Foran falls in double-overtime heartbreaker

MILFORD — Back on Sept. 25, the Foran football team eked out a thrilling 21-20 victory over Guilford by blocking an extra-point kick.

Fast forward seven weeks to last Friday night when the Lions were on the other side of a blocked extra-point kick and suffered a heartbreaking 21-20 double-overtime loss to Branford at the Vito DeVito Sports Complex.

After battling it out for four quarters, Foran and Branford were tied at 7-7 at the end of regulation.

Each team scored in the first overtime, so the 14-14 deadlock went into a second overtime session.

After the Hornets (6-3) scored and kicked the extra point to take a 21-14 lead, Foran responded with a touchdown of its own to draw within a point at 21-20.

Joe Capalbo’s extra-point attempt was blocked by the Hornets’ Taylor Sullivan to send the Lions to the crushing loss.

Despite the final outcome, Foran coach Jeff Bevino had nothing but words of praise for his defensive unit that had stopped Branford twice within the 5-yard line.

“Branford is a good football team, probably the best Division II team in the SCC,” Bevino said. “They’ve put up a lot of points in a lot of games but my defensive kids played a tremendous game tonight. It was the best defensive game I’ve seen since I’ve been here at Foran.”

Foran (5-4) scored with 19 seconds left in the first quarter on Rick Festa’s 4-yard run that completed a 14-play, 94-yard drive. Capalbo’s successful extra-point kick gave the Lions a 7-0 lead they held until the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Branford had opened the game by marching from its own 37 to the Lion 3. On fourth-and-goal, Hornet running back Harrison Goodkind was stopped for a 3-yard loss by Capalbo.

Late in the fourth quarter, Branford quarterback Kyle Nolan connected with Sullivan on a 21-yard gain and a first down at the Foran 19.

Following a 7-yard pass to Brian Levchuk, a 5-yard run by Goodkind and a 6-yard pickup by Nolan, it was fourth down at the Foran 1-yard line.

With 58.9 seconds left to play, Nolan jammed the ball across the goal line on a successful quarterback sneak that made it 7-6. Zac Cast then added the game-tying extra point.

“That 21-yard completion was right over the middle came on third-and-12,” Bevino said. “It was the play of the game.”

After the score, Foran took over possession at its own 20 and Bevino chose to have quarterback Tucker Schumitz take a knee on the next two plays and send the game into overtime.

“Our defense had played so well until that point but our offense had struggled all night long,” Bevino said of his decision to not try a long, potentially game-winning pass. “With 58 seconds left and 80 yards to go, I did not want to throw deep and risk the ball back to Branford. Former Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes used to say ‘when you throw the ball, three things can happen, and two of them are bad. You can complete the pass, throw an incompletion, or throw an interception.’ We knew we had no chance of going 80 yards to score in just 58 seconds. In addition, I knew we had things that we could open up and do on a short field. Going into overtime, I felt our offense was better than their defense.”

Overtime rules call for each team to get four chances to score from the opposing team’s 10-yard line.

The Lions went on the attack first and needed only three plays for Schumitz to find Festa on a 10-yard slant that gave them a 13-7 lead.

Following Capalbo’s successful kick, Branford trailed 14-7 and took possession of the ball at the 10.

Three plays advanced the ball 4 yards. On fourth down, Nolan connected with Sullivan for a 6-yard touchdown and Cast’s successful kick made it a 14-14 game.

After Nolan threw three incompletions, he found Predrag Boskovic in the end zone on a successful 10-yard throw. Boskovic made an acrobatic catch on the play, and, despite a light drizzle, held onto the slippery ball.

Cast’s extra-point kick put the Hornets on top for the first time at 21-14.

It was now do or die for the Lions.

After three attempts at the Branford defense, Schumitz broke through with a 4-yard touchdown run to bring Foran back within a point at 21-20. Sullivan then provided the late-game heroics for the Hornets and blocked Capalbo’s extra-point attempt.

“During the two overtimes, we did a good job of stopping and holding them for three downs but they finally scored each time on fourth down,” Bevino said. “On each of those fourth-down passes, Branford had one receiver break free and make a great catch in the end zone. We felt they used a pick on one of our pass defenders to free up their guy. I know it’s a judgment call but I felt that a pass interference penalty should have been called on that play. On their last TD, their guy (Boskovic) caught the bottom of the ball.

“The (game-deciding) kick was low. Their kid (Sullivan) was in the perfect place at the right time to jump up and get his fingertips on the ball.”

The determined Lion defense limited Branford to only 56 yards rushing.

Goodkind, Branford’s top runner who recently ran for 195 yards against Sheehan, finished with 46 yards on 21 attempts. Nolan completed 11-of-26 passes for 111 yards. Sullivan had four receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Led by Festa (13 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns), Foran accumulated 144 yards rushing. Schumitz added 36 yards on 18 attempts and completed 3-of-6 passes for only 9 yards.

“Branford made the plays when they had to and I tip my hat to them,” Bevino said. “Both defenses played really well. I am so proud of the effort by our defensive unit. Alex Impellizeri had an absolutely phenomenal game. He made a ton of tackles and also had two big sacks. It was the best game I’ve ever seen him play. Ricky Festa was all over the field and our nose tackle, Brian Tickey had a huge game—the best game of his career.

“I’m so proud of my kids. They left it all on the field. They didn’t hold back anything. After the game, there wasn’t a dry eye in our locker rom. It was full of caring.”