'Jackets hold on for 34-33 win over rival Avon. Story by John Torsiello.
WINSTED-Senior defensive back Seth Dayton has had the dream a number of times as a young football player; making the game-saving play to clinch his team’s victory.
On an overcast afternoon, with the light fading beneath leaden skies, Dayton’s dream came true as he intercepted a two-point conversion pass with no time on the clock to give the Gilbert/Northwestern Yellowjackets a thrilling 34-33 win over arch-rival Avon at Van Why Field.
The victory put the ‘Jackets atop the Pequot Conference West Division with a 4-0 division record (6-1 overall), while Avon fell to 4-2 in the division and 5-3 overall.
“”It was like a dream come true,” said Dayton, of his game-saving pick, after Avon came from 22 points down to pull to within one when senior quarterback Noah Hahn jumped over the goal line from a yard out as time expired in regulation. “To have it actually come true was an amazing feeling.”
Dayton continued, “Murphy (Avon’s senior running back James Murphy) went in motion and they had run that play once before during the game. I knew the ball was going to come to him so I watched the quarterback when he got some pressure put on him and jumped the route,”
The win capped a wild finish during which the visitors scored 21 points in the final seven minutes of play to almost steal the victory from the ‘Jackets.
Trailing, 34-12, Dylan Marquis and Hahn hooked up on a 30-yard scoring strike with 7:09 left, and also collaborated on a two-point conversion pass to make it 34-20.
Following a G-N punt, Murphy went 70 yards for a score at the 4:45 mark with the point-after kick good to bring Avon to within seven points, 34-27.
Gilbert/Northwestern was unable to muster any offense on its next possession and Avon took over the ball near midfield with just under three minutes remaining. With the help of a pass interference call against the G/N secondary, the Falcons stormed down to the home team’s one-yard line but were unable to punch it in as the clock wound down. But on the final play of regulation, Hahn scrambled around right end and dove for the pylon as the referees singled touchdown to make it a one-point affair.
Avon head coach James Caouette decided to go for the win but instead only made Seth Dayton’s dreams come true.
“We called a time out to talk about what they might do on the two-point conversion,” said Dayton, who also caught 53-yard touchdown pass and scored on a one-yard run, “and we were ready for them to run the play where they went to Murphy after putting him in motion to the left side.”
Senior quarterback John Lippincott had a superb game, both on offense and defense. He completed 6-of-11 passes for 130 yards, threw two scoring strikes and rushed for 40 yards.
“This is a team that just wants to win,” said the veteran signal caller. “We have a lot of seniors on the team that have played together for a while. I was a bit surprised that they went for the win but they had the momentum and their coach has faith in them.”
G-N’s defense, despite giving up a bunch of points late, had a big role in the outcome. Avon scored first to take a 6-0 read when Hahn hit Stephen Griffin on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 5:24 left in the first period. But the home club’s “D” came up big twice in the initial period, once when Lippincott was intercepted and again when the home team fumbled the ball, both turnovers coming fairly deep in Yellowjacket territory. Avon missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs following the miscues.
G-N put 20 points in the board in the second quarter to take command of the game. Senior running back Anthony Ortiz broke a number of tackles on a 56-yard touchdown run; Dayton hauled in a pass from Lippincott on the left sideline and raced 53 yards for another score; and Matt Neves scored from seven yards out to give the home team a 20-6 lead.
G-N built its lead to 27-6 when Dayton scored from one-yard out seven minutes into the third period. Avon responded with a score a minute and a half later, but the ‘Jackets took a 34-12 lead with five minutes left to go in the third when Ortiz slammed in from a yard out with 9:19 on the clock in the fourth period, setting the stage for the late game fireworks.
Ortiz, who came into the game with over 1,000 yards rushing on the season, gained 165 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns. Sophomore place kicker Joe Colombie made 4-of-5 crucial points after touchdowns.
Hahn was 13-of-23 passing for 142 yards, while Murphy, who left it all on the field on both sides of the ball, had 126 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Gilbert/Northwestern 34, Avon 33
Avon 6 0 6 21 33
G-N 0 20 7 7 34
A-Stephen Griffin 32 pass from Noah Hahn (kick missed)
G/N-Anthony Ortiz 56 run (Joe Colombie kick)
G/N-Seth Dayton 53 pass from John Lippincott (kick blocked)
G/N-Matt Nieves 7 run (Colombie kick)
G/N-Dayton 1 run (Colombie kick)
A- Dylan Marquis 7 pass from Hahn (pass failed)
G/N-Ortiz 1 run (Colombie kick)
A-Marquis 30 pass from Hahn (Marquis two-point conversion pass from Hahn)
A-James Murphy 70 pass from Hahn (John Bordick kick)
A-Hahn 1 run (pass failed)
Passing: A-Hahn 14-22-208-0. G/N-Lippincott 6-9-133-2.
Rushing: A-Murphy 8-58; Griffin 4-23, Hahn 5-23. G/N-Ortiz 23-165, Lippincott 10-40.
Receiving: A-Marquis 3-42, Murphy 4-5-116. G/N-Dayton 3-61, Ben Schiffer 1-53, Nick Pedrolini 2-17
Records: A-5-3; G/N-6-1.