Ryan Rossi thought Holy Trinity had let this one slip away.
The Titans had trailed Buffalo St. Francis for most of the game before taking a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, only to give it right back on the next possession, digging themselves into a five-point hole with under four minutes to play.
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That made Rossi angry, and teammate Kristian Green was sure glad it did. Rossi took out his frustration on a St. Francis defender, and helped turn Green into the game's hero.
With 1:18 left, Trinity's defense forced a St. Francis punt, which Green fielded at the Titans' 25-yard line. He shed two initial tacklers and broke toward the right sideline, and at midfield was aided by Rossi's thunderous block on a would-be-tackler that opened up space for Green to coast into the end zone for a 75-yard punt return. After a two-point conversion, Trinity took a 21-18 lead that would hold as the final score with just 57 seconds left in the non-league opener for both teams Saturday.
"Coach was telling us to get good field position, but I was thinking touchdown the whole time," Green said. "I got real pumped when I saw Rossi's block. It shocked me. The whole right side just opened up, and I knew I had to take it."
Said Rossi: "I saw [Green] got gobbled up when he caught it but he broke out of it, so I knew I had to make a play. There was one guy there who had a good chance to make the tackle but I laid a good block and the rest was history . . . I knew right there that we had won the game."
Holy Trinity coach Tony Mascia said it was the Titans' first punt return for a touchdown since Brian Jacovina had one in 2002. Trinity tried to block the St. Francis punt, leaving more space for Green to operate once he caught the ball.
"They weren't able to cover him because they had everyone in blocking our guys," Mascia said. "Kristian made a couple of moves and broke some tackles, and then we got that huge block . . . That's a special play. Kristian has tremendous athleticism."
Trinity looked sloppy in the first half and trailed 12-0 at halftime, but took the lead with 5:48 left in the fourth on Rossi's second touchdown of the game. Rossi converted a fourth-and-one play from the Titans' own 31-yard line when he bulled up the middle for a 39-yard gain. After a 15-yard completion from Cam Hayes to Patrick Williams put the Titans inside the five, Rossi punched it in to give Trinity the 13-12 lead.
But just two minutes later, St. Francis quarterback Jacob Dolegala drove the Red Raiders 85 yards and threw his third touchdown pass of the game -- a 50-yard screen pass to Brendon Misterman that put St. Francis ahead, 18-13.
"To be honest, I thought to myself in my head, 'man we let another one slip,' " Rossi said. "But the intensity in the huddle was great. We had a don't-give-up mentality and we played like Titans."