The Crusaders saw a two-score lead disappear in the first half, then a six-point lead vanished with four minutes left in the game as the Red Raiders claimed a 34-32 victory on the road. Holy Cross dropped to 2-3 while Derby garnered its first win of the season (1-3).
The Crusaders jumped out to a 12-0 lead over the Red Raiders, only to watch the visitors come back and take the lead. Holy Cross led 32-26 more than midway through the fourth quarter when DeAndre Wallace appeared to seal Derby's doom with a leaping interception and spectacular return. A defensive penalty wiped out the pick -- much to the vocal frustration of the Crusaders and their fans -- and then the Red Raiders erased their deficit on quarterback Chris Oliwa's six-yard touchdown run with 3:56 to play. Oliwa's conversion pass to Zerion Montgomery gave Derby the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
|Derby's Chris Oliwa (212 yards passing, 84 rushing) proved to a be a thorn|
in Holy Cross' side throughout Saturday's game. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Keeping the scrambling Oliwa in the pocket proved to be a problem. Oliwa ran nine times for 84 yards and the game-tying score. His scrambling also freed up receivers to throw to. Oliwa was 10-for-17 passing for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He did throw an interception to Qaron Brown late in the first quarter, but the Derby defense turned Holy Cross over on downs on the ensuing possession.
Red Raider running back Zaire Flowers and receiver Ja'kwan Hale both proved to be problems. Flowers ran 17 times for 100 yards and caught a pass for an additional 24 yards. Hale pulled in six throws for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran once for a score.
The Crusader offense was able to move the ball well in the first half. Corey Fappiano threw a long pass downfield to Wallace on the opening drive, then ran it the final eight yards for the opening score. The two-point conversion failed, and that became a recurring theme in the game.
A four-yard Fappiano touchdown pass to Connor Goggin put Holy Cross ahead 12-0 with 7:49 still to play in the first quarter. Derby responded with a 16-yard touchdown run by Hale on a sweep play at the 5:03 mark. A Flowers extra point made the score 12-7.
The Red Raiders grabbed the lead at 13-12 when Oliwa found Hale for a 12-yard touchdown with 7:45 left in the second quarter. The Crusaders took the lead back at 20-13 on an Alex Ward one-yard plunge. Holy Cross made the two-point conversion for the first and only time in the game to take the seven-point lead with 4:29 left in the half.
Derby responded in less than 90 seconds, thanks to a spectacular throw and catch between Oliwa and Hale for 49 yards. Oliwa made a great throw, Hale caught the ball as it came down over his shoulders, and then ran it in. Flowers' extra point tied the game at 20 with 3:30 to play in the half.
Fappiano found Qaron Brown for a 39-yard touchdown at the 1:40 mark to send Holy Cross into halftime up 26-20.
Both sides saw their offense become more stagnate in the second half, which could be attributed in part to better defense and the unusual heat of the early October day. Cramping proved to be an issue, even with the 3 p.m. start.
Derby did manage to tie the game just 3:49 into the second half when Oliwa hit Montgomery with a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Holy Cross used a pounding ground game to take the lead again for the final time. Ward did the bulk of the work on inside runs while Fappiano added a good gain of his own. Fappiano and Goggin also connected on a nice throw and catch to move the chains. When Ward scored with 3:44 to play in the third, the Crusaders held the lead again. Unfortunately for Holy Cross, it didn't stay that way. Both offenses struggled as the defenses dug in, and Derby had the final say on the scoreboard.
The Crusaders have a bye week to go over what went wrong, then get back at it against another team named the Raiders, this time in Torrington on Oct. 20.
PHOTOS: Click here to see images from Saturday's game.