Torrington finishes what it starts in gut-check win over Holy Cross. By John Nestor
TORRINGTON - Torrington football coach Dan Dunaj could be heard saying one thing above all else before his team started the fourth quarter Saturday against Holy Cross.
"Finish the game."
The Red Raiders did just that and now can begin what could be a whole new season.
Sophomore kicker PJ Killmartin hit a 20-yard field goal on the game's final play to lift the Red Raiders to a thrilling 24-21 victory over the defending Class S state champs.
After opening with a blowout loss to Ansonia and a crushing loss at Wolcott in which they held a 20-0 lead, Torrington was in desperate need of a win. They got it after a late defensive stand and a clock-eating drive that was capped by Killmartin's game-winning kick.
"I'm very proud of the kids, they fought, they didn't give up when there were plenty of opportunities for them to. I can't say enough about them." Dunaj said. "I think they realized that when they come together as a football family, there is nothing they can't accomplish."
The Red Raiders accomplished this win with a team effort. The defense stepped up and got a stop when it needed to and the offense burned the final four minutes of the fourth quarter on an 84-yard drive that led to the winning kick.
Holy Cross tied the game with a 23-yard TD run by Adrian Brown with 10:16 to play. After Torrington went three-and-out, the Crusaders took over and started to drive down the field. The Red Raiders started to hold their ground and on 3rd-and-10 got help when the Crusaders were flagged for a hold.
Freshman Nate Bresson came up with a big sack on the next play and Holy Cross had to punt.
Torrington took over on its own 13 with 4:03 to play and never gave the ball back to Holy Cross.
"My coaching staff does a great job," Dunaj said. "They did a great job calling the offense and defense today."
The final drive featured some tough running, creative play calling and a big pass from freshman quarterback Connor Finn. An end around by Edgar Gonzalez picked up 16 yards and got the ball out to the Torrington 39. After an eight-yard run by Devone Thomas, Torrington called a time out and reached into its bag of tricks.
On the next play Gonzalez took a pitch for what looked like a sweep but he pulled up and hit receiver Desmond Langs with a pass down to the Holy Cross 29 with 2:25 to go.
A freshman making his first varsity start, Finn managed the game well. He threw a TD pass to Langs in the first half to help Torrington build a 21-14 lead at the break and while he did throw an interception trying to force the ball into traffic, he didn't make any game-changing mistakes.
Instead he made a big play in the closing minutes, hitting Bresson on 3rd-and-five to give Torrington a first down at the Holy Cross 14 with a little over a minute to play. Three runs got the ball down to the three and brought on Killmartin with five seconds left.
The kick split the uprights and gave Torrington a huge win.
"I was nervous but I just stayed loose on the sideline because I thought that last drive could come down to a kick," Killmartin said. "I just tried to stay focused and I told myself it was just the same distance as an extra point. When it went through I was just excited, I had never had a game-winning kick before."
It was not only a game-winning kick, but a season saving one as well. There is still a lot of football to play, but Saturday's win keeps some of the Red Raiders' season goals alive.
"It was a huge win and Holy Cross is a great team that is going to win a bunch more football games this season," Dunaj said. "We needed this one. We still have a lot of season left and this win keeps a lot of our goals alive."