Joshua Johnson ran into the end zone nearly untouched for a touchdown that brought Fordham Prep within one of Xavier in overtime. The points that mattered the most weren’t as easy.
The Rams, who do not have a place kicker, called Johnson’s number again for the 2-point conversion to win their annual Turkey Bowl with long time rival Xavier. The sophomore was grabbed by a sprawled out Frank Masella at the 3-yard line and was held out of the end zone.
“He just grabbed my leg,” said Johnson, who scored three times. “I tried to fight out it. I just didn’t”
The play handed Fordham Prep 35-34 overtime defeat in an instant classic at a snowy Jack Coffey Field on Thanksgiving Day in a meeting of two teams that have played annually since 1886. It is Xavier’s third straight victory over the Rams and the first contest to go to the extra session since the 2009 contest won by the Knights. Fordham coach Pete Gorynski said he’d go to Johnson again if given the choice.
“I don’t second guess the call,” he said. “We walked it in the first time. The kid made a great shoe-string tackle at the end.”
The Rams, the CHSFL Class A champion, were in the position they were thanks to a big day on the ground from Xavier running back Michael Chiarovano. The junior rushed for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries. His 11-yard scoring run in overtime put the Knights up for good. Xavier, which reached the Class AA semifinals, missed a potential 34-yard game-winning field on the final play of regulation.
It was just a small part of the drama that led to the game going to overtime. The Rams (11-3) got within 21–20 with a 76-yard touchdown run by Johnson, who bullied his way through a pack of Xavier defenders. The 2-point conversion pass failed. Johnson ran the ball five times for 80 yards.
The Knights (6-7) answered right back. Zach Cilmi capped a drive with a 2-yard scoring run to increase the lead to 28–20 with 5:04 to go in the game. Fordham freshman quarterback Matt Valecce, who battle past two early interceptions, connected with Will Randell up the left sideline. The senior eluded two tackles to complete a 76-yard score. Michael Wagner ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 28-28 with 3:50 to go in the contest.
“He’s been a stalwart on this team,” Gorynski said of Randell. “He’s a real big player.”
The coach commended his players for fighting to give themselves a change to win after Xavier, already up 14-0, was in position to put a strangled hold on the game. Instead Michael Bronzo recovered a Chiarovano fumble and returned it 72-yards for a touchdown with 3:00 to go in the second quarter. It sent Fordham Prep into the half down just 13–8.
“They just kept us motivated,” Johnson said. “We took the energy off of them.”
Fordham hopes to take the good feeling from this season into next year where it hopes to get back to the ‘AA’ playoffs. Fordham has its quarterback of the future in Valecce and a running back in Johnson. The bulk of its defense also returns.
“We started five sophomores and a freshman quarterback,” Gorynski said. “I think the future is bright.”
Cardinal Hayes 32, Mount St. Michael 0:Justin Covington rushed for three touchdowns for Hayes (4-8), which earned its second straight victory over Mount (1-11). It is the Cardinals first consecutive victories since 1979-80. Robert Nunez threw two touchdown passes in the first half.