With less than four minutes left, Fred Billy rushed 3 yards into the end zone and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School tacked on a two-point conversion to complete the comeback and knock off Clearwater Calvary Christian, 27-24, at The Rock on Friday night.
Saint Stephen’s (2-1) had faced a 17-0 deficit midway through the third quarter, but it took advantage of a late fumble to cap the rally and earn their second-straight victory heading into conference play.
Head coach Tod Creneti credits a big stop in the third quarter as a game-changer.
“At the start of the second half, they drive straight down the field, and it looks like they’re going to go up 21-0, Creneti said. “Our kids made a couple plays to hold them to a field goal there, and we still go down 17-0, but it seemed like our kids started to buy into the fact that they could make plays when they had to.”
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Chase Brown stepped up in the second half, accounting for a pair of touchdowns that brought the Falcons within five, 24-19, with 4:55 left in the game.
“I think the really hard running of Chase Brown sort of keyed us,” Crenti said.
Brown made an immediate impact in his first game with Saint Stephen’s after relocating from Canada.
“Chase and his brother, Sydney, were just made eligible by the state,” Creneti said. “And what I saw from him was tremendous heart and desire.”
“You can win with guys who believe, and our whole conversation at halftime was, at some point, we have to start to believe in ourselves and believe in each other, and I think they came out and demonstrated that to each other in the second half.”
Following the second Brown touchdown, the Falcons recovered a fumble on the next drive that put them in prime position with the ball on the 13 yard-line.
“When we recovered the fumble and we were only down five at that point, you’re like ‘OK, alright — it’s our time,’” Creneti said.
After a pair of keepers by Billy that netted five yards, Brown carried it five more. With the ball on the 3, Billy took it himself into the end zone to give the Falcons their first lead. After the two-point conversion, they held a 27-24 advantage with 3:41 on the clock.
The Falcons will kick off conference play on Friday when they battle Bradenton Christian on the road at 7:30 p.m.