NFA suffers tough loss to Fairfield Prep

Norwich — There are tough losses, then there's what happened to the Norwich Free Academy football team on Saturday.

The Wildcats lost to Fairfield Prep 33-28 on Homecoming Day at NFA, watching the Jesuits score the final 14 points and take their only lead of the day with 1:04 left in the game.

NFA coach Jason Bakoulis wasn't sure he'd been through a tougher loss.

"To be honest, I don't know,'' said Bakoulis. "We made some big plays, but also didn't make some plays. This is on me. I've got to do a better job preparing this team, no matter what, to win a game.''

NFA (3-3) led 14-0 after one quarter, 14-7 at halftime, 28-19 early in the fourth quarter and 28-26 with 9:22 left in the game.

When NFA's Josh Brown recovered a fumble by Fairfield Prep quarterback Robert Long on NFA's 11-yard line with 3:45 left, it appeared the Jesuits (3-3) had run out of time.

But four plays later Prep forced a fumble and took over on its own 8 with 2:44 left. A 12-play drive ended with John Iaropoli making a leaping 25-yard touchdown catch over two NFA defenders in the end zone. James Urban's extra point gave Prep a 33-28 lead with 64 seconds left.

"We know if there's time on the clock that we need to be playing at a whole different level,'' said Bakoulis.

And it was Iaropoli, once again, that made it final by intercepting a Jayden Desilus pass with 17 seconds left to wrap up the win.

It also ruined a pretty good debut by sophomore QB Desilus, who was making his first varsity start after injuries to Austin Richards and Jakob Hosko. He completed 18 of his 31 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns.

"He worked hard all off season. He's worked hard in the weight room and on his own,'' said Bakoulis. "He's a football player and he showed today that he's a varsity football player.''

NFA led 14-0 on touchdown passes from Desilus to Andrew Cote (49 yards) and Max Pierre Louis (42) and a pair of extra points by Isaac Wilkinson.

Long, Fairfield Prep's freshman quarterback, hit Iaropoli for a 35-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and Sean Nelson's 1-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter got Prep to within 14-13.

Cote, who caught nine passes for 139 yards, got his second score of the game with a 12-yard touchdown catch and Wilkinson's kick made it 21-13. Dean Tsiranides of Fairfield Prep kept the heat on with 57-yard TD run in the final minute of the third quarter to cut the gap to 21-19.

The teams traded scores to open the fourth quarter, with Desilus throwing a 32-yard scoring pass to Damien Bleau and Long throwing a 20-yard TD pass to Max McGillicuddy.

Fairfield Prep ran the ball 54 times for 273 yards but Long added balance by passing for 260 yards and three scores.

"Obviously we expected them to be a little more run heavy,'' said Bakoulis. "But we also knew they could throw the ball and had the skill guys to be able to complete it.''

d.davis@theday.com

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