, which put up more points Friday than it did in its first two games (20), plays at East Haven in Week 4 next Friday night.
Xavier 21, Wilbur Cross 20
Xavier: Ryan Miner 3 run (Samuel Norris kick)
Xavier: Quinn Zdrojeski 10 pass from Ryan Miner (Samuel Norris kick)
Xavier: Ryan Miner 1 run (Samuel Norris kick)
Wilbur Cross: Jasiah Barnes 11 run (run failed)
Wilbur Cross: Leshaun Hicks 6 run (run failed)
Wilbur Cross: Leshaun Hicks 2 run (Jasiah Barnes run)
Records: Wilbur Cross (2-1, 2-1); Xavier (1-2, 1-2)