MERIDEN – O’Neal Ward took things into his own hands.
With Maloney nursing a two-point lead and Conard in optimum field position, the quest for a Class L tournament berth may well have been on the line.
Ward keyed a defensive stand that enabled the Spartans to hold off Conard, 12-10, for their eighth straight win in an interdivisional CCC battle at Falcon Field.
Maloney is 8-1. Conard falls to 5-4.
In Conard’s possession after yielding a four-point lead, Ward sacked Conard quarterback Jack Moore on first down from the Maloney 35. His rush forced an incomplete pass on second down. He jammed Moore at the line of scrimmage on the next play to force a punt.
Maloney took the lead with 8:02 left in the game.
Graham converted a big fourth down with an 11-yard pass to Victor Marquez at the Conard 25. On a second-and-13 from the 17, Graham rolled right into wide-open space and plunged the ball over the goal line. A bad snap blew up the PAT try.
Conard’s final possession began at midfield. The Chieftains picked up a first down and were approaching field goal range at the 28 when Mitch McEwen and Jaylon Nixon combined to sack Moore to bring up fourth-and-9. Moore targeted Grant O’Connor, but one-hopped the pass.
The Chieftains, who ended South Windsor’s bid for an unbeaten season October 27, drew first blood.
A 30-yard run by Matt Langevin ignited the scoring drive early in the second quarter that David Regan capped with a 35-yard field goal. Conard gained just 36 yards on the ground for the entire half, thanks to the defensive prowess of O’Neal Ward, Mitch McEwen and their mates.
The Spartans answered with an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown trek.
After a fourth-down conversion pass from Graham to Chris Infante covered three yards, Aden Valentin (25 carries, 131 yards) burst into the open on the next play and raced 44 yards for the only touchdown of the first half. Maloney took a 6-3 lead into the locker room.
An interception by Cole Haggery at the Maloney 22 set up the Chieftains’ go-ahead score.
Moore found Justin Furze on an 11-yard out pattern. Regan’s conversion kick gave Conard a 10-6 lead with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Valentin passed the 1,000-yard barrier for the season. Graham was 9-for-23 passing for 66 yards and two intercpetions.