LAWRENCE — Dan Wilson knows the Hail Mary is a play reserved for offenses in desperate need of a touchdown, but it didn’t stop the Central Catholic punter from muttering the prayer before his final punt.
With just under two minutes to play, Wilson boomed a 66-yard punt to pin Lowell, which was out of timeouts, at its 4-yard line.
It backed Lowell into an unfavorable position to generate a game-winning drive and sealed the victory, as No. 8 Central Catholic held off seventh-ranked Lowell, 14-12, at Veterans Memorial Stadium Friday night.
With the win, Central Catholic improved to 4-1 and 2-0 in the Merrimack Valley Conference, which put it in first place.
“I knew it was a lot of pressure and I felt that, but I just said a prayer, said a Hail Mary and just kicked it,” Wilson said. “I was just unbelievably happy. I’m proud because I’ve worked all season to be here.”
Wilson’s punt was the third of the game that pinned Lowell inside its 10, but it was the final kick that had his coach most pleased.
“That’s his best punt of the season and it couldn’t come at a better time,” Chuck Adamopoulos said. “It made defense a lot easier.”
Central Catholic entered the fourth quarter clinging to a 7-6 lead, and with 8:29 remaining, quarterback Mike Milano completed a short pass to running back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie, who shed a tackle and ran for a 32-yard score.
The senior back was held to 20 yards rushing, but his TD reception gave Central Catholic a 14-6 lead.
Lowell (3-2, 1-1) needed just 1:24 to answer, and Ngaiiva Mason rushed for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the Central Catholic advantage to 14-12 with just over seven minutes to play. Quarterback Brian Dolan’s 2-point pass attempt to Jack Galvin was incomplete.
After a Central Catholic three-and-out, Lowell took over at the Raiders’ 32-yard line, but a holding penalty backed it to the 42. On third and 21, Mike Balsamo intercepted Dolan’s pass at the 10-yard line. Central Catholic ran 2:49 off the clock before Wilson’s punt.
“Mike Balsamo came up with a huge interception,” Adamopoulos said. “We made some big defensive stands. In the first quarter, they had the field position the whole time, and I thought our defense came up really huge in the beginning of the game and set the tone.”
Central Catholic scored first when Milano rushed for a 10-yard score in the second quarter.
Lowell answered on the next possession when Dolan hit Galvin (seven catches, 110 yards) for a 27-yard score. But the point after was no good, leaving Lowell chasing a 7-6 deficit.
On the first drive of the third, Central Catholic marched to the Lowell 9. But three penalties, a sack, and two incompletions left Central Catholic at fourth and goal from the 42.