The turning point of the expected shoot-out between Macomb Area Conference Red Division rivals Warren Mott and host Clinton Township Chippewa Valley came with just 4.6 seconds left in the half and the Marauders looking initially to run out the clock.
Quarterback Michael Pond (12-for-16 for 180 yards, one TD) hooked up for a 58-yard pass-run with Maurice Allen as time expired for an 11-point halftime lead.
The play was the moment of truth for the Big Reds, who didn’t play well on either side of the ball in the first half.
“It’s all about how you respond,” said Chippewa Valley’s Stefan Claiborne, who had a fumble on the opening drive that led the Mott’s first points.
“I told my teammates I’d get it back.”
The Big Reds scored 15 unanswered points in the second half and used a 67-yard punt by senior lineman Nicco Moroso on fourth down to tighten the race in the MAC Red with a 34-30 victory Friday night.
“Coach told me to get a good punt and I told him I got it,” Moroso said. “I said give me the protection.”
It was Mott’s first loss of the season, dropping the Marauders to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Chippewa Valley improved to 4-1, 2-1.
Moroso boomed the punt out of his end zone and Jayvon Wilson made the mistake of not fielding the punt, which added another 20 yards to Mott’s attempted comeback.
“Nicco has been punting for a long time and a lot of people don’t think a lineman can punt that well,” said Claiborne, who made up for a first-quarter fumble with a game-clinching interception with 22 seconds left.
Running back Darian Greeley, injured in the first half, returned in the third quarter to catch an 8-yard TD pass from Patrick Briningstool (23 of 31 for 302 yards) with 9:44 left in the third. Jimmy Czarnik caught the two-point conversion pass to cut the deficit to 23-20.
The Big Reds took a 27-23 lead on a 49-yard bomb from Briningstool to Stanley Williams.
Mott retook command on a 4-yard TD run by Pond to make it 30-27.
Briningstool responded with a 12-yard TD pass to Greeley for the game-winner.
Another pass interference call against the Big Reds’ secondary kept a Mott drive alive. On fourth-and-7 at the Big Reds’ 12, Mott came up a half-yard short on a pass from Pond to Allen with 3:01 left.
The game started poorly for the Big Reds.
Marching toward a score, Claiborne fumbled around his own 11 and Mott’s Wilson scooped up the ball and raced 89 yards for a TD to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first quarter.
Mott’s defense held on the Big Reds’ second possession, and Pond drove the Marauders 58 yards and scored from the 2 to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.
Dane Haggerty kicked a 28-yard to get the Big Reds on the board at 14-3.
Aided by a pass interference call, Andreas Demetriou kicked a 37-yard field goal with 6:46 left in the half to give Mott a 17-3 lead.
Chippewa Valley tallied a safety when the snap from center went over the punter’s head and out of the end zone with 2:25 left in the half.
Briningstool posted a for the Big Reds when he hit Czarnik with an 8-yard score with 41.8 seconds left in the half to trim the deficit to 17-12, before Mott’s seemingly back-breaking score ended the half.
“Penalties, special teams and stupid mistakes,” Mott coach Tom Milanov said. “You can’t overcome all that against a good team.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or email@example.com.