MERIDEN — Wilcox Tech turned a duck into a swan Wednesday night. Ultimately, though, it was the Hawks of Vinal Tech/Goodwin Tech/Whitney Tech who soared highest at Falcon Field.
The Middletown-based co-op withstood a 75-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Perez to Troy Mitchell to capture the fifth Route 66 Bowl, 30-12.
The Perez-to-Mitchell connection, which looked like it would result in anything but the minor miracle it became, drew the Indians to within 14-9 with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter.
And while Wilcox would get a second field goal from Tom Buonanni before the quarter was out, the Tribe never got any closer and ended the 2019 season at 1-9.
Vinal finished at 3-7 with its fourth Route 66 Bowl victory, reclaiming the title the Indians had claimed last year at Palmer FIeld.
On Wednedsay night at Falcon, the Hawks, working out of two-back, two-receiver sets, got all their touchdowns on the ground — two in the first quarter from Gabe Lorenzo, and one apiece in the second half from Juan Rosario and John Long.
Buonanni’s field goals for Wilcox came from 25 and 26 yards. The 25-yarder, coming in the second quarter, made the score 14-3 at halftime.
Defensively, Wilcox Tech’s Dickson Peralta celeberated his birthday with an interception. Nick Sharretto had one, too, and it came on the very play before the Perez-to-Mitchell bomb.
That pass from Perez was a floater that looked more likely to be intercepted. Instead, Mitchell came down with it in double coverage behind his defenders and won the footrace to the end zone.
Though they were within 14-9, the Indians couldn’t sustain the momentum. The Hawks blocked the PAT, got a long kickoff return from Everton Russell and a 35-yard inside run from Long that immediately put them at the Wilcox 20.
Long busted it inside for 13 more. Rosario covered the final seven yards untouched on a reverse.
The pendulum did swing back. Down 22-9 after Vinal converted a two-point run, Wilcox got a long kickoff return from Jacob Schwall and set up shop at the Hawks’ 22.
The Indians, though, didn’t get a full return on that return. Facing fourth-and-goal at the 9, Buonanni came on for the 26-yarder. It was good, but Wilcox still trailed by two scores, 22-12, with 2½ minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Indians had two chances to cut into the deficit as the game spilled into the final frame. They couldn’t do much with either possession, though.
Worse: the second drive of the fourth quarter ended with a bad snap on a punt. Vinal recovered at the Wilcox 9 and, two snaps later, Long made it a longer deficit for the Tribe, pushing the margin to 30-12 with 3:31 to go.
Wilcox went down swinging. Perez connected with Christian D’Agostino on a 40-yard pass play before that drive fizzled outside the 20.
And that was it. Vinal took over, worked the clock and tilted the Route 66 Bowl back to Middletown’s end of the road.