By Joe Pantorno
Holy Trinity gave Holy Cross a chance to win the game just as the Knights were about to see their lead evaporate. The Titans pulled within a point on quarterback Chris Laviano’s touchdown in the closing minutes and then aggressively chose to go for a two-point conversion instead of the extra point and the tie.
The Rutgers-bound senior, who victimized Cross on the football field all afternoon, appeared to be in trouble as a draw play on the two-point conversion attempt broke down. Somehow Laviano managed to tip-toe into the end zone with 1:43 left in the game to hand visiting Holy Cross a 22-21 defeat in CHSFL Class AAA football Saturday afternoon.
The Knights had a chance to end the game before it came down to that, but Brandon Pelzer had an interception go through his hands at the Holy Cross 15-yard line a few plays earlier.
“We just couldn’t get that big stop,” said Knights Coach Tom Pugh. “It was not a good day.”
Laviano thought his team had momentum after the score and decided to go for it. Trinity Coach Tony Mascia said he had faith in his defense to hold the lead if it got it. Laviano had no doubt about his team, even as the play went awry.
“In the heat of the moment, I knew I was going to make it,” Laviano said.
Holy Cross got on the board first in the second quarter when running back Brandon Pelzer scored from 8 yards out for the first of three touchdowns. The junior rushed for 161 yards on the day as Cross’ wildcat formation caused problems for the Trinity defense.
“He had a solid game,” Pugh said. “Our running game was solid and our offensive line did a good job.”
Added Mascia: “That wildcat formation. It was difficult to stop.”
Laviano answered with his first touchdown pass of the day, a 15-yard slant to Aidan Campolettano with 22 seconds left in the half to make it 7-7.
The Titans started the second half the way they ended the first — with another Laviano touchdown pass. This time a 13-yard strike to Kevin Knab gave Trinity a 14-7 advantage. Laviano finished the day with 210 yards in the air.
“I just tried to stay calm in the pocket,” he said. “I just made my reads, sat back there and threw it around.”
Holy Cross regained control of the game toward the end of the third quarter when Pelzer took a quarterback draw 29 yards down the right sideline to bring the Knights within 14-13 after a missed extra point. At running back on the next drive, Pelzer was at it again with an 18-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown. A two-point conversion put the Knights up 21-14 with 11:19 left in the game.
“The offense made some big plays,” Pugh said. “I was happy with that.”
That couldn’t be said for the defense late in the game as it missed out on two opportunities to put the win away.
“We had a chance,” Pugh said. “The effort just was not there on defense.”