Ellington holds off Gilbert, 20-17.
WINSTED: When Gilbert/Northwestern kicker John Ambrozaitis lined up for a potential game tying 28-yard field goal with time running down in the fourth quarter in his teams battle with Ellington, you had to like the Yellowjackets chances of forcing overtime.
Down 20-17 with 1:13 to go, “GN” had one of the better kickers in the area lined up for a kick he makes most times.
What the ‘Jackets and their fans didn’t count on though, was a high snap that was bobbled and dropped, forcing Ambrozaitis to pick it up and try for the seven yards needed for a first down.
He came up three short.In their home opener on Saturday afternoon at Van Why Memorial Field, the Yellowjackets let one get away against a Pequot Division rival who improved to 3-0.
The Purple Knights came in off wins over Canton (21-7) and SMSA (47-7) and were facing their toughest opponent to date in a tough environment.
“We traditionally don’t play well here.” head coach Keith Tautkus said. “It’s a long bus ride and coach (Scott) Salius always has teams that play a very physical style of football.”
The Knights used that aggression against the Yellowjackets on the game deciding score with just under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter when a perfectly executed halfback option pass from Neal Janiga found Brendan Coverdill all alone in the end zone.
Both Gilbert defensive backs bit on the fake and went after Janiga who simply had to reach the 6’4”, Coverdill down the left sideline for the score.
Neither team could get much going in the first half which ended with the visitors up 7-3 off the first of two scores by Coverdill, who had at least a half a foot on the ’Jackets Seth Dayton.
On a second and nine play from the Gilbert 31-yard line, Knights quarterback Joe Leslie went high and deep for his tall receiver and Ellington had the lead.
Gilbert (1-2) had gotten on the board first with a 27-yard field goal by Ambrozaitis off the first of two John Lippincott interceptions of the afternoon.
Ellington also took advantage of their opponents turnover (a fumble by Lippincott) but cashed in with the seven points.
The Knights came into the game looking to stop one of the top players in the Pequot, Tony Ortiz who had six touchdowns in his teams first two games.
Ortiz ran well (22-81) but Salius and Gilbert knew they had to be more diverse on offense.
“Teams are going to try and take away Ortiz coming in.” Sailus said. “We had to spread the ball around and do things they weren’t ready for.”
After a sluggish first half on offense, the Yellowjackets came out firing hard on their first possession of the third quarter with Lippincott leading the way.
“GN” drove 72 yards in eight plays that took 4:08 off the clock and ended when Lippincott found senior Thomas Casey for a six yard touchdown pass play that was set up by seven straight runs.
What type adjustments did Salius and his staff make during the break?
“None really.” Salius said. “We told them that everything we wanted to do on offense was there, they just weren’t doing it. We stuck to the plan and executed better in the second half.”
When Lippincott picked off Leslie on a well read crossing pattern on the ensuing drive, the home team had the ball on the Knights 39-yard line and a chance to put some more points on the board, which they did.
Six plays later, Lippincott connected with Casey again off a roll out pass from 18-yards out and the lead grew to double digits at 17-7 with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter.
Momentum is a funny thing.
At this point Gilbert had it all.
That would change in about 30-seconds a kick return that looked for all the world like a bust but ended up smelling like the end zone.
Knights junior Christian Schneider dropped the kickoff at his own 15-yard line, picked it up and faked a reverse before breaking numerous tackle on his way to an 85-yard kickoff return that made it a game again while thoroughly taking the air out of the Gilbert momentum balloon.
“That’s the second game we have lost because of poor special teams play.” Salius said. “We practice and we drill each week like we did this week but we still give up the big play.”
Both defenses stiffened after that with Ellington winning the field position battle with the ’Jackets, leading to good field position on their final drive that almost didn’t happen.
Coverdill fumbled the punt after calling for a fair catch but was able to come out of the ensuing pile with the rock.
After driving to the Gilbert 33-yard line, the Knights took advantage of the hard charging ’Jackets “D” by running the halfback option to perfection and grabbing the lead they would not relinquish.