FOOTBALL: In see-saw battle, Branford bruises LH playoff hopes

WALLINGFORD — In a heartbreaker that featured plenty of lead changes, Lyman Hall lost a Thursday night football game to SCC Tier 3 and Class M rival Branford by a score of 25-22.

Lyman Hall falls to 4-5 and is all but eliminated from Class M playoff contention.

It was a slow first half, featuring mostly runs and short passes as Branford jumped out to a 12-8 halftime lead. Then halftime came.

On the first play of the second half, following a nice kickoff return by Gavin Janowski to the 49, Cristian Roman-Koenig carried it right up the middle and was never touched for a 51-yard touchdown.

Lyman Hall took a 15-12 lead, its first of the game.

The following Branford drive also featured a nice kickoff return to the 49 and ended with a 41-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 by Cole Snider.

It didn't faze Lyman Hall. From the 20, quarterback Tyler Casey made a perfect pass down the right sideline to Cam Pragano for a 35-yard completion. Two plays later, from the Branford 44, Casey and Prgano executed the exact same play, this time for the touchdown.

22-19, Lyman Hall. 

Three touchdowns in the first 3½ minutes of second-half play. 

The scoring paused until early in the fourth, when Branford's Nathan Florio ripped off a 60-yard untouched run to make it 25-22, the fourth lead change of the second half.

This time, the score remained until there were zeros on the clock.

“They made some good plays; we made some good plays. That was a heck of an SCC football game. Sometimes you come up on the short end of it,” said Lyman Hall head coach C.J. Monroe. “I’m extremely proud of every single coach and player who stepped on the field tonight. They made a lot of plays, but Branford made a couple more.”

The rest of the second half featured turnovers — three by Lyman Hall and two by Branford.

The Trojans had a chance to make a miracle happen as they got the ball back with 38 seconds left at their own 10 with no timeouts, but after two quick first downs, an interception with 25 seconds left sealed it.

The first half was a lot tamer. Branford repeatedly ran for short gains as Lyman Hall couldn’t seem to stop the run. Branford didn’t have a single completion until the final drive of the first half, but three different Branford running backs had at least seven carries for 40 yards.

Branford out-gained Lyman Hall in the first half, 187-108.

Branford reached the end  zone on 11- and 8-play drives to jump out to a 12-0 lead. One score came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Florio and the other on a 6-yard run by Drew Schwartz.

The Hornets missed both extra points.

Down 12-0 without much production on their first two drives, the Trojans drove down the field on their third possession into the end zone. The drive featured two long screen passes and a fourth-and-goal touchdown to Roman-Koenig.

LH went for two and converted with a similar looking pass to fullback Anthony Salerno to cut the gap to 12-8. It was Salerno’s first catch of the season.

At the end of the first half, Branford used 13 plays to get to the 8-yard line, but ran out of time as the horn sounded.

“This one hurts, but I know all 63 kids in that locker room. They’ve improved for nine straight weeks,” Monroe said. “We’re going to get right back to work.”

Casey had a solid game, completing 16 passes on 25 attempts for 190 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Roman-Koenig had 10 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown as well as 4 catches for 53 yards and another touchdown.

“This is a young football team, with just six seniors, that keeps getting better and better,” Monroe said. “I’m excited for the program in the future, but there is still one football game left that our seniors will be ready for and will make sure we go out in the right way.”

With the playoff dreams likely over, Lyman Hall football has one mission: beat Sheehan on Thanksgiving Day, a feat the Trojans haven't achieved since 2011.


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