Bobcats win 24-23 Thriller Versus Lakeland
By Rich Monetti
October 7, 2017
At 4-2, Byram Hills was angling for post season positioning last night at Lakeland High School, and they had to feel pretty good about facing the 1-4 Hornets. Nonetheless, both teams played a mistake riddled first half that yielded a 3-3 yawner at intermission. But the second half didn’t have anyone nodding off, and the final gun provided no reprieve either. Lakeland scoring as the clock hit 0:00, Byram Hills escaped with the victory when Jorge Duque’s extra point sailed wide and sent the Bobcats a loft with joy.
The onslaught of errors began on Lakeland’s second drive. After the Hornet’s Quarterback Michael Capozzi drove his team down the field by finding James White twice for long gains, he appeared to connect with Armando Smith in the corner of the end zone. But an illegal procedure nullified the score, and the Hornets settled for a Duque field goal at 2:38 of the first.
Byram would return the favor on a third and 15 from the Lakeland 17. Bobcat Quarterback Brett Stafford had Lakeland on the run when his scramble found Aversa Sarro in the end zone. But the QB crossed the line of scrimmage, and Skyler Heally’s field goal attempt was then blocked.
Byram Hills proceeded to do their hosts one better when Jay Bancone’s long punt return was called back. Nonetheless, the Bobcats ground game gobbled up the lost yards just the same.
Runs by Stafford, Addeo and Bancone got the offense close, and a reverse to Bancone left Stafford open to play receiver. The QB’s reception got Byram Hills to the 10, and Handy hit a 27 yard field goal to knot the score at halftime.
The second half would see the Lakeland defense open up on the downside. Situated at midfield after a couple of Addeo runs, Stafford lofted a balloon his brother Christopher. The elder seemed to wait an eternity for the ball to come down, which allowed the Lakeland corner to cover. But he missed the tackle, and Stafford went untouched into the end zone at 9:07.
The Bobcat offense didn’t sit back and wait for another touch, though. Bancone picked off a Capozzi sideline pass, and Byram Hills was on the run again.
They did pause at 4th and one at midfield, but Coach Carpenter opted for a quarterback sneak. Stafford did not disappoint, and then he really went to work. A quarterback draw put the Bobcats on the ten, and then he hit Sarro in the end zone for a 17-3 lead with 3:25 left in the third.
As might be expected, Lakeland answered with a long kickoff return, which was called back on a holding penalty. The reset did not kill the Hornets buzz, though.
On a second and ten from Byram’s 44, John White burst through the line and in a flash he crossed the goal line. Lakeland failed to convert on the two point play, but they were back in the game and trailed 17-9 with 51 seconds remaining in the third.
The game seemed ready to wind down when Chris Stafford picked Capozzi off at the Lakeland 45. But the Hornets had other ideas after stopping the Bobcats on 4th and eight at the 32.
Tommy Barnett softened the defense up first with a 16 yard run to midfield and then turned the corner for a 44 yard touchdown run with 3:38 remaining. John White came down in the right corner for the tying two point conversation, and the Bobats were now on high alert.
A Bancone return to the 40 had Byram set up nicely. However, facing third and eight, seemed to have the Bobcats grasping at straws. Instead, Stafford found Bancone wide open in the flat, and he ran untouched into the end zone at 2:35.
The crucial extra point by Healy obviously proved fatal for Lakeland. Nonetheless, the Hornets didn’t retreat into their hive.
Starting at their own 35, Capozzi kept it simple with the keep several times and took off on the scramble when his receivers were covered. Two passes to White put Lakeland on the twelve, and a Capozzi scramble to the eight allowed Lakeland to spike the ball for one last play.
But Byram Hills was flagged for pass interference, and the last play in regulation had White coming down with the touchdown off a Capozzi rollout to the right.
The missed extra point finalized the deal, and the Bobcats remained ready to dream.
Game photographs are available for purchase