TORRINGTON – The Torrington High School defense struggled to get key stops throughout Friday’s game with Big Horn.
However, the Blazer defense stuffed the visiting Rams behind the line of scrimmage on back-to-back plays in the second overtime period to survive a 42-35 double overtime thriller at Wiseman Field.
Leading by seven, Big Horn had taken its second overtime possession down to the 1-yard line. On the third-and-goal attempt, the Rams quarterback was stopped for a 1-yard loss, and the Rams suffered the same fate on the fourth down attempt.
Up to that point in the game, Torrington’s defense had made things easy on the Big Horn offense, especially on third down.
“I thought we did a good job on first down of getting them behind the sticks,” THS coach Russell Stienmetz said. “Then on second, they would get a few yards, and then on third, they were getting conversions. We have to get off the field on third down if we are going to show our greatness.”
On the Rams’ second drive of the game, Big Horn converted on a third-and-9, third-and 12 and 3-and-16 plays. The third conversion resulted in a 7-0 lead for the visitors late in the first quarter.
“There were times we were struggling on stopping the run and then there were times when we were struggling in the passing game even with a simple hitch route. They were able to drive the ball down the field with hitch routes,” Stienmetz said. “There are definitely things that need to be fixed.”
Torrington answered on its ensuing drive when senior quarterback Beau Bivens connected with Chase Miller on a 13-yard completion.
After a quick three-and-out by Big Horn, Miller connected on a 25-yard field goal to put the Blazers in front 10-7 with 5:44 left before halftime.
Each team added scores before the break with Big Horn converting on another third down to regain the lead 14-10.
Two minutes later, Miller added his second field goal of the game to draw Torrington within one heading to the locker room.
“First half, we were kind of pass, throw, pass, throw. In the second half, we got our running game established a little bit more. We got better at sustaining our blocks better,” Stienmetz said. “We had some big chunk plays from various people. They all have the ability to go the distance.”
After a defensive battle in the third quarter, Big Horn broke the stalemate with 8:15 left in the game to go in front 20-13.
On the next Torrington drive, sophomore Bryce Hager sprinted 31-yards to the end zone for a touchdown. After a success point after by Miller, Big Horn was flagged for a penalty on the play. Instead of keeping the game tied at 20, Stienmetz made a decision to go for two instead. Bivens punched the ball across the line to put the Blazers back in front 21-20 with 5:28 left in the game.
“I don’t know if coach (Robb) Nicolay was in favor of taking points off the board and having to come up with a two-point play,” Stienmetz said. “He dialed it up. It was kind of feast or famine, and it ended up being a positive.”
A minute later, senior defensive back Deagan Keith intercepted a pass at the THS 34-yard line.
Torrington chewed up two minutes on the clock before senior running back Carson Shultz broke free on a 43-yard touchdown run, giving THS a 28-20 lead with 1:36 left in the game.
Big Horn turned to its bag of tricks in the final minute of regulation, successfully going 56 yards on a hook and ladder to put them deep into Torrington territory.
Two pass interference calls on the Blazer defense gave the ball to the Rams on the 6-yard line with 42.7 seconds left. Big Horn scored on the next play, tying the game at 28 with the two-point conversion.
Torrington won the coin toss in overtime but elected to go on defense first as each team would have a chance to score with a drive starting at the 10-yard line.
“We wanted to take defense first so that we knew what we had to answer with,” Stienmetz said.
It took all of one play for Big Horn to crack the end zone, but Bivens and the Blazers answered with a one-play drive of their own leaving the score tied at 35.
In the second overtime, Torrington got the ball first, and on the third play of the drive, Bivens found Hager for a touchdown. Big Horn’s attempt to answer failed at the Blazer 3-yard line.
Bivens was 13-of-22 passing for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Schultz led the team in rushing with 92 yards on 13 attempts, while senior Cole Parriott added 67 yards on nine carriers. Miller led THS with six receptions and 120 yards.
Torrington (4-2 overall and 4-0 in the 2A East) host Newcastle (2-4 and 2-2) for Homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday at Wiseman Field.
“It will be a physical game,” Stienmetz said. “They are much improved from the team we’ve seen in the past. We expect it to be a physical dog fight like we’ve seen the past several weeks.”