Behind Coombs and Gopie, WCA gets by Torrington 19-17.
WATERBURY: Going into their match up with Waterbury Career Academy, the Torrington football team was aware that they would be facing one of the most dynamic players in the Naugatuck Valley League in senior Jalen Gopie.
Gopie, a 6’2” 213 pound running back/linebacker, is the kind of player that opposing teams need to know his whereabouts at all times. His is a young man who is receiving looks from Division I schools and had a scout from The Taft School taking a look at him on Thursday afternoon.
What the Raiders may not have known as much about was another senior, Darrell Coombs who made two plays, both on long passes that played a big part in the Spartans 19-17 win over Torrington in a game that came right down to the wire.
The visitors recovered an onside kick with 52.4 seconds to play and had a first down on the WCA 33-yard line but a fourth down sack by Giovanni Rodrigues ended the potential Raider comeback.
While he is an offensive weapon at running back, you can see Gopie’s skill set increase dramatically on defense where he is being looked at for the next level.
His ability to pursue down the line of scrimmage, combined with his speed and athleticism make him a pest to offensive coordinators and running backs alike.
You can’t arm tackle this guy and it was evident on the Spartans first drive when on second and ten from their own 18-yard line, Gopie took a handoff, was hit in the backfield but not wrapped up.
That run ended 35-yards later and while the drive didn’t result in a score, the dye was cast.
Where’s Waldo became Where’s Gopie.
It was Torrington though, who went on the games first sustained drive, one that started at their own 17-yards line with 4:56 left in the first quarter, sat at the WCA 16-yard line as the second quarter began.
Back to back penalties, one for motion and another for delay of game call, sabotaged the drive which ended with a sack on fourth down.
It looked as if we were in for a knock-out, drag out defensive battle at this juncture of the game but the Spartans got a big play from a senior they had been hoping could make one.
Quarterback, Julio Toro dropped back from the Torrington 40-yard line and launched a high rising ball that Coombs went up for, outjumping two Raider defenders for the ball and the games first points.
It was time for the Raiders to respond and behind some hard running from Conrad Avallone (17-66) and a 25-yard kickoff return by Jacob Coleman (19-107) the visitors drove to the WCA 26.
A facemask penalty on the Spartans moved the ball to the 13-yard line but Avallone was shaking up when his head was twisted badly, forcing him to the sideline for the next play.
Teammate Dillon Hargrove was more than ready to pick up his fellow Raider and his 13-yard scurry up the middle, combined with the Joey White extra point, knotted things at seven.
The home team got the ball back with 1:42 left at their own 40 and found pay dirt just two plays later, the last one a play Torrington head coach Gaitan Rodriguez was trying to get a time out called right before the snap.
It turned costly when WCA pulled out a trick play, this one featuring senior Joshua Ross Jr. taking the pitch and then throwing long to Coombs once again for a 45-yard touchdown to make it 13-7 at the half.
That play would loom large, especially after a Raiders mistake prolonged a Spartans drive to start the third quarter.
Facing a fourth and nine from mid-field, WCA was in punt formation but Torrington jumped offsides, making it a more manageable fourth and four, which they converted on an 11-yard pass from Toro to Coombs.
Four plays later, including a 21-yard pass completion from Toro to Gopie, it was the senior standout who made it 19-7 with a 12-yard run.
Not much was going right for the visitors at that point but they showed the never-give-up attitude that they have become known for this year on their second drive of the fourth quarter.
It was Coleman (41-yards) and Avallone who led the charge with Coleman bulling his way to a 14-yard score with 4:35 left. For good measure, Coleman punched in the two-point conversion as well and it was a 19-15 game at that point.
Things looked even better when the Raiders recovered the ensuing onside kick as Michael Brown pounced on the try, putting his team in business a the WCA 47-yard line.
The drive would not materialize but Rodriguez showed supreme confidence in his defense by punting form the Spartans 41 with just 3:00 minutes left in the game and just one time out.
Sean Clinkscales pinned the home team back at their own 11-yard line with a terrific punt.
His defense would reward his faith in them by moving the home team back to the three-yard line where they took a safety on the punt, not wanting to risk having the punt blocked.
Still, down just 19-17, the Raiders would get the ball back on the free kick with under a minute to play but this time, the comeback fell just a bit short.
Gopie accounted for 172 total yards of offense while Coombs ended the day with 113-yards and a pair of sores.
Torrington compiled 195 yards of offense, all on the ground.
WCA improves to 4-1 while the Raiders enter their bye week at 3-2.
WCA 19, Torrington 17
At Municipal Stadium, Waterbury
Torrington 0 7 0 10 17
WCA 0 13 6 0 19
(WCA): Darrell Coombs 40 pass from Julio Toro (Gary Gega kick)
(T): Dillon Hargrove 13 run (Joe White kick)
(WCA): Coombs 45 pass from Joshua Ross Jr. (kick failed)
(WCA): Jalen Gopie 12 run (pass failed)
(T): Jacob Coleman 14 run (Coleman run)
(T): Christian Estefani 3-2; Joey Zepperi 1- (-1); Conrad Avallone 17-66, Coleman 19-107; Hargrove 3-18, Sean Clinkscales 1-5
(WCA): Gopie 19-113, Cyris Smith 7-17, Toro 1-0
(T): Coleman 0-5-0, Coleman 0-1-0
(WCA): Toro 7-11-115, Ross Jr 1-1-45
(WCA): Gopie 3-42, Coombs 4-113, Zyaire Ettson 1-5
Records: Torrington 3-2, WCA 4-1