WINDHAM - Saturday's game between Southington and St. Wendelin almost never happened. The Wildcats' home field is being redone, while St. Wendelin's roster was reduced to 12 players due to low turnout and injuries.
The game was moved to Windham High School's Ed Liddle Field and the Mohawks were able to take the field with 15 players, nearly pulling off the upset. Southington took a 14-0 lead before St. Wendelin rallied to tie the game.
Connor Oakford saved the Wildcats with his third touchdown of the game with 20 seconds to play to break a 12-game losing streak. His 24-yard TD run off left tackle gave his team a 20-14 victory.
"I don't know what I was thinking," Oakford said. "I was just running on ... whatever was going through my head. I wouldn't have had any of my touchdowns if it wasn't for our line, our receivers, everybody working together as one."
Southington coach Ryan Slone said Oakford was determined to play despite an injury.
"Connor's been our workhorse," Slone said. "He got injured last game, we kept him out a little bit. We didn't know how we were going to use him this week. He said today 'I'm fine; I'm good to go.' He showed his knee was good to go today."
Southington (1-2) got the ball on its decisive drive after Oakford recovered a fumble by Brad Buhrow and returned it to his own 35 with 1:40 to play.
Quarterback Kyle Reynolds moved the Wildcats down the field against the zone defense. He passed to Austin Casper for 21 yards and after two incompletions and a Reynolds run for no gain, he hit Jordan Dickey in the middle of the soft zone for 20 down to the Mohawks' 24. Reynolds spiked the ball with 26 seconds left to set up Oakford's TD run.
"Dillon (McCoy) is a threat for us outside, so he was shifting over," Slone said. "Our inside receiver (Dickey) ran a post and luckily Kyle hit him. Our offensive line gave him time and then Connor came to the sideline and he wanted the ball. We had one timeout so let's gamble. We gave him the ball and our offensive line opened the hole and he did the rest."
Oakford took the ball off left tackle, cut it outside and went down the sidelines for the score.
"We were bringing a lot of heat from the middle and that was a smart call," St. Wendelin coach Bill Hrabak said. "He dragged one of the slot receivers across and they got the completion on that. We made the adjustment to keep a linebacker in. We weren't bringing all the heat, and then they ran the iso (with Oakford). We should've made the play. That was a great play by Southington and they deserved to win."
St. Wendelin (0-2) gave the Wildcats one final scare on its last possession. Taking the ball on its 34, Zach Miller threw for 13 yards to Alex Shontz to the 47. After a pass interference penalty and an incompletion brought up a second-and-10 on the Southington 38, Miller passed to Austin Reinhart to the 30 and called a timeout with one second left.
Miller attempted a throw down the left sideline, but McCoy intercepted it inside the 10 to finally end the threat.
Oakford led all players with 94 yards rushing on 16 carries. His first touchdown came from 4 yards out and gave Southington a 6-0 lead with 9:12 left in the first half (the PAT was missed). He added another 4-yarder in the third and ran in the 2-point conversion.
Oakford's second TD was set up by a snap that sailed over Miller's head on a punt. It was recovered on the St. Wendelin 15 and Oakford went in three plays later.
The Mohawks rallied to tie the game behind Miller, who was able to get his team's spread offense moving after a slow first half. He threw a 29-yard scoring pass to George Iannantouno to cut the lead to 14-6 with 5:51 left in the third. He followed with a 3-yard TD run and after the 2-point conversion pass to Buhrow the score was 14-14 with 6:37 left in the game.
Miller finished 11 for 28 for 159 yards and two interceptions.
"In the first half I think we had some opportunities," Hrabak said. "We dropped the football when the ball was thrown. On the very first series, we had a kid open down the field and didn't make the catch. When you do that type of stuff it kills drives. At halftime we talked about we had to be more consistent as far as not taking a 6-yard play and then a 2-yard loss. We had to put consecutive plays together if we were going to get back in the football game."
The Wildcats nearly gave the game away to St. Wendelin as Reynolds fumbled which the Mohawks recovered on the Southington 32 with 1:56 left. The defense bailed him out as Oakford recovered Buhrow's fumble two plays later to set up the game-winning drive.