WALLINGFORD — For a while it looked like Lyman Hall might do it.
The Trojans led Thursday’s 50th annual Carini Bowl for most of the second and third quarters. Each time Sheehan gained momentum, Lyman Hall stole it back quickly.
There was real optimism on Lyman Hall’s sideline that Sheehan’s nine-year hold on the rivalry series would be snapped.
And then Brady Rossacci decided to put all of Sheehan High School on his back.
The freshman rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns — including three in the fourth quarter — to carry the Titans to a 37-28 victory at Riccitelli Field.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid,” Rossacci said. “We just flipped that switch at halftime. We knew it was our game to begin with.
“My offensive line was incredible, the best they’ve ever been. I’m so happy right now.”
Rossacci carried the ball 32 times and scored on runs of 4, 8, 15 and 54, with the last three erasing the 28-17 lead Lyman Hall had taken into the final period.
“He’s prepared for the moment; he’s been waiting for this moment in this game for so long and I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Sheehan head coach John Ferrazzi. “We’re certainly glad he’s on our side.”
With the victory, Sheehan captured its 10th straight Carini Bowl, a streak that started in 2012. The Titans finish their season at 5-5.
Lyman Hall, which got three touchdown passes from senior quaterback Tyler Casey to senior wide receiver Cam Pragano, finished 4-6 under first-year head coach C.J. Monroe.
“Hats off to them for digging deep and coming back to win the game,” Monroe said. “Any time you let up 250 rushing yards or more, it’s going to be tough to win. We did everything we could in the first half, but just came up a little short in the second half. I know this will motivate us for the offseason.”
Sheehan scored the first points of the game on a 33-yard field goal by Austin Eccles after six Rossacci runs set the Titans up in the red zone.
On third down from the 16, Rossacci ran the ball to the 5, but a holding penalty negated the run and Sheehan settled for three points.
Lyman Hall answered with an 11-play drive that featured some clutch plays. On fourth-and-4 at midfield, Casey scrambled away from pressure and gained the first down.
A few plays later, LH faced a fourth-and 7, but Sheehan jumped offsides and the Trojans gained the first down on the next snap.
After the quarter changed, Pragano caught a six-yard touchdown pass to gain a 7-3 Trojans lead.
On Sheehan’s following drive, the Titans committed another holding penalty to negate a 25-yard run by Rossacci and were forced to punt. Lyman Hall followed with a turnover on downs.
As the two-minute warning approached, Sheehan quarterback Paul Gorry threw a 39-yard touchdown strike to John Gogliettino to retake the lead and get the Sheehan faithful loud.
But only for 13 seconds of game action. The energy shifted back to the Lyman Hall faithful across the field as Gavin Janowski returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for the touchdown. Janowski broke multiple tackles on the sideline on his way to giving the Trojans a 14-10 halftime lead.
Sheehan started the second half with the ball at midfield, but Gorry threw an interception on the first play. Five plays later, Pragano ran uncovered down the left sideline and caught a 49-yard touchdown to extend the LH lead to 21-10.
Sheehan responded by using nine plays to drive 50 yards. Rossacci ran the ball in for an eight-yard touchdown, his first of the game.
Lyman Hall answered in just two minutes, with Casey hitting Pragano on a slant route for an 18-yard touchdown and a 28-17 lead. It was Pragano’s third touchdown catch of the game.
“We’re going to miss Cam next year,” Monroe said of the senior captain. “We talked about leaving it all on the field; he certainly did that.”
After that touchdown, Lyman Hall seemed to hit a wall while Sheehan remained energized by its productive run game. The Titans scored the next 20 points.
“Our players just find a way to keep competing,” Ferrazzi said. “We had all the chips stacked against us. Lyman Hall had all the momentum going into halftime and in the second half. We found a way and we’ll certainly take it.”
The fourth quarter began with Rossacci running in another eight-yard touchdown to cut the lead to five, 28-23, after Sheehan failed the two-point conversion attempt.
Sheehan quickly forced a punt, though, and Rossacci ended up with his third touchdown, this time from 15 yards, and converted the two-point try. Now the Titans had the lead, 31-28.
Lyman Hall took over with about seven minutes left, but turned the ball over on downs. One snap later, Rossacci celebrated in the end zone after a 54-yard touchdown run.
Other than the long Gogliettino reception, Sheehan didn’t get much out of the passing game. Gorry finished 4-for-6 for 60 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Lyman Hall had a well-rounded offense. Casey finished 13-of-20 for 174 yards and three TD. Running back Cristian Roman-Koenig finished with 14 carries for 70 yards. Pragano had five catches for 81 yards and his three touchdowns.
Neither team reached the playoffs this year. Ferrazzi concludes his 18th season and Monroe concludes his first.
“Playing football is not about just one player; it’s the ultimate team game,” Ferrazzi said. “This game takes a ton of sacrifice, perseverance and responding to adversity. Players can learn so much about going through life through this football experience. We hope they take that with them for the rest of their lives.”
50TH CARINI BOWL
S— Austin Eccles 33 FG
LH—Cam Pragano 6 pass from Tyler Casey (kick good)
S—John Gogliettino 39 pass from Paul Gorry (Eccles kick) 2:07
LH—Gavin Janowski 78 yard kickoff return (kick good) 1:54
LH—Pragano 49 pass from Casey (kick good) 9:30
S— Brady Rossacci 8 run (Eccles kick) 5:00
LH—Pragano 18 pass from Casey (kick good) 3:11
S—Rossacci 8 run (pass failed) 11:50
S—Rossacci 15 run (Rossacci run) 6:59
S—Rossacci 54 run (kick blocked) 4:12