WALLINGFORD — While it may not have had the pre-game buzz of the other Connecticut High School Football Alliance matchups, few could have surpassed the drama of Friday night’s E.O. Smith-Lyman Hall contest.
Lyman Hall came out on the short end of a 35-34 non-conference affair after failing to convert a potential winning 2-point conversion in overtime.
Tyler Casey’s third touchdown pass — and second to Cam Pragano — got the Trojans within a point in overtime. But instead of going for the PAT and the tie, Lyman Hall head coach C.J. Monroe elected to try to win the game.
Monroe dialed up a play for Pragano in the wake of his 7-yard touchdown reception from Casey.
Lyman Hall lined up four receivers on one side of the field and Casey sent a swing pass to Pragano, who then desperately flipped the ball to Cristian Roman-Koenig with several E.O. Smith defenders around him.
It resulted in the Trojans coming up a yard short of the end zone.
“I wanted to get the ball into our best player’s hand,” said Monroe. “We just came up short; it’s a game of inches. That’s a tough one.
“But I love our guys,” added Monroe. “I love their confidence.”
E.O. Smith quarterback Connor Ouellette provided the winning points, running in from the 2-yard line to give the Panthers a 35-28 lead two plays into overtime.
Earlier, in regulation, the Panthers had a chance to tie the game because the Trojans had missed a point-after attempt following Casey’s second touchdown pass of the game and first to Pragano.
Ouellette’s touchdown pass with 1:30 to play, on the Panthers’ last drive of regulation, and an ensuing 2-point conversion, tied the game 28-28. E.O. Smith went 56 yards on 12 plays for the game-tying points.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot not converting a couple times early in the game, and then if we kick the PAT the game’s over,” Monroe said. “But give E.O. Smith credit. They had to execute and score at the end and get the two … and they did it.”
“It’s a tough one here tonight.”
Monroe was referring to two goal-line stands by the Panthers in the first half.
Yet after being stopped twice at the 1 on fourth down in the first half, Casey threw a pair of touchdown passes on fourth down in the second half.
Casey finished regulation 17 of 25 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Pragano caught seven balls for 106 yards before scoring in overtime.
Casey’s 27-yard hookup with Pragano with 5:42 to play in regulation gave the Trojans a 28-22 lead after E.O. Smith had cut the Lyman Hall advantage to 22-20 two plays into the fourth quarter.
The loss dropped the SCC’s Lyman Hall to 1-2 on the season, while E.O. Smith out of the CCC improved to 2-1.
On a night that certainly felt like the first day of fall, with game-time temps in the 50’s and a bone-chilling wind whiping through Fitzgerald Field, Lyman Hall controlled the game from the opening kickoff.
E.O. Smith, however, scored with 10:20 to play to cut the Trojans’ lead to 22-20.
An 8-yard touchdown run by E.O.Smith’s Tyler Holcomb came after a Casey scoring connection to Kadin DeWallace on fourth down midway through the third quarter had given the Trojans a 22-13 lead.
Lyman Hall and E.O Smith entered halftime separated by just a point, 14-13, despite the Trojans controlling the game.
The Panthers had just one sustained drive, but stayed close with the two goal-line stands and a big play on special teams.
The half ended with the Panthers’ second stand, as Casey was stopped short of the end zone with no time remaining.
E.O. Smith also held Lyman Hall out of the end zone on fourth down at the 1 in the first quarter when a Casey pass fell incomplete with 2:03 left in the quarter.
The game was tied 7-7 after one quarter even though E.O. Smith didn’t get a first down until 8:15 remained the half. The Panthers ran just six plays and were forced to punt on their first two possessions.
The Trojans took a 14-7 lead on a 6-yard touchdown run by Gavin Janowski, who took a direct snap and barreled into the end zone with 9:50 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers finally got their first first down on Ouellette’s 8-yard pass to Jonathan Sanville, which also got E.O. Smith into Trojans’ territory for the first time.
The Trojans took the opening kickoff and marched 76 yards with a mix of Casey passes to Seaz and runs by Roman-Koenig. The drive included six carries by Roman-Koenig and a 24-yard hookup between Casey and Seaz.
The drive ended with a 5-yard TD run by Roman-Koenig, who was a workhorse all night with 26 carries for 127 yards.
E.O. Smith, however, came right back to tie the game 7-7 on Samuel DeJesus’ 86-yard return of the ensuing kickoff.