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Staples Survives McMahon's Upset Bid

WESTPORT, Conn. – Staples High's 24-21 football victory Brien McMahon on Saturday night in Norwalk was not just about Robby Wolf's game-winning field goal in the final seconds, the brilliant play of quarterback Jack Massie or the juggling touchdown catch by James Frusciante that turned the tide in the Wreckers' favor.

The victory in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference game was as much as about pride, history and tradition. The Wreckers rallied from a 21-7 deficit with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before turning back the Senators on Wolf's 19-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

"That's the heart of a champion,'' Staples coach Marce Petroccio said. "The kids just didn't give up. That's a program thing, a player thing; a coaching thing. We just weren't going to give up."

From the outset, McMahon (1-2) let it be known that the Wreckers (3-0) were in for a battle. The Senators scored on their opening drive, marching 90 yards before Marc Lugo scored on an 8-yard run. The Senators made it 14-0 with 57-yard pass from Damien Vega to Chris Jerome with 31 seconds left before halftime.

A different Staples team emerged in the second half. On their opening drive, the Wreckers moved 70 yards in eight plays before Nick Kelly capped the drive with a 4-yard run. McMahon answered with a touchdown on its next drive, and the Wreckers were staring at a 21-7 deficit with 1:18 left in the third quarter.

Massie (15 for 21, 185 yards) went to work. He directed a 17-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a juggling catch by Frusciante. The McMahon defender got a hand on it, but Frusciante tipped it to himself and pulled in while stepping into the end zone. It was highlight reel stuff and made it a new game with 7:24 to play.

Greg Strauss made Staples' next big play on McMahon's next drive. He stepped in front of a Vega pass and returned it 30 yards to the McMahon 16. Two plays later, Massie danced into the end zone to tie the game.

McMahon drove inside Staples' territory on its next drive before the Wreckers' defense held. Staples got the ball back on its own 29 with 48.6 seconds left, to the McMahon and Massie marched the Wreckers again. He found Jon Heil for an 18-yard completion and then connected with Frusciante for a 43-yard gain to the McMahon 5. Two plays later, Wolf hit the winning field goal.

While Massie directed the attack through the air, Joey Zelkowitz rushed 18 times for 82 yards, including 69 in the second half. Staples also played better on its offensive and defensive lines in the final 24 minutes.

Petroccio expected a tough game from McMahon. The Senators are on the rise under second-year coach A.J. Albano. They need to learn how to close out games, much as Staples had to learn when Petroccio started to build his powerful program 19 years ago.

"Give McMahon a lot of credit,'' Petroccio said. "They played us hard for 48 minutes. He's a good coach and that's going to be a good team. It's good to get out of here with a win."

Contact Tom Renner at trenner@mainstreetconnect.us .

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