A last-second push from Benedictine forced the VISAA Division I championship game into overtime, but a pair of connections from Trinity Episcopal quarterback Jack Toscano to Trai Ferguson for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion earned the title for the Titans 22-21 on Saturday.
The state championship is a first for Trinity (8-3) football under its new classification. Titans coach Sam Mickens also coached them to D-II titles in 2014 and 2015, and he said that this year’s win proved the program’s place in the local football scene.
“Now is the time, I’m serving notice right here,” Mickens said. “People need to start recognizing Trinity Episcopal. We’ve got players over here that deserve offers, and we’re some of the best players in the 804. Put some respect on Trinity’s name.”
Neither team broke through in the first quarter with neither defense giving up much yardage.
It took until the final 5 minutes of the second frame for Toscano to sling a 19-yard pass to Cam Fleming, following an interception by Fleming. Then Toscano did it again to end the quarter, this time throwing to Mario Thompson. He kicked both PATs, too, for good measure.
Toscano, a senior whom Mickens described as the best player in Richmond without an offer, said that the win was the best birthday present he could have wished for.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Toscano said. “Just to get it done in the way that we did it, in overtime with the most dramatic thing you could make, at home, I’m so proud of everybody.”
The drama took time to develop. While Trinity shut out the visitors in the first half, Benedictine (8-4) made a steady comeback after intermission.
Quarterback Tage Plageman and running back Leo Boehling made up significant ground on their second drive of the third quarter, until David Ngendakuriyo was able to slice to the left side for Benedictine’s first score.
The Cadets made a 78-yard march in the fourth quarter to bring them within 2 yards of the Titans end zone.
The defensive line held them a yard short; the ball went to Trinity on downs with 49 seconds left in the game. The Titans student section, dressed in all black, began to cheer, “I believe that we will win.”
Then Benedictine stripped Trinity of the ball, and with a fresh set of chances, Boehling was able to claim that final bit of field.
And, with a good kick from Gary Seigler, the final went to overtime.
Each team was given an opportunity to convert from the 10-yard line in front of a raucous Cadets student section parked beneath the upright.
Benedictine went first, and Plageman followed a similar route as Ngendakuriyo for an 8-yard run. Seigler made the kick. The pressure was now on Trinity.
Toscano stepped into the pocket. He made his first throw to Ferguson to secure the first six points. They lined up again, this time for a 2-point conversion, and they connected again for the win, proving their classmates right.
Mickens said he had zero doubts in the plan to go for 2, and that pulling back ahead was what they had been doing all season in an adversity-filled year, including the sudden death of assistant coach Steve Edwards in August.
“It was one thing after the next thing, but the bottom line is my quarterback never gave up,” Mickens said. “… We’re just at a place where those guys are so resilient. I’m so proud of them.”
Benedictine 0 0 7 7 7 — 21
Trinity Episcopal 0 14 0 0 8 — 22
TES — Fleming 19 pass from Toscano (Toscano kick)
TES — Thompson 16 pass from Toscano (Toscano kink)
BEN — Ngendakuriyo 10 run (Seigler kick)
BEN — Boehling 1 run (Seigler kick)
BEN — Plageman 8 run (Seigler kick)
TES — Ferguson 8 pass from Toscano (Ferguson from Toscano pass)
RUSHING: BEN — Leo Boehling 22-75, David Ngendakuriyo 10-69, Tate Plageman 7-32, Henry Berling 1-1; TES — Jack Toscano 9-58, Trey Grant 5-17, Mario Thompson 1-5
PASSING: BEN — Plageman 6-14-69-1; TES — Toscano 13-27-197-1
RECEIVING: BEN — Leon Haughton 4-29, John Moore 2-40; TES — AK Key 4-85, Trai Ferguson 6-68, Cam Fleming 2-30, Thompson 2-21, Elijah Rainer 1-7