Storm roars past Bearcats with massive fourth quarter
BENNINGTON — For a little more than three quarters, the Southern Vermont Storm were out-muscled in its opener against their new rival, the Brunswick Bearcats.
It took one play to swing the momentum and the Storm took full advantage, rolling up 36 points in the final 6:45 of regulation to get a 42-22 New England Football League victory over the Bearcats.
"The heat was getting to the guys, we started falling apart," said Storm head coach Pat Seaver, about a day that hit 95 degrees and well into triple digits for the heat index. "After halftime, we talked and changed the game plan a little bit, we saw that both teams getting tired, there was green [grass] and we found it and made the adjustments."
The play that turned the tide came with 11:45 remaining and the Bearcats up 22-6. In Storm territory, Michael Hom took a handoff and was blasted by Kris Desraviles, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Gary Hewson.
It took seven plays and five minutes, but Storm quarterback Will Cole found Jonathan Resto for a three-yard touchdown, then the two hooked up for the two-pointer, pulling Southern Vermont within one possession at 22-14.
The Bearcats took over but the Storm defense clamped down, getting a 3-and-out. On the punt return, Steven Stodja ripped off a 50-yard return, bringing the ball back to the Bearcat 30. Two plays later, Cole found Resto again for a 40-yard score with 2:20 to go to make it 22-20.
The two-pointer to tie failed, leaving the Storm down two.
"The offense finally started clicking and we got two huge interceptions for touchdowns [late]," said Sean "Cheeseburger" Willette.
An onside kick was corralled by the Bearcats' Blake Mosley, but with a pair of timeouts and the 2-minute warning, the Storm forced another 3-and-out. Punting from midfield, the snap to TJ McLaughlin was high and he was stopped for a loss, giving the ball back the Storm with 1:42 to go. All told, the possession only lasted 38 seconds.
"It came down to conditioning late in the fourth quarter, we thought, we still can do this," Seaver said. "The defense was on fire and came alive. We moved some guys around, so that definitely helped."
Starting in plus territory, the Storm had the momentum. Cole started the drive with a 14-yard pass to Stodja, then two plays later found Stodja behind the defense for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Storm its first lead of the day, 28-22.
"We do endurance drills at the end of practice, where we come together and that's what happened today," Seaver said. "These guys battled the heat and gave it everything they had."
Now trailing, the Bearcats switched quarterbacks, going with TJ Martino. After an incomplete pass, Martino's second pass of the day ended up in Jimmy Zupko's hands and he returned it for a 25-yard score and a 34-22 lead. In the final seconds, the Storm put an exclamation point on the victory with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown from Juaywan Scott.
The first half was all Bearcats, a team in its first season in the NEFL after being in the Northeastern Football Alliance last season.
On the opening possession, McLaughlin led his team down the field, getting on the board with a touchdown pass to Mosley. In the second quarter, the Bearcats used an 11-play drive and got a 35-yard field goal to make it 10-0. After a Storm punt, Brunswick scored on the next drive, Martino running in from five yards out for a 16-0 lead.
But the Storm got on the board with six seconds left in the half on a wide-receiver pass, going from Cole to Gregg to Devon Walker for a touchdown to make it 16-6 at the break.
"The Bearcats were tough, they brought it, but in the end, we got it done," Seaver said.
Willette said he thinks the team will take advantage of the momentum for their game next week against the Haverhill Hitmen.
"This was a good game and hard-fought," Willette said. "We have to stay on the high and keep the momentum rolling."
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