EAST HARTFORD — The boys on Team Constitution had Southington’s Stephen Barmore at quarterback. That’s a big reason why they led from start to finish Saturday in the Super 100 Classic at Rentschler Field.
The boys on Team Nutmeg had Sheehan’s Brandon Gauthier at wide receiver. That’s a big reason why they were never out of it.
What was a one-sided romp through three quarters turned into a donnybrook of a finish when Team Nutmeg scored three touchdowns in the final 5:30 of play. Team Constitution led 27-0 at halftime, maintained it through a scoreless third quarter, then held on for a 29-20 victory.
Constitution’s victory was directed by its quarterbacks, Barmore and Glastonbury’s Jalen Ollie, who shared their team’s Offensive MVP award. Barmore completed 19 of 27 passes for 172 yards. Ollie was 8-for-11 for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Nutmeg’s comeback was sparked by Gauthier, his team’s Offensive MVP with eight receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown.
After being one of Nutmeg’s few bright spots in the first half, Gauthier teamed with Trumbull quarterback Nick Roberts on two straight timing routes down the sideline that covered 70 yards — the first for 44, then second for a 16-yard TD — to get Nutmeg on the board with 5:30 left.
A 38-yard fade from Roberts to Gauthier set up Nutmeg’s second touchdown just over a minute later.
“I have man [coverage],” Gauthier had said to Roberts at halftime. “Just throw the ball; I’ll catch it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? A ball that’s incomplete.”
“All right,” Roberts replied. “I’ll trust you.”
Roberts also trusted Oxford receiver Chris Vankamerik. They combined on two scoring passes, the first from 19 yards and then a 71-yard whopper, in the frenetic finish.
Nutmeg also had two other key factors going its way in the comeback:
• An All-Star game rule that decrees if a team is trailing by more than 15 points in the fourth quarter, it receives the ball after every touchdown, regardless of who has scored.
Hence, Nutmeg got the ball right back after Gauthier’s TD with 5:30 to go and pulled to within 27-14 on the first Roberts-to-Vankamerik connection.
• The right foot of Southington kicker Kyle Smick.
Actually, make that the left. Kicking with his opposite foot, Smick caught Constitution off guard with a successful onside kick that got Nutmeg the ball after a holding call in the end zone had a resulted in a safety that extended the Constitution lead to 29-14.
On the very next play after the onside recovery, Roberts and Vankamerik hooked up from 71 yards to close to within 29-20.
The duo went to the well once more on the two-point try, but Constitution made the stop, recovered one last onside attempt by Smick (this time with the right foot) and ran down the clock to victory.
It was an improbable finish to a game that had turned to rout after Constitution’s three-TD flurry in the second quarter.
“We came in here at halftime and challenged them to go out compete and be the all-stars that they are,” said Nutmeg coach John Ferrazzi of Sheehan. “The third quarter was a little rough, but the fourth quarter turned it around. Then you saw the fire.”
Ferrazzi had seven area players on his team: Smick, Gauthier and fellow Titans Rafael Dominguez (RB) and Tom Francis (OLB), and Platt’s Erlin Colon (LG), Jason Nelson (S) and Deion Lespier (CB).
Of his wide receiver, who is heading to Dean Junoir College, Ferrazzi said, “When Brandon Gauthier steps in between the lines, he’s a gamer. I’ve been coaching 13 years — nine years as a head coach — and he ranks up in the top of who you want the ball to go to in crucial situations. He doesn’t get rattled, he competes and he wants the ball in those situations. He just has a knack for making plays.
“He’s a good player and I really hope that he continues playing ball in the future because he’s just got — it.”
On the other sideline, Southington head coach Mike Drury, who served as an assistant to Constitution head man Sean Marinan of Xavier, shared one last go-round with Barmore.
Drury was an assistant under D.J. Hernandez when Barmore made his varsity debut as a freshman. It was against New Britain at Rentschler Field.
“To be able to make my first and last start on this field, it’s definitely special,” said Barmore. “It leaves me feeling a little sentimental.”
Drury and Barmore went on to spend the next three years together, the last culminating with the state Class LL championship.
Barmore said that 2013 title was deserved because Southington’s coaching staff worked so hard. He considers Drury “one of the greatest men that I think I’ll know in my life.”
And Drury, of course, thinks highly of his Yale-bound QB. For one last time, he watched Barmore master an offense. The All-Star schemes, more or less Marinan’s system at Xavier, Barmore picked up inside of two weeks.
“Steve’s such a gamer, but he’s so smart. He picked up the offense like that,” Drury said. “All the terminology’s different, some concepts are different. Some things might be similar, but it’s a different offense and you’ve got to learn it from the ground up.
“After the game I gave him an old hug and said, ‘It’s been a hell of a ride.’ It was one last time and it was great.”
Constitution 29, Nutmeg 20
At Rentschler Field
C—Harold Cooper 5 run (Lyle Luth kick)
C—Andrew Meoli 14 run (Luth kick)
C—Khary Carrasquillo-Childs 57 pass from Jalen Ollie (Luth kick)
C—Cooper 18 run (kick failed)
N—Brandon Gauthier 16 pass from Nick Roberts (Kyle Smick kick)
N—Chris Vankamerik 19 pass from Roberts (Smick kick)
C—Safety. Nutmeg called for holding in end zone
N—Vankamerik 71 pass from Roberts (pass failed)