Friday Night Rewind
When all the smoke cleared Friday night at Nesti Stadium, football fans from Hall and Princeton had never seen anything quite like the frenzy that came with the latest rivalry battle between the Red Devils and Tigers.
It had smoke and fire, literally, with a speaker wire from the press box sparking like a 4th of July sparkler, and sending smoke into the air like a handful of smoke bombs.
There was a 57-year-old sports editor making like Hall’s James Mautino and Steven Brust, quickly getting out of the press box, saving the company laptop from any potential danger on the way out.
PHS science teacher Michael Fredericks referred to the scene as “Smoke on the Water, Fire in the Sky,” with a nod to the 1971 song by Deep Purple.
And it was all capped by a last-minute, game-winning, 50-yard flea-flicker thrown by Mautino to Brust with 1:27 left to play to give the Red Devils a thrilling come-from-behind 20-18 win over the rival Tigers.
“I don’t recall a night that ever had that much drama,” Hall coach Randy Tieman said. “In 2013, Collin Aimone returned a kickoff in the last minute and we made a 2-point conversation to win a game. But no fire or smoke.”
Tieman told reporters he knew he was going to have to “pull something out of my butt’’ to pull out the win. He said they practice that play maybe three reps a week, but never ran it in a game before.
“We put it in last year before the Monmouth game,” he said.
The key to the play, Tieman said, was for Mautino to avoid being tackled (he dodged two Tiger defenders) and for Brust to make a good sell as if he was stalk blocking and then take off for a seam. Mautino tossed to Brust about 25 yards, and he raced the other 25 yards to pay dirt.
As thrilling as it was to be on the winning side, it had to be more disappointing to be on the losing side, especially for the Tigers. They led practically for the first 17 minutes of the game after scoring 18 seconds into the contest on a 64-yard romp by Ronde Worrels, and again for the entire second half until the final 1 1/2 minutes of the game.
“It was certainly a crazy game. I know it was extremely disappointing to lose the game the way we did, but we have some resilient kids, and they will be ready to go this week (home vs. Sherrard),” PHS coach Ryan Pearson said.
Bruins are trending: Look who’s 3-0, the St. Bede Bruins. According to BCR research, St. Bede stands 3-0 for the first time dating back to 1997 when it opened the season 4-0 on the way to a 6-3 finish.
“It’s exciting to be 3-0. ... Not sure when last time was. The kids are having fun and now must focus even harder and can’t get complacent,” Bruins coach Jim Eustice said.
St. Bede’s 2001 state semifinalist never came close to 3-0, starting out 1-2 before ripping off a 9-game win streak. The Bruins’ 2016 playoff team started 0-2 before winning six straight.
BCR Game Balls: Game balls are given out this week to PHS’ Worrels (27-205, 3 TDs), Hall’s Brust (5-85 receiving, 2 TDs) and Mautino (game-winning pass) and St. Bede’s Ben Bernabei (30-206 rushing, TD).
Quick counts: One of the best games of the week fell on Saturday, when No. 4 ranked (2A) Orion edged No. 2 Sterling Newman 20-17 to kick off TRAC Rock play.