AVON, Conn. — The game had already swung violently in Phillips Academy’s favor.
The Big Blue, which had trailed by as many as 22 points late in the third quarter, had exploded in the fourth quarter to tie the Jack Etter Bowl, and took the ball back with less than two minutes left when Alex Tolentino made a stop on fourth down to cause a turnover.
Phillips then went for the kill.
“We had taken the momentum and they were back on their heals a little,” said Phillips coach Leon Modeste. “So we decided to go over the top.”
Quarterback Ian Maag faked a bubble screen, and when the defense bit he went long for a 65-yard touchdown to Matt Rusk-Kosa.
That scored capped off a wild rally and gave Phillips the Jack Etter Bowl title, 35-28 victory over Brunswick.
The win marked the Big Blue’s first postseason win since 1999, and emphatically closed out a perfect 9-0 season, their first unbeaten campaign since 1995.
“This has just been a storybook season,” said Modeste. “Two years ago we were 0-8 and now we are 9-0 and have won a title. We really went from worst to first.”
For most of three quarters, it seemed the Big Blue’s magic season might end on a sour note.
Brunswick took an early lead then, after Phillips’ Mike Moore responded with a touchdown, the Dragons scored the next three touchdowns to take a 28-6 lead late in the third.
“We were missing on everything,” said Modeste. “Missing coverages, dropping passes. We were just flat. But we learned during this season there is no quit in this team. The next thing we knew, (Ryder) Stone was going crazy.”
Stone, a postgrad running back, simply took the game over. He scored a 28-yard touchdown late in the third, then added fourth-quarter TDs of 3 yards and 37 yards to tie the score 28-28 late in the fourth.
Tolentino then delivered his stop, and Maag and Rusk-Kosa connected for their score.
Brunswick had the chance for one more drive, but Bobby Needham and Moore burst through the line and sacked quarterback Bill O’Malley on fourth down to ice the victory.
“Our secondary really settled down after a tough start,” said Modeste. “Michael (Moore) did a tremendous job and Rusk-Kosa was able to shut down (Malik) Wilder in the second half. They were throwing the ball around more than any team I have ever seen, so we had to stop that, and we came away with some plays.”
Moore, the middle linebacker, led the Big Blue defense with 10 tackles and the sack.
Meanwhile, Stone finished his day with a whopping 242 yards on 31 carries and the three scores, plus two two-point conversion runs.
“What a way to finish the season,” said Modeste. “These last two games (including a 13-12 win over Phillips Exeter) have been so memorable.”
Phillips 35, Brunswick 28
Jack Etter Bowl
Phillips (9-0): 6 0 6 23 — 35
Brunswick (8-2): 14 7 7 0 — 28
B — Malik Wilder 21 pass from Bill O’Malley (Frank Agrest kick)
PA — Mike Moore 1 run (kick failed)
B — Wilder 24 pass from O’Malley (Agrest kick)
B — Charlie Cobb 37 pass from O’Malley (Agrest kick)
B — Wilder 54 pass from O’Mally (Agrest kick)
PA — Ryder Stone 28 run (pass failed)
PA — Stone 3 run (Stone run)
PA — Stone 37 run (Stone run)
PA — Matt Rusk-Kosa 65 pass form Ian Maag (Tom Mullen kick)
RUSHING: PA (48-311) — Ryder Stone 31-242, Mike Moore 7-18, Ian Maag 8-37, Mike DeLaus 2-14
PASSING: PA — Maag 10-20-2, 149
RECEIVING: PA — Rusk-Kosa 4-103, Matt Ilalio 2-10, Brandon Michel 2-20, Stone 1-7, Moore 1-9