Comets clip Wildcats in nailbiter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ben Benedetto scores 12 points with two fieldgoals, pass reception for touchdown


Sports Writer

ST. JAMES – The 2005 Class 2-A Regional battle between the fourth-seeded St. James Wildcats and the thirteen-seeded St. Charles Catholic Comets was literally won by a foot. That foot belonged to the Comet’s outstanding place-kicker Ben Benedetto. Benedetto’s two field goals, one from 20 yards out and the other from 40 proved to be the difference in a huge 21-19 playoff victory over the Wildcats.

But the win wasn’t decided until the last Wildcat play from scrimmage with no time left on the clock in what has to go down as one of the most exciting finishes in this long rivalry.

Following Benedetto’s go-ahead field goal, St. James took over on their own 24-yard line with no time outs. The Wildcats gutsy quarterback, Antonio Phillips, calmly drove his squad down the field with several pinpoint passes moving the ball down to the St. Charles 38-yard line. With only :09 showing on the clock, everybody within a 100-mile radius of the field was looking for the &#8220Hail Mary”. Wildcat coach, Rick Gaille, had other ideas. He called a fake pass and an end-around with Luther Ambrose as the ball carrier. Because the Comets were in a prevent defense, Ambrose found himself all alone in the secondary. With the sidelines and grandstands going crazy, Ambrose weaved his way down the field as time expired. It looked like the Wildcats were going to pull off the miracle ending but Comets’ defensive end Roland Ricca had other ideas and hauled Ambrose down on the two yard line to preserve the win.

&#8220Roland made one of the most amazing plays you will ever see,” said happy St. Charles head coach Frank Monica. &#8220Roland came from the opposite side of the field and brought down that runner before he scored. We were only two yards from losing.”

St. James opened the game with an impressive nine-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by a 58-yard gallop by Ambrose. The Wildcat kicking game turned out to be a big factor as the point after by Jerome Lewis failed giving them a 6-0 lead.

St. Charles came right back to score on only two plays. The first was a 73-yard bomb from Comet quarterback Philip Sutton to Casey Robottom. Christopher Jones then took it in from four yards out to tie it at 6-6. Preston Landry’s point after put the Comets up 7-6 after one quarter of play.

The only scoring in the second quarter came at 9:46 when Benedetto connected on his first of two field goals on the night this one from 40 yards out to put the Comets ahead 10-6. The two teams exchanged turnovers in the remaining time. St. James fullback, Tremaine Dapremont, fumbled at 9:34 and Garrad Lodrigues pounced on it. Then, with 7:12 remaining in the half, Sutton had a pass picked off by the Wildcats’ Craig Duronslet to end the first half play.

In the early going of the second half the teams traded turnovers again. Wildcat QB Phillips threw an interception made by Lodrigues at 10:00 but got the ball back nine seconds later when Comet running back Jones lost a fumble recovered by Wildcat Terry Isom.

St. James took their second lead of the night on a nine-play drive and a one-yard touchdown by St. James workhorse Dapremont. Ricca blocked the point after attempt by Lewis to make it 12-10 St. James at 5:31 of the third.

On the ensuing possession it took St. Charles only two plays to score. Sutton hit Benedetto with a 63-yd strike to stun the Wildcat crowd. The Comets decided to go for the two-point conversion and used trickery to do it. Robottom got the handoff from Sutton, pulled up and passed back to Sutton who was all alone in the endzone for the conversion and an 18-12 margin.

The fourth quarter turned out to be the nail biter. With 8:30 left in regulation, Benedetto kicked his second field goal this time from 20 yards out to give the Comets a little more comfort at 21-12.

A nine-point lead meant that St. James would need two scores to come back. They got one of them at 5:41 when Phillips hit Jason Zenon with a five-yard pass to score. The touchdown was set up after a 66-yard scamper by Zenon on the Comet kickoff. A Lewis point after moved the score to 21-19 and set the stage for the heart-pounding finish and the utter disappointment of the Wildcat faithful.

Both teams had a good night offensively. Sutton hit on five of his nine passing attempts for 186 yards and one touchdown while Comet running back Jones lugged the ball twenty times for 135 yards and a touchdown. St. James QB Phillips was eight of nine in the air for 89 yards and two touchdowns while Dapremont carried the ball 24 times for 82 yards and a touchdown.

But it was Benedetto who garnered MVP honors in this game. His two field goals, and touchdown accounted for 12 of the Comet 21 points. Defensive honors went to Ricca who blocked an extra point, was all over the field making tackles, and made the game saving stop on Ambrose.

&#8220Our seniors really stepped up tonight, particularly Roland (Ricca) who is our defensive leader,” said Monica after the game. &#8220It took us awhile to get going but I’m pleased with the outcome.”

With the win, St. Charles moves on in the playoffs traveling to take on a tough Jonesboro team next week.