The extra-point placement midway through the fourth quarter wobbled off the foot of New Britain kicker Juan Usuga like a little rocket ship trying to escape Earth’s gravity.
Its flight pattern more resembled a crow with a hernia as it reached its stunted apex. It clanged off the crossbar and fell off to the far side of the goal posts. It wasn’t much of a kick but the stunned referees’ sign language of two arms extended toward heaven confirmed Usuga’s success.
It wasn’t much to look at, but the Hurricanes found it to be quite beautiful. It restored the confidence necessary to force overtime and set up a 10-yard run by quarterback Malique Jones to send New Britain to a 27-24 comeback victory over Conard in a stirring CCC Division I West encounter on the turf at Robert J. McKee Stadium.
“Anytime you play in anybody else’s home, it’s a good win,” New Britain coach Tebucky Jones said. “We squeezed it out. We did enough to win this game. We have to focus, concentrate and get ready for Simsbury.”
The Hurricanes trailed by two touchdowns in the second quarter, but rallied to raise their overall record to 2-4. Conard, a 2011 Class LL playoff team hit hard by graduation and further compromised by the loss of starting quarterback Owen Snyder (right shoulder) late in the second quarter, fell to 2-4.
“That’s a really good team,” Conard coach Rob Cersosimo said. “You can’t go by their record. Their record does not indicate how really good they are and neither does ours at this point. We’re working at it.”
New Britain knotted the game at 21 when Malique capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. The ’Canes hadn’t had much luck kicking extra points, but Tebucky summoned Usuga for the try.
“With the time left [7 minutes, 8 seconds] I felt confident, but it scared me,” he said. “I thought it would be easy and we would get the ball back with enough time and punch it in again. We rushed it. It was scary.”
Conard, with senior Nick Venora on to replace Snyder, used an interception by Sean Carneiro, a 14-yard run by the game’s top rusher Stacy Thomas and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to make a last-ditch push for victory in regulation.
Former soccer player Luke Rosow, 3-for-3 on extra points and 11-for-13 on the season, had a 33-yard try in the waning seconds. A poor snap resulted in the kick being blocked to set up the overtime.
The overtime is governed by the Kansas Tiebreaker System, which gives each team a set of downs from the 10-yard line. Conard’s possession resulted in a 24-yard Rosow field goal. New Britain didn’t require a second down to establish that three points were not going to be good enough.
Malique took the snap and slashed right to score virtually untouched. Running back Lamar Bowsky made a key block on the inside and receiver Fitz Ingram sealed the edge.
“We knew that they were actually going to triple-team [wide receiver Daequone Clark’s] side. Fitz made a great block on their corner and I was wide open,” Malique said.
Several new stars emerged on the New Britain defense. Senior linebacker Rikki Soumpholphakdy was a 5-foot-8, 188-pound was a consistent playmaker. Linebacker Joshua Graves and defensive end Alex Swaby are two top players from a sophomore class that has Tebucky excited about the future.
“Our freshman team was undefeated last year and [Graves] was one of the best players,” he said. “A lot of the sophomores are good players and I’m looking forward to these guys getting a little older.”
Freshman wide receiver Kyle Anderson scored his first career touchdown on a 36-yard pass play to get New Britain on the board in the second quarter.
Ingram scored the second touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball midway through the third quarter. Bryan Gray added the conversion points on another well-timed touch pass as he was heading for the flag.
Isaac Smith, Jonathan Semidey and junior Dylan Krivickas made plays. Senior Geovanni Medina always finds the point of attack.
The postgame celebration restored the Hurricanes’ enthusiasm and understanding that only hard work will produce moments of such elation.
“We had to come out and make plays,” Clark said. “We were down. We had to dig deep and work hard. Jones would find the open receivers and we converted. We got first downs.
“The momentum is up right now. We’re rolling. We’ll try carrying it into next game, keep playing hard and try to get W’s.”
New Britain 27, Conard 24 (OT)
New Britain (2-4) 0 6 8 7 6 – 27
Conard (2-4) 0 14 7 0 3 – 24
C – Stacy Thomas 6 run (Luke Rosow kick), 9:08
C – B.J. Edwards 2 run (Rosow kick), 4:19
NB – Kyle Anderson 36 pass from Malique Jones (run failed), 3:55
C – Sean Carneiro 4 run (Rosow kick), 8:25
NB – Fitz Ingram 33 pass from Jones (Bryan Gray pass from Jones), 5:33
NB – Jones 7 run (Juan Usuga kick), 7:08
C – Rosow 24 FG
NB – Jones 10 run
RUSHING – New Britain: Jones 13-58, Lamar Bowsky 4-4, Marc Aponte 2-12, Marcus Torres 1-(-4), Gray 1-(-6). Conard: Thomas 28-152, Edwards 15-46, Carneiro 6-8, Owen Snyder 3-28, Sean Nagel 1-6, Ryan Bell 1-1.
PASSING – New Britain: Jones 14-29-1, 199 yds. Conard: Snyder 1-2-0, 29 yds.; Nick Venora 1-2-0, 34 yds.
RECEIVING – New Britain: Gray 7-27, Ingram 2-49, Daequone Clark 2-45, Usuga 2-42, Anderson 1-36. Conard: Thomas 1-34, Edwards 1-29.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – Conard: Rosow 33 (4th quarter, bad snap).