A punt, pin, and pick combination solved the puzzle for the BC High Eagles, who pulled out a 27-20 victory over Catholic Memorial at O’Connor Stadium Thursday to retain the Pumpkin Trophy in the 52d annual meeting of the Catholic Conference rivals.
With the wind at his back and time winding down in the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ William Coughlin booted a 54-yard punt that left Catholic Memorial with the ball at its 4-yard line.
Three plays later, Connor Walsh picked off a Kevin Claflin pass at the 9-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown burst from Sam Friedman (5 carries, 15 yards, 2 TDs) for the winning score.
“I saw [CM wide receiver Kevin] Bletzer going out to the flat,” said Walsh. “I was reading the QB’s eyes and was trying to make a play for my team.”
BC High, which trailed by 14 on two occasions, faced a 20-6 deficit after Claflin connected with Curt Bletzer for a 48-yard score with 24 seconds left before the half.
But, Catholic Conference Special Teams Player of the Year Ismail Asongwed stepped into action for BC High. He returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards, setting up an 11-yard strike from quarterback Sean Holleran to Walsh on the final play of the half, giving the Eagles some momentum.
“I told [kick returner Will Johnson] to switch with me,” said Asongwed. “I tried going up the middle, saw something to the left, went over there, and cut it back. I saw some more open lanes and kept cutting it back until I was tackled.”
Asongwed came up big again in the third quarter when Holleran found him streaking up the left sideline, connecting on a 70-yard touchdown that tied the game at 20.
On Catholic Memorial’s next drive, it once again felt the wrath of Asongwed, who stepped in front of a Claflin to Kevin Bletzer offering, diving to secure an interception as the Knights were driving.
“He’s a tremendous guy,” said BC High coach Joe Gaff of Asongwed. “We put him on that lockdown position all the time in the corner. We used him in that slot. He took over this game in like a six-minute span. He’s a special player.”
“I was playing my guy,” said Asongwed. “I jammed him and then I saw [Bletzer] and he did a curl route and I felt that I could jump that route. Luckily I held on to the ball.”
The Knights took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, highlighted by a Christian Samuel 69-yard touchdown run up the middle, sprung by a textbook stiff-arm that sent the final BC High defender to the turf.
Samuel finished with 5 carries for 78 yards and came up bigger on defense with two interceptions in the end zone and a fumble recovery.
Said Gaff: “CM is a tough team and they have a lot of talent. The Pumpkin Trophy stays on Morrissey Boulevard and that’s something that we cherish a lot. The guys really wanted that to stay there.”