RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For three quarters the Collegiate game plan was perfect. Head Coach Mark Palyo said the plan was always to stuff the run and make Benedictine throw. Benedictine obliged, stubbornly running the ball and punting.
The Cougars, on the other hand, ran a well-balanced attacked. Excellence Perry led the running game and Tee Brewer connected with Ayinde Budd for two touchdowns in the first three quarters. Jake Johnston added a couple of field goals to make the score 19-0, and it looked as if the Cougars would win their first state championship since 2009 with ease.
As the cold front began to move in over Western Henrico, though, things got interesting. The wind picked, and Brewer threw a tipped pass that was intercepted by Benedictine junior linebacker Damon Wright. Wright took the ball down to the Collegiate five yard line, and a play later Ellis Brooks punched in a five yard rushing touchdown to make the score 19-7.
In the fourth quarter, the temperature dropped, and the Benedictine passing game found itself. Sophomore Andrew Puccinelli, pinned on his own ten yard line after a poor punt return, threw up a kind of prayer on a play-action hitch-and-go, and Taurus Carroll found himself behind his defender with the ball. Carroll sprinted the rest of the way for a 90-yard touchdown. After the extra point, Benedictine trailed by just eight at 22-14.
The Cadets forced Collegiate to punt, and the burden of the state title fell squarely on the defense.
With less than two minutes to play, the Cadets were called for a holding penalty and Collegiate Berkley Geho sacked Puccinelli to leave Benedictine with a desperate 4th and 34. Curiously, the Cadets allowed the clock to run down so that 4th and 34 was the final play of the game. Head Coach Greg Lilly chose not to use his final time out. On the play, though, Collegiate was called for pass interference. Any defensive penalty with no time left on the clock extends the game by one untimed down. So the state championship came down to one final play.
Benedictine’s only hope was to throw it to the end zone and hope something good happened. Puccinelli lofted one up for Graham Flinn, but it was knocked away by Justin Schruijer. and Collegiate won the game and the championship 22-14.