Burrell can’t hold halftime lead as Elizabeth Forward rallies for victory

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 11:38 PM

For the second week in a row, the Elizabeth Forward football team trailed at halftime.

Last week, the Warriors were able to rally from a touchdown deficit at the break to defeat Deer Lakes in their season and Big East Conference opener.

On Friday, EF was down five points to Burrell at halftime, but it kept the Bucs off the scoreboard in the third while scoring three times. It then held off the Bucs’ comeback attempt in the fourth to finish off a 34-26 conference victory.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of them,” Warriors coach Mike Collodi said. “The guys have no quit in them. We talked at halftime about what they needed to do, and they responded to adversity. We made some mistakes and were able to overcome them. We played hard all night.”

Chase Whatton, who caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Nico Mrvos, blocked a Burrell punt attempt with less than two minutes left in the third quarter and took the ball to the 1. Nick Hunnell ran it in on the first play, and with the point-after kick from Andrew Smith, the Warriors led 34-19.

“We put a really strong emphasis on special teams, and I say that’s a battle we will win every time and it showed tonight,” Collodi said.

Burrell didn’t fold in the final quarter and converted a fumble recovery into a touchdown with 7:21 left. Bucs quarterback Alex Arledge completed a 15-yard scoring pass to Seth Fischbach. The Ian Durci point-after kick brought them to within eight.

In the waning minutes, Burrell backed the Warriors to their 1-yard line and forced a punt. The Bucs took over at the EF 28 with 1:21 on the clock still down one score.

Arledge completed a first-down pass to Fischbach for 20 yards down to the 8-yard line as the Bucs hoped to force overtime.

But Arledge threw incomplete on the next two plays and then was intercepted by Jason McClellen in the end zone to seal the win for the Warriors.

“We came out and played tough, but we had some mistakes that cost us, some penalties and things like that,” Burrell coach Shawn Liotta said.

Arledge finished 22 of 46 passing for 335 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He added a 2-yard scoring run. Two of his TD passes went to Fischbach, who ended the game with nine grabs for 152 yards.

What appeared to be a 70-yard touchdown completion from Arledge to Logan Phillips with 2:40 on the third-quarter clock was called back for a pass interference penalty.

Burrell was backed up to its 15, and three plays later, Whatton blocked the punt.

“If we don’t get that penalty call on that long touchdown, that’s a different game,” Liotta said. “We would have tied the game there and put us in really good shape heading to the fourth quarter.”

Both teams ended the game with at least a dozen penalties.

Phillips scored the first of three Burrell second-quarter touchdowns — a 33-yarder from Arledge just 47 seconds gone — as the Bucs rallied to lead 19-14 at the break. Phillips finished with four catches for 77 yards.

Trent Valovchik added five receptions for 53 yards.

“We just went out and battled with a team that beat us by 40 last year,” Liotta said. “We’re turning this program around. We came up short on the scoreboard tonight, but I think we outplayed them. We had our chances. We just have to get back and continue to work hard.”

Mrvos completed just five passes (14 attempts), but four of the five went for touchdowns. In addition to the two TDs to Whatton, he added a pair to Patrick Filson.

Mrvos also was the Warriors’ leading rusher with 11 carries for 66 yards.

“Any time you can start off 2-0, it’s a good thing,” Collodi said. “It might have been ugly at times, but that doesn’t matter. We’re sitting at the top of the conference right now, and we’re getting better every week. We took a step from last week to this week, and we hope to do the same going into next week.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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