Late Covington score sparks Hayes past Friars

Cardinal Hayes lost its quarterback, then its lead late and it didn’t matter.

The Cardinals showed plenty of resilience in the final minutes of a thrilling 32-25 victory over perennial CHSFL ‘AAA” power St. Anthony’s in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon. The victory is Hayes’ first ever over the Friars and vaults them over the Long Island team into second place heading into the playoffs.

After the Cardinals saw starting quarterback Christian Anderson exit early with a shoulder injury, backup Brion Vigo stepped in and helped his team build the 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

St. Anthony’s stormed back to tie the score at 25-25 with 3:28 left, but Vigo and running back Justin Covington led Hayes down the field in the final minutes for the winning score, a 18-yard run from Covington with 39 seconds left.

“We talk about just keeping pounding away, and having heart, and playing with more effort than everybody, and I think that’s really all it was,” Hayes coach C.J. O’Neil said. “In games like this, the X-factor is effort. That’s it.”

The Cardinals pushed their lead to 25-10 thanks to Convington early in the fourth. He had a 30-yard run into St. Anthony’s territory and then scored from the one.

It didn’t deter the Friars from back. A 42-yard reception by James Pryor set St. Anthony’s up at the Hayes 3-yard line, and Tyler Palminteri ran it in to cut the lead to 25-17 with about 2:30 remaining in the game.

After forcing a three-and-out, St. Anthony’s () went on a nine-play, 52-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tom Walsh to Andrew Hancock. Walsh ran in the two-point conversion to tie the score with 3:32 left. Hayes () began to answer when Vigo found Rodriguez again on 3rdand-11 to move his team to the St. Anthony’s 32 to help set up Covington’s decisive run.

“It was just great,” Covington said. “Great blocking by my O-line, to allow us all that grass, and they just blocked great. We stuck together and we just pulled it off.”

After running for just 10 total yards in the first two quarters and he responded with 131 yards and two touchdowns over the final two frames.

His team on the other hand got out of the gates well, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on a 63-yard touchdown strike from Anderson to Shameen Jones in the first quarter. St. Anthony’s then took the lead at 7-6 on a 10-yard touchdown run by Kwesi Thomas-Henderson.

On the first play from scrimmage on Hayes’ next possession, Anderson injured his shoulder after taking a hit running out of bounds and missed the rest of the game. Virgo filled in admirably.

“I feel like I had to keep the team humble, and I had to keep driving the ball and keep everybody on track,” he said.

Vigo helped Hayes retake the lead with a 14-play, 87-yard drive early in the second quarter, capped by a three-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Dante Rodriguez, it was the first of two scores from the duo. It allowed Hayes take a 12-7 advantage into the half. The march was aided by two other conversions on fourth down, the first of which was a fake punt around midfield

“It’s a big drive, I told everybody to stay calm, stay humble. Game’s not over yet,” Vigo said.

Hayes’, which finished 4-7 last year in its first season back in the AAA, find themselves enjoying the advantaged of an elite club heading into the post season.

“Home seed through the playoffs,” O’Neil said. “We’re the 2-seed.”

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