By VINCE PELUSO — email@example.com
As the Jefferson Falcons entered a Week 10 contest with rival Conneaut, most fans at Falcon Pride Stadium had their minds elsewhere, looking for scores of teams who were vying with the Falcons for a playoff spot in Division III, Region 9.
But, as Conneaut quarterback Troy Colucci crossed the goal line with 4 seconds remaining in the third quarter and Leith Alama’s ensuing extra point was good, the Spartans were ahead, 14-13. Suddenly, those out-of-town scores made were less important as Jefferson’s playoff hopes were contingent on beating Conneaut.
But, 19-unanswered points by the Falcons got them back into the playoff discussion as they overcame a determined Spartans group, 32-14.
However, according to Star Beacon guu Steve Goldman, the Falcons did not reach the playoffs of the second time in school history, the only time being in 1999 under Hall of Fame coach Joe Kearney.
Following Colucci’s 1-yard quarterback sneak in the third, Falcons running back Scott Davidson responded with a 40-yard scoring scamper on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Jefferson a 19-14 lead.
After the Jefferson defense forced a turnover on downs, quarterback Tony Chiacchiero found Kyle Ashburn for a 16-yard touchdown pass, pumping the lead to 25-14.
Conneaut threw an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive and Chiacchiero found the end zone again, this time connecting with Brett Powers from 23 yards to effectively put the game away.
“I think it was a little bit of both,” Jefferson coach Jimmy Henson said when asked if his team overlooked Conneaut or the Spartans played just played well. “I give them credit. I think their kids played really, really hard. I think their quarterback (Colucci) had an excellent game, he was giving us fits all night. They played their hearts out and played their best. I don’t think we played our best tonight, but we did what we had to to win the game.
“We buckled down and played Falcon football (in the fourth quarter). We started coming off the ball and doing what we were supposed to do.”
Colucci was a thorn in the side for the Jefferson run defense all night, rushing for 131 yards on 32 carries. He struggled throwing, though, completing just 7 of 18 passes for 52 yards and four interceptions.
Conneaut coach Rocco Dobran said he likes what he sees from his sophomore signal caller.
“Troy does a great job, he’s a special kid,” the second-year coach said. “He’s only a sophomore, so he has a ways to go. Tonight, he had some trouble throwing the ball and struggled with some of his reads; that’s going to happen, especially when you’re young like that. But he’s going to get nothing but better in the future.
“He’s going to be one of the leaders that carries this team the next couple years.”
Matching Colucci for Jefferson was Davidson — Jefferson’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Tyler Wright (1,114 yards in 2007) — who carried the ball 21 times for 138 yards and two scores.
When the Falcons needed plays during the fourth quarter, they turned to their senior backs — Chiacchiero and Davidson.
“That’s been our team this year, we feel like we’re pretty well-balanced,” Henson said. “We started going throwing a little bit more in that fourth quarter and that opened things up for Scotty. This is an outstanding senior group (19 guys). To go 8-2, that’s a pretty special group.”
Dobran was also pleased with how his senior performed even though they ended the 2012 season winless.
“I thought our kids played real well,” he said. “They were excited to come down and play. Your seniors always want to come out and give it your all for your last game. I truly think my guys believed they could beat this team and they were going to go out and compete with a county school.”
Dobran’s group had a shot, despite digging itself an early 13-0 hole.
Conneaut handed Jefferson the ball on their own 29 and 21 to open the game and the Falcons converted those opportunities into touchdowns (a 16-yard pass from Chiacchiero to Powers and a 4-yard run to Davidson).
Conversely, Conneaut was handed a golden opportunity when it started on the Jefferson 10, but was unable to score as Jacob Hamilton intercepted a Colucci pass at the goal line.
Afterward, Jefferson was playing the waiting game to see where it stood in relation to the playoff race. Unfortunately, though, it was on the outside.
It’s a position familiar to Henson as the Falcons have been knocking on the door of the playoffs for the past three years.
“We control what we control, we won the game,” he said. “Sounds like some of the scores we might get some help, so we’ll see where it falls. I hope for the kids sake they get the opportunity because I think it’s a really good group and they can do some special things.
“We just need to go out and enjoy our victory, enjoy our season and enjoy our seniors who we got the chance to play with and coach. Then, we kind of hope for the best.”
Conneaut won’t play the waiting game for computer points, but Dobran said he did see a significant jump from his team from 2011 to 2012.
“I try to tell these guys we didn’t get the wins we wanted, but as far as close games against great competition we were 10-fold over last year,” he said. “All our numbers in every category are better. Against winning teams, Grand Valley had seven and Edgewood had seven then this team (Jefferson) has eight wins, so we’re playing good against good teams.
“Last year, we had that win against a 2-8 Edgewood team, we were in a lot more games this year that we weren’t in last year.”
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