BRISTOL - The St. Paul football team came as close to winning a football game as a team possibly could on Saturday afternoon - possessing the ball in the final minutes with a lead, visiting Woodland out of timeouts.
It was tailor-made for the wishbone offense. The Falcons just couldn’t close it out.
With less than two minutes to play, Woodland stripped St. Paul quarterback Kevin Ashworth of the ball as he tried to convert a third-and-1. The Hawks recovered and the proceeded to drive the ball 43 yards, with Edit Krivca scoring the winning touchdown on a 4-yard run with 20 seconds left to hand the Falcons a 15-8 loss.
Joseph Sefcik had just recovered a Woodland fumble for St. Paul on the previous possession.
“If I got a first down, we would have won,” Ashworth said after the team’s second straight loss. “I got tangled up and they ripped the ball out of my hands. I lost us the game. I know this one’s on me.”
It was Ashworth, however, who had given the Falcons (5-2) the lead 6½ minutes earlier on a 46-yard run down the right sideline, followed by a two-point conversion run from Damien Rabis. The St. Paul signal caller finished the afternoon with 84 yards on 10 carries.
But other than the touchdown run, the Falcons had difficulty finishing drives. The offense turned the ball over on downs in its first four possessions and went 2-for-9 on third downs, 2-for-6 on fourth.
Woodland (3-4) was also able to keep St. Paul’s running game in check. The Falcons came into the matchup averaging 354.4 yards as a group. On Saturday, they were 100 below that average, with 244 yards. Rabis collected 79, while Connor Bogdanski had 49.
“We didn’t block well up front and we weren’t able to sustain our drives,” St. Paul head coach Jude Kelly said. “That’s what we base our whole offense on and we did not do that. Give credit to Woodland, but it’s something we need to be able to do moving forward.”
The Hawks had just as much difficulty as the Falcons getting their offense going.
Woodland also had plenty of success coming into the game running the football, but St. Paul limited the Hawks to just 153 yards on the ground and their leading rusher, Krivca, to just 51 yards on 17 carries.
Yet Woodland was able to hit enough big plays that made the difference.
Zack Cochran’s 30-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter was one of them, and it forced the Falcons to play catch up until midway through the fourth.
It could have been worse for St. Paul. The Hawks were six yards from completing a 75-yard drive before Noah Mendoza intercepted a Tyler Bulinski pass in the end zone as the second quarter clock wound down.
“We were just able to come up with our assignments and alignments,” said Bogdanski, who also recorded a key sack in the game. “We just played the ball hard. It was a pretty good battle. We’re thankful they didn’t score more points than they did. We just need the offense to pick it up and play how the defense is playing.”
The Falcons still have their sights on the playoffs, with games against Seymour, Wilby and Oxford remaining. But they admitted they can’t have another performance like Saturday’s, especially on offensive.
“We have to be a lot better on offense these next couple of weeks,” Ashworth said. “We shouldn’t be giving up all these fourth downs. We should be getting four yards a play with the wishbone we run. We didn’t today, and that’s why we lost.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach