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Staples Rides Dramatic Comeback to Championship

WESTPORT, Conn. – The comeback kids did it again — and they saved the best for last. Staring a 10-point deficit in the face with 11 minutes to play in the conference championship game Thursday, the Staples High School football team did not give up.

The Wreckers scored on a pair of fourth quarter 60-yard drives to stun Greenwich, 31-27, and win their sixth conference title in team history. It was the third time in four weeks the Wreckers came from behind after trailing at halftime.

Jack Massie hit Peter Bonenfant from 16 yards out with 1:16 remaining to complete the comeback. Massie was nearly perfect, going 16 for 20 in passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Kelly rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns, mostly out of the wildcat formation. Kelly was named the game’s most valuable player.

“I can’t even describe how much heart this team has. We just never give up, and we keep fighting until the end,” Kelly said. “I just go into every game trying to help the team in any way I can, and today I think filled that part.”

Greenwich sucked the life out of Staples late in the third quarter with the play of the year. From his own 32-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Liam O’Neil threw a lateral pass to wide receiver Joel Arroyo. The Greenwich receiver then threw back across the field to a wide-open Alex McMurray, who scampered 68 yards to score.

Massie was picked off by Greenwich’s Nick Pulitano on the next Wreckers possession. Greenwich workhorse running back Shane Nastahowski plowed his way to a 23-yard score to put the Cardinals up, 27-17.

With their backs against the wall, the Wreckers dug deep for a comeback. Massie orchestrated a 13-play drive, punctuated by a 2-yard sweep to Kelly for the score. Staples came up with a huge stop on defense on the next Greenwich possession, forcing a punt.

Greenwich came up with a stop of its own, holding Staples to fourth down on its own 45-yard line. Staples went into punt formation, but a lineman was missing on the field, forcing the Wreckers to call a timeout.

Head coach Marce Petroccio elected to go for it. Massie threw a laser to James Frusciante for a clutch 11 yards to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Massie lofted a beautiful 16-yard fade pass to Bonenfant for the eventual game-winning score.

“All my friends and family are up in the stands. I’ll never forget this one,” Bonenfant said. “I really believed we would win. We knew there was nothing we could do about that trick play, and we just had to go back out and just try and score.”

Staples completes a perfect 9-0 regular season and will be seeded second in the Class LL state tournament. The Wreckers will host conference rival Ridgefield on Tuesday in the first round of the state playoffs.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the latest Main Street Connect coverage of Fairfield County sports. Like The Daily Westport on Facebook .

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