Trailing Sussex Tech by 21 points at halftime Friday night, A.I. du Pont coach Zeb Blum said he and his coaching staff didn’t have to yell to get his team’s attention and no major adjustments were necessary.
That proved the correct approach, as all it took for the Tigers to rally was the elimination of mistakes and one game-changing play.
Running back Jonathan Bell’s 57-yard touchdown run on A.I.’s first play from scrimmage in the second half sparked a comeback that was capped by Peter Grasso’s 43-yard interception return in a 28-21 Tigers’ victory.
“I think [the touchdown run] was very important because we needed that energy to bring us back from a real long half,” said Bell, who rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.
Despite a first half that was nearly even in total yardage, A.I. (7-3) found itself trailing 21-0 after 24 minutes thanks to four turnovers, all of which stopped drives on which the Tigers were moving the ball and one of which was an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
On A.I.’s first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Bell took a handoff up the middle and raced 57 yards untouched for a touchdown that brought the Tigers within 14 points less than 30 seconds into the second half.
Later in the quarter, a 28-yard Bell touchdown run brought his team within seven, and A.I. evened the score on Bell’s 60-yard touchdown run with 7:10 left in the game.
Sussex Tech (3-7) was then forced into a passing situation on its ensuing drive. On quarterback Jamont Matthews’ second pass attempt of the game, Grasso stepped in front of a Ravens receiver and went 43 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers their first lead.
“I just knew it was a passing down, so I was ready for the pass,” Grasso said. “I saw him about to throw so I jumped it, and then on the run back we had good blocking.”
The interception finished a comeback that, for the moment, keeps the Tigers’ playoff hopes alive and closed the home careers of A.I.’s 15 seniors.
“We really put it in their hands,” Blum said. “They did a marvelous job. … Knowing this is going to be the last time they get to play here, I don’t know if you could write it up any better.”