Running back Milton Shelton bounced back from two second-half miscues to carry Class AAA No. 6 Blessed Trinity to a 42-20 win over Class AAAA No. 7 St. Pius on Friday.
Coming out of halftime leading 28-7, it was Shelton’s fumble on the first play from scrimmage that gave St. Pius life, and the ball on the Blessed Trinity 25-yard line.
Three plays later, the Lions (0-1) were in the end zone, and the game was on at 28-13 after a missed extra point.
On Blessed Trinity’s next possession, a Shelton drop on a pass that probably would have led to a first down helped St. Pius get the ball deep in Titan territory with a chance to get within a score.
The defense held, but the opportunity was there. Shelton, a junior, knew he had to make something happen after that.
“What I was proud about was how he handled having fumbled on the first series, and then he dropped the pass,” Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin said. “His response to that was to play really, really hard and get a lot of yards in the second half.”
He gained 89 of his game-high 150 yards on 20 carries, including 55 on the Titans’ backbreaking 9-play, 80-yard drive late in the third quarter that turned a 28-13 lead into 35-13, and the Lions were never in it after that.
He knew the game was on the line, and that drive was key to putting away one of their biggest rivals.
“It was huge,” Shelton said. “We were nervous. I was nervous. I thought they were going to make a comeback. I didn’t want that to happen. So we started making some more passes, more plays.”
After the Titans jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two lengthy, balanced scoring drives, St. Pius marched 80 yards in 8 plays, capped off by a 36-yard touchdown run from Lawson Cooper that brought St. Pius back within a touchdown after only notching two total first downs on their first two drives.
The ensuing kickoff, though, swung the momentum back.
Higgins caught it with his back foot on the 4-yard line, weaved left through a crowd, then burst free as he crossed his 40 with only the kicker to beat. When he outran him, there was nobody between Higgins and the end zone.
BT 7 21 7 7 – 42
SP 0 7 6 7 – 20
BT – Milton Shelton 2 run (Mitchell Rostowsky kick)
BT – Patrick Jasinski 15 pass from Conor Davis (Rostowsky kick)
SP – Lawson Cooper 36 run (Michael Matthews kick)
BT – Matthew Higgins 96 kickoff return (Rostowsky kick)
BT – Shelton 7 run (Rostowsky kick)
SP – Ransom Klinger 6 run (kick missed)
BT – Shelton 22 run (Rostowsky kick)
BT – Jake Bogosian 15 pass from Davis (Rostowsky kick)
SP – Cameron Fannon 15 run (Matthews kick)