ANSONIA >> While O’Brien Tech coach Nick Aprea wasn’t happy with his team’s five turnovers, a defensive play by Constitution State Conference foe Platt Tech ultimately had the biggest impact on the Condors at the third annual Seven-Mile Bowl at the O’Brien Tech Sports Complex on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first half, sophomore quarterback Elmer Cruz connected with receiver Anthony Gambardella for a 32-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. Eric Sanchez kicked the extra point for the 7-0 Platt Tech lead. With less than a minute remaining in the game, after an O’Brien Tech touchdown, Platt Tech linebacker Alex Pettway batted down a two-point conversion pass attempt to give the Panthers a 7-6 win.
Platt Tech (5-6) earned their third straight Seven-Mile Bowl Trophy. The seven miles represent the distance between Platt Tech and O’Brien Tech, according to Platt Tech coach Chris Theriault.
“O’Brien Tech is a great offensive team, so I was not expecting a defensive battle,” Theriault said. “That touchdown by Elmer Cruz and Anthony Gambardella was an impressive play, and Pettway made a great play batting that ball down on the two-point conversion. Finishing the season with four of five wins and getting the trophy again is a great feeling.”
Cruz ended up completing 4 of 7 passes for 51 yards and had six carries for 29 yards. Teammates Adonis Bligen and Opnyckie May combined for 20 carries and 99 yards. For the Condors, quarterback Nick Coppola completed 10 of 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown and running back Devin Bacchiocchi had 53 yards on 14 carries and added four receptions for 40 yards.
The scoreless first half ended with cloudy skies, but no precipitation. The second half was met with sleet and snow, which eventually turned to a steady light rain.
The Panthers took advantage just 2:30 into their first possession of the second half when Cruz spotted Gambardella speeding down the left sideline. Cruz took a few steps to his left and lofted a high pass toward the end zone. Gambardella caught the ball as he crossed into the end zone.
Sanchez booted the extra point, which would eventually become the game-winner.
“That touchdown was our X fade play,” Cruz said. “My offensive line really did a great job and gave me the time I needed. I saw Anthony running down the side. When I dropped back and threw the ball, I lost sight of it and didn’t see him catch the ball.
“I was so happy when I saw that he scored.”
For most of the remaining half, the teams played primarily between the 20-yard lines. But on their final possession, with time running out in the fourth quarter, the Condors became more aggressive with the passing game.
Coppolla connected with Jason Diotalevi for a 29-yard touchdown pass for O’Brien Tech (4-6) on 3rd and 5 with 49 seconds to go. Instead of going for the tie, Aprea decided to go for the win. Coppola threw toward a pair of receivers in the end zone, but Pettway stretched out as far as he could and batted the ball down for the 7-6 final.
“Platt Tech is a strong, physical team and they dominated us the last two years,” Aprea said. “We were embarrassed by them, so we wanted to go for the win. Right now I’m glad we did it. But I’ll probably be thinking about that call all winter.
“I’m disappointed. It’s hard to get momentum when you have five turnovers. But I can’t say enough about how hard my players played today and all season. We have the best coaching staff and we’ve come a long way as a third-year program.”
Platt Tech 7, O’Brien Tech 6
Platt Tech 0 0 7 0 — 7
O’Brien Tech 0 0 0 6 — 6
P—Anthony Gambardella 0 pass from Elmer Cruz (Eric Sanchez)
O—Jason Diotalevi 0 pass from Nick Coppola (pass failed)
Team records: O’Brien Tech 4-6; Platt Tech 5-6