Just when it looked like the 3000 folks on hand for Project Blackout Cancer were going to see a little extra football, Mason Belsky made sure everyone left on time.
Manchester Central appeared to quash a late Windham drive, stripping a Jaguar ball carrier at the 7. But Belsky, a senior quad-captain, got to the ball quickest and fell on it at the goal line with 10.7 seconds left to provide Windham with a tough 28-21 come-from-behind victory.
The scoring play was the sixth consecutive run on a drive that began at the Windham 32 with 1:49 left. Bobby Dicicco, who finished with a game-high 126 yards, got the carry, hauling Central defenders 21 yards to the 7. That’s when the Little Green forced their second fumble of the game inside their own 10. But this time it was Belsky who made the recovery for his first varsity touchdown.
“It was coming down to the wire … and Manchester Central was making plays all night long,” said Belsky, a two-way lineman. “But this is what Friday night football is all about. On that last play, we executed our blocks well but Manchester didn’t give up and they were able to punch the ball loose.
“It was a mad rush to the end zone, and I just happened to be the lucky one to get to the football. This was a real symbolic (touchdown), and I just thought ‘finally.’ “
Windham (2-2) trailed 21-14 following Manchester’s own 27-yard fumble return with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
But a 43-yard scoring toss from Rocky Heres to Joey Dasilva capped a three-play drive and tied the score at 21 with 8:02 remaining. The Jaguars stopped each of Manchester’s ensuing two possessions. A 14-yard sack by Stephen Mague on a third-and-6 play forced a Central punt setting up the Jaguars for their game-winning drive.
Taking over 67 yards from pay dirt with 109 seconds remaining, the Jaguars stayed on the ground for the final six of their 60 rushes. Riley Desmarais had a 24-yard run and Heres gained four yards on a third-and-2 on the play before the game winner.
“It’s what we do,” first-year Windham coach Jack Byrne said of the last-minute strategy. “I think we plan our strikes for when we need to do it. We have the guys who can turn our ground game into a kind of spread game. We have those kind of players from our linemen to our backs and receivers … Central was five times better than anything we saw on film. We had to try to do anything to stay a step ahead and be a little deceptive.”
With less than 17 seconds left, Heres handed off to Dicicco, who had all but two of his carries after intermission. Dicicco bulldozed through the Little Green, staying on his feet as long as he could until the ball was stripped.
“A lot of things raced through my mind when that ball got out, but I knew my teammates would have my back,” said Dicicco. “They really bailed me out, and that’s what’s great about this team and this community – they have your back.”
Manchester Central (1-3) scored the game’s first 14 points on a pair of Tyler Gilroy passes before Windham got on the board with an 11-yard pass from Heres to Cole Peterson with 12.6 seconds left in the half – but thanks to Belsky the Jaguars scored their final touchdown 24 minutes later with even fewer ticks left in the game.
“It seemed really fitting for tonight,” Byrne said. “Some crazy things were going to happen tonight.”
Windham 28, Manchester Central 21
Manchester Central (1-3): 0 14 7 0 — 21
Windham (2-2): 0 7 7 14 — 28
MC — Shawn McGarvey 38 pass from Tyler Gilroy (Ben Mikus kick) 10:12
MC — McGarvey 4 pass from Gilroy (Mikus kick) 1:33
W — Cole Peterson 11 pass from Rocky Heres (Adam Burke kick) 0:12.6
W — Bobby Dicicco 15 run (Burke kick) 4:16
MC — Raheen Dukes, Jr. 27 fumble return (Mikus kick) 2:30
W — Joey Dasilva 43 pass from Heres (Burke kick) 8:02
W — Mason Belsky recover fumble in end zone (Burke kick) 0:10.7
RUSHING: MC (24-60) — Luis Sanchez 15-63; Windham (60-298) — Dicicco 17-126, Riley Desmarais 18-92, Heres 23-81, CJ Giardino 1-3, Stephen Mague 1-(-4)
PASSING: MC — Gilroy 11-18-0, 195 yards; Windham — Heres 4-11-0, 111
RECEIVING: MC — McGarvey 4-101; Windham — Dasilva 2-79, Dylan Field 1-21, Cole Peterson 1-11