Holy Cross comes up agonizingly short in state semifinal loss

Holy Cross junior quarterback Drew Caouette threw a 10-yard TD pass to fellow junior Christopher Perrone during Sunday’s Class M semifinal loss to Rockville.

(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)

The Holy Cross football team’s dream of playing in the Class M state championship game came up agonizingly short on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon at Rockville High School.

The sixth-seeded Crusaders lost by one point, 14-13, to the second-seeded Rockville Rams. Holy Cross (8-4) saw its season end a game short of the state final for the second time in the last three years. Rockville (11-1) goes to the final for the second time in three years. The Rams will play top-seeded Daniel Hand-Madison for the championship on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field.

The Crusaders had a decision to make following senior Dylan Gray’s biggest play of the year, an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Holy Cross fans were in a state of delirium, Rockville fans a state of disbelief. The score was 14-13 Rams, there was 4:05 to play in the fourth quarter, and Crusader head coach Mike Giampetruzzi decided to try for a two-point conversion. He said afterward that his team had the momentum and they were looking to go ahead and win the game. He was also concerned about not getting the ball back. Holy Cross called for a pass, but junior quarterback Drew Caouette quickly found himself under pressure. Caouette’s pass fell incomplete, and the Crusaders were down, 14-13.

Holy Cross did get the ball back, thanks to a great fourth down stand by its defense near midfield. Rockville junior star Amir Knighton had a monster day (37 carries, 268 yards, 2 TD), but the Crusaders stuffed the Ram running back for no gain on 4th and 2 from the home team’s 47.

There was 1:59 to play. Holy Cross had the ball, and it still had a chance to win the game.

Disaster struck on the first play of the drive. Rockville senior Jason Acheampong was able to get to Caouette while coming from his right side. A solid hit jarred the ball loose, and sophomore Ethan Steele recovered the fumble for the Rams. In just five seconds, the Crusaders went from having a chance to having to watch Rockville take three knees and celebrate its win.

Senior Marques Campbell ran 21 times for 89 yards to lead the Holy Cross offense. Caouette finished 8 for 12 for 60 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior Christopher Perrone with 46.7 seconds left in the first half. Freshman Nate Craft’s PAT tied the game, 7-7.

The Caouette-Perrone connection came on the drive following Rockville’s first touchdown, a 9-yard run by Knighton. Caouette began the drive with a 15-yard scramble to the Ram 45. A wobbly pass from Caouette – it wasn’t easy to throw in Sunday’s gross conditions – somehow made its way to Perrone, who caught it and turned the play into a 32-yard gain. After a three-yard pass to Campbell, Caouette threw to a wide-open Perrone just shy of the front right pylon. Perrone waltzed into the end zone for the touchdown, which came less than a minute after Knighton’s touchdown.The game turned into a defensive tussle in the third quarter and a good chunk of the fourth quarter. That was until Knighton scooped up a low direct snap – again, the conditions were terrible – somehow found a hole, and then exploded for a 69-yard touchdown run. Sophomore Molly Wilson’s second PAT of the game put Rockville ahead, 14-7, with 4:19 to play in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Gray found his own hole in the middle of the field, then turned up the Holy Cross sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. Those six points accrued by Gray, helped by some solid blocking by his teammates, were the last the Crusaders scored in the game and this season.