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Article Published December 2, 2019
T-Birds Take 16-14 Loss to Coginchaug Co-op
PJ Foti, Sports Writer

The North Branford football team was eliminated from contention for a possible berth in the Class S State Playoffs after taking a 16-14 loss to Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton in the teams’ fourth annual Thanksgiving Eve game at Colafati Field. The T-Birds finished the year at 7-3 overall with their loss to the Blue Devils, who defeated North Branford for the third year in a row. With the victory, Coginchaug also finished 7-3 overall and won the Pequot Conference Sassacus Division by going 6-0 in divisional play, one game ahead of North Branford (5-1) for the top spot.

The Thunderbirds ultimately finished in 13th place for the Class S State Playoff rankings. The top eight teams qualified for the tournament.

North Branford nearly pulled of a crazy comeback when it faced the Coginchaug co-op squad on Nov. 27. The Blue Devils scored touchdowns during the second and third quarters and then converted the 2-point try after both scores, putting the Thunderbirds into a 16-0 hole entering the fourth.

Junior Tyler DiNapoli scored on a 1-yard touchdown run for North Branford on the first play of the fourth quarter. Senior Ronnie Longo ran home the 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to 16-8.

After the two teams traded stops in the red zone, North Branford drove down the field and scored when junior quarterback Brandon Fratta connected with senior receiver Nate Raymond on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:17 to go in the game. The Thunderbirds attempted the 2-point conversion to try and tie the game, but Longo was stopped short of the goal line, and the Blue Devils hung on for the win.

DiNapoli finished the game with 168 rushing yards and a touchdown to go with two catches for 22 yards. Fratta went 21-for-33 passing with 276 yards and a touchdown for North Branford. Junior Alex Clinton hauled in five passes for 120 yards, Raymond had five receptions for 76 yards and a score, senior Aiden Ferrucci had four catches for 30 yards, and junior Trevor Holzer caught four passes for 28 yards.

Prior to the loss against Coginchaug, North Branford earned a 33-26 home win against Windsor Locks-Suffield-East Granby on Nov. 22. This victory kept North Branford’s slim playoff hopes alive.

The two teams played an even game throughout, but the Thunderbirds prevailed after scoring the go-ahead touchdown when Ferrucci returned a kickoff 82 yards to the house to open the fourth quarter.

DiNapoli scored on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Fratta early in the game to give North Branford a 6-0 lead. Windsor Locks scored the next two touchdowns to go up 12-6, but the T-Birds came back with a pair of TDs to take a 20-12 lead into halftime. DiNapoli rushed for a 65-yard touchdown, and then junior Alex LeMere grabbed an interception and took it back 25 yards for a score. Fratta connected with Clinton on the 2-point try following DiNapoli’s touchdown.

In the third quarter, DiNapoli ran home a 75-yard score to put North Branford ahead 26-12. Windsor Locks scored two TDs later in the third to tie the game, before Ferrucci’s kickoff return put North Branford in the lead to stay.

DiNapoli ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns and also had two receptions for 27 yards and a score. Fratta completed eight passes for 110 yards and a TD. Holzer caught three passes for 57 yards in the victory.

On the defensive end, senior Xavior Cognata finished the game with 18 total tackles for the T-Birds. Clinton had 12 tackles, and junior Efstathios Gianniotis finished with 10. LeMere and Raymond also had one interception each.