Lowell makes a late stand

Cardinals avenge playoff loss by halting two-point try

It had doubled Lincoln in total plays and nearly tripled the Mustangs in time of possession.

But suddenly, improbably, the Lowell football team stood in the shadow of its own goalpost late in the fourth quarter, desperately in need of a stop.

Lincoln had trailed 14-7 with the ball at its own 19-yard line with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter when David Henderson took a handoff on the first play of the drive and burst 81 yards for a touchdown. Mustangs coach Phil Ferrigno opted to go for a two-point conversion and the win, but quarterback Ronnie Marania’s pass fell incomplete, the Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside kick and Lowell held on for a thrilling 14-13 home win Friday.

“It came down to the goal line and we knew we had to make a stand,” Lowell linebacker-tight end Pat Schock said. “Man, that felt great.”

Lowell (5-1 overall, 3-0 AAA) completely dominated the game everywhere but the scoreboard, running 71 plays to Lincoln’s 26 and holding the ball for an incredible 37 minutes, 57 seconds compared to 10:03 for the Mustangs. It had four drives of 10 plays or more, including a 15-play, 68-yard march to open the second half that took 8:41 off the clock and culminated with Anurat Rojanapairat’s 5-yard scoring run, giving the Cardinals the 14-7 lead.

But Henderson (13 carries, 154 yards) twice proved touchdown drives need not chew up huge amounts of clock. Both of the junior’s scoring runs came on the first play of Lincoln possessions, including a 33-yard sprint that put the Mustangs ahead 7-0 with 6:45 remaining in the first half. Lowell answered with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that Marcos Cronander punctuated with a 5-yard run. Duc Anh Le’s two-point conversion gave Lowell an 8-7 lead at the half.

Lowell looked to be on its way to a game-clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter, until Lincoln’s Steven Gallardo stopped J.R. Ayalde (18 carries, 111 yards) for no gain on a fourth-and-5 from the Mustangs 19 with 2:55left.

Henderson scored on the next play and Ferrigno took a timeout to talk over the Mustangs’ options, choosing for a run-pass option enthusiastically suggested by the Mustangs players.

“Where our program is right now, our kids needed to go for two and we didn’t get it,” Ferrigno said. “Hats off to Lowell. They played a great game.”

With the win, the Cardinals gained some retribution for a 24-22 loss to Lincoln (4-2, 2-1) in last season’s AAA semifinals and the Mustangs went on to win the Turkey Bowl. But it would be an upset if both these teams didn’t find themselves in the postseason again.

“We have no doubt we’ll be seeing them again,” Cronander said. “And we want our championship back.”

After the game, Lowell quarterback Carter Rockwell ran back onto the field and lay down for a moment with his helmet off.

“[I wasn’t thinking] of just one thing,” Rockwell said. “It was so much joy, happiness, relief and pride,” Rockwell said.

melliser@examiner.com

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