DANBURY — After an evening of wind and snow and turnovers and short fields and momentum swings, of course the Ridgefield at Danbury game would come down to one final play.
With 49 seconds left, Danbury had a fourth-and-3 situation on the Ridgefield 4-yard line.
A touchdown and either a tying extra point or two-point conversion for victory was within Danbury’s sight.
However, Ridgefield’s defense knocked down a pass in the end zone and the Tigers secured a 19-12 season-closing Thanksgiving Eve triumph.
“It was a great battle. Danbury is a very good team that commanded our respect,” said Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan. “Danbury never quit. But I’m so proud of the way our kids responded. They persevered tonight.”
Ridgefield earned their 6-4 final record for 2018 to scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
While the snow shower was limited to 20 minutes of the pregame warm-up, the gusting winds were a constant throughout and dictated many decisions.
Ironically, Ridgefield was able to rally even though Danbury had the wind at its back in the fourth period.
A pass interception by Ridgefield’s Owen Gaydos put the Tigers in business at the Danbury 30. Two plays later, quarterback Owen Matthews found senior Evan Wein near the goalpost in the end zone. A pass for two points failed but Ridgefield led 13-12 with 9:32 to go.
A sack and fumble recovery had Ridgefield at the Danbury 13 with 6:01 left.
Four plays later, Dan Moroney bulled into the end zone from 3 yards out for 19-12. A run for two points failed.
And set up Ridgefield’s dramatic finish.
“The weather conditions figured in so many decisions along the way. Being with the wind or against the wind dictated what the offenses could do,” Ridgefield coach Callahan said. “Field position was critical.”
Ridgefield junior quarterback Matthews completed 13 of 29 passes for 128 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I’m so happy for our seniors. Our defense was great. Our offense scored enough to win,” Callahan said. “Because we won, the seniors will always remember their final game.”
That Danbury was unable to cash in on the interceptions that created short fields came back to haunt the Hatters (4-6).
Danbury’s defense made its presence felt with seven quarterback sacks adding up to 68 yards.
Both Danbury touchdowns came on quick strike plays.
With 3:34 left in the second period, Hatters junior quarterback Malachi Hopkins threw a lefty slant to his brother R.J. Hopkins. R.J., one of 20 Danbury seniors playing their last high school gridiron contest, motored 64 yards to the end zone to leave Ridgefield with a 7-6 halftime edge.
Just 2:17 into the third quarter, senior Malik Thomas powered around left end and went 98 yards up the sideline to give Danbury a 12-7 edge.
The Hatters drove from their own 31 to the Ridgefield 4 in the last 3:41 but fell short on their last play.
“That was winter football. I’m so proud of the boys,” said Danbury coach Augie Tieri. “Our defense played amazing. They did everything they could. I’m incredibly proud of our seniors. It was a rebuilding year for the program. But they turned the tide and set the standard to be carried forward. They gave this team its heart.”
RIDGEFIELD 19, DANBURY 12
RIDGEFIELD 7 0 0 12—19
DANBURY 0 6 6 0—12
R—Gianni Gorham 35 pass from Owen Matthews (Sebastian Gasparo kick)
D—R.J. Hopkins 64 pass from Malachi Hopkins (run failed)
D—Malik Thomas 98 run (run failed)
R—Evan Wein 30 pass from Matthews (pass failed)
R—Dan Moroney 3 run (run failed)
Records: Ridgefield 6-4, Danbury 4-6.