TRUMBULL — Colton Smith of Newtown piled up nearly 100 yards rushing the ball for the Fairfield Prep Jesuits, but perhaps the most important carry he had in the December 7 Class LL state playoff semifinal round game was a 13-yard loss for safety — a designed play that enabled the Jesuits to run the final seconds off the scoreboard clock to capture a thrilling 29-28 win over West Haven.
The seventh-seeded Jesuits, who needed a Thanksgiving Day win over West Haven to qualify for the state playoffs, earned their second win in a little more than a week over the Blue Devils (the Class LL’s No. 6 seed) to advance to face No. 4 Southington in the championship tilt. The game was originally slated to be played at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on December 14 and was postponed because of snow. The game was rescheduled to be played on December 16, and moved to West Haven High's field, but ice accumulation on the field and more weather issues in the forecast forced the postponement of the game to Thursday, December 19 at 6:30 pm, in West Haven.
Smith, the team’s quarterback, rushed for a pair of touchdowns agaisnt West Haven— one from nine yards out and the other for a three-yard score — and completed 9 of 18 pass attempts for 71 yards in the win at Trumbull High School’s field.
The back-and-forth game featured the Jesuits overcoming a 19-9 deficit in the third quarter and a Prep interception back at its own eight yard line, while protecting a 29-26 lead, with a little more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following the interception, after the Jesuits ran the clock down to five seconds remaining, and facing a fourth down situation, the team put the game on ice by sacrificing two points to avoid a possible blocked punt or kick return for a score.
Another Newtown player on the Jesuits, Stephen Walsh, came up with some big plays. The punter/ wide receiver/defensive back pinned West Haven at its own two-yard line with a first half punt that led to a safety to get the Jesuits on the scoreboard an to within 7-2. Walsh also had a couple of receptions.
Lineman Connor Roche, also of Newtown, has played a significant role in the team’s running game, opening holes for ball carriers throughout regular and postseason action.
Southington may be a favorite on paper, but seedings sometimes can be thrown out the window in the postseason. Last year, Southington was the No. 2 seed and fell to seventh-seeded Glastonbury in the quarterfinals. This fall, Glastonbury was the second seed and Prep earned the upset win in the quarterfinals, and West Haven upset No. 3 Hall in the quarters.
“I think we have a very good shot. We just have to practice hard, watch film, and we’ve got to want it,” Smith said. “We’ve got to want it — that’s the biggest thing.”