Heading into this weekend, the Toll Gate football team hadn’t enjoyed a victory since it opened the season with a non-league win over Vets back in September.
But on Saturday, the Titans finally re-captured that feeling.
Coming off eight consecutive losses, Toll Gate got 202 yards on the ground from senior Derick Durand and dominated in the second half to down Coventry 38-22 in a D-II crossover.
The victory improved Toll Gate to just 2-8 overall, but simply getting in to the win column after the prolonged drought was a relief.
Coventry fell to 2-8 as well.
“To finish our season off like that, it’s a good thing for next year,” Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso said. “We started to play with some energy.”
The Titans trailed 14-8 at halftime, but they had built a little momentum going into the break. Down 14-6, Jose Javier broke the line on a punt and dropped Coventry’s punter in the end zone for a safety.
In the second half, down by just six and riding that momentum, Toll Gate took control.
Mancuso and his coaches elected to change up the gameplan and start using a power running attack inside the tackles.
Coventry had no answer.
“In the second half we talked as coaches and changed our philosophy a little,” Mancuso said. “We went back to power football again.”
Durand was front and center, as he scored three times in the half, including the first two times he touched the ball. He found the end zone from 37, seven and 64 yards out.
Nick Carr, who moved into the backfield from receiver, also got into the action, as he ran in a 54-yard touchdown.
“He played really well,” Mancuso said of Durand. “Most of it was in the second half.”
The long runs were made possible by the play of Toll Gate’s line, which was depleted due to injury but didn’t miss a beat.
The Titans started a freshman, Jake Lima, and three sophomores – Nick Brown, Jackson Burgos and Jeremy Cullen – along with senior Josh DeLorto.
“Our line, no Steve Haley, and we were out another starter,” Mancuso said. “Colby Connell, he was out this week with an injury. They just played great.”
The Titans also got a touchdown pass from quarterback Mitch Howkins, who found Zach Mitchell from nine yards away in the first half.
Mitchell had three catches on the day, as well as a catch on a two-point conversion.
The 38 points Toll Gate scored were the most it put up in any game this season.
Defensively, Toll Gate made the offensive outburst stand up by holding Coventry scoreless in the second half until late in the fourth quarter, when Coventry got a touchdown run from Brian Grant with the Titans’ back-ups in the game.
Prior to that, the Titans held a 38-14 lead.
“Derryck Anderson, played great at linebacker for us on defense,” Mancuso said. “So did Chris Durand and Jose Javier.”
Coventry’s other two touchdowns came on an Alex Zannella run in the first half and a 70-yard pass from Zannella to Aaron Means.
Toll Gate still has one game remaining on its schedule, as it will host Hendricken in its annual Thanksgiving Day game. That game is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.