St. Vincent made a big statement Friday night at Tomales by coming from behind with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat the stubborn Braves, 18-14. The win at foggy Andy Azevedo Field was the second in succession over a quality North Central II/Bay Football League opponent and it could go a long way in stamping the Mustangs as a NCS playoff contender. St. Vincent tripped up high-scoring Emery 27-8 the previous week.
The Mustangs trailed most of the way, but eventually took advantage of a 45-yard march mid-way through the fourth quarter to go ahead on a final short touchdown burst by senior workhorse Derek Murphy. Murphy bulled into the end zone on a two-yard run to take some of the energy out of a large Brave following.
There was still work to be done, however, with well over six minutes remaining on the clock.
Tomales quickly reenergized its supporters with a 31-yard kickoff return to move the ball close to mid-field. The Braves again had no trouble moving the ball on the ground, as they methodically crunched out positive yardage with Anthony Feliciano getting the key carries.
Wingback Willy Lepori quickly got around the corner on the left side of the line and scampered 27 yards to move the ball into the red zone and things got even more crucial on each succeeding play.
The Braves earned a big first and goal on the 9-yard line, and moved the ball inside the five, but a critical personal foul penalty pushed them out of a short-yardage comfort zone. Tomales needed to eat up bigger chunks on only a couple of plays, and St. Vincent pinned its ears back and swarmed into the backfield to prevent any such advance.
Sixteen penalties were called in the contest between long-time rivals and five were in the unsportsmanlike category. The last one interrupted the all-important Brave march and crippled their chances for a comeback.
Tomales did get another offensive series after using valuable time outs, but a desperation pass by quarterback Joel Gutierrez was hijacked by Chris Faulknor to help seal the deal. Junior George Sammon also contributed down the stretch with a big sack of Gutierrez.
Lepori scored both touchdowns for the Braves, who led, 8-6, at intermission and extended it to 14-6 heading into the final stanza. Lepori intercepted a Jack Richardson pass in the flat and scampered 17 yards to give Tomales the first score of the game. The Braves dominated early ball possession and allowed only three St. Vincent plays from scrimmage in the first quarter.
The Mustangs finally got untracked in the second stanza after a fumble recovery by Faulknor on the Tomales 32-yard line.