RIDGEFIELD — Adam Biernat blocked out the frenzied atmosphere around him, ignored two timeouts used to shake up his nerves and was somewhat oblivious that his team’s upset bid over New Canaan tonight rested on his leg.
The Ridgefield High School kicker joined the football team for the first time this season. His background is in soccer.
With the score tied at 14-14, two seconds on the clock and 37 yards between him and the goalposts, Berniat remained remarkably calm.
This was just another set piece.
“I’m just thinking to myself it’s the same old field goal, the same thing I’ve practiced for all season,” Biernat said. “I just line it up and take the shot.”
Biernat’s kick was true as time expired, giving Ridgefield a 17-14 win over the Rams and introducing a new FCIAC player to the state playoff race.
“It’s unbelievable. We’ve had this game circled on the schedule since it came out,” said Ridgefield quarterback Owen Matthews, who was sensational, completing 26 of 41 passes for 399 yards and two scores. “To come out and win this game against a very talented team, with a quarterback like that, it means the world. Our defense, all the credit goes to them. The defense and Adam. We could have put them away so many times and the offense didn’t come through.”
It did when it mattered most.
An interception by Chris Lang on a long pass attempt by the Rams’ Drew Pyne gave Ridgefield the ball on its own 12-yard line with 1:33 remaining. Matthews competed a 17-yard pass to Nick Agliardo, then threw two incompletions. On third down, Kai Prohaszka turned a short pass into a 39-yard gain, setting up the final sequence.
Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan played the final seconds conservatively, confident to put the outcome on Biernat.
“He had a lively leg, he felt good, he looked good in pregame, we talked about where he was comfortable from, where he wanted the ball, good use of the clock and timeouts,” Callahan said. “We gave him the opportunity and he cashed in on it.”
The Tigers, who led, 7-0, at halftime, were behind, 14-7, when they got the ball back with 5:59 left. Pyne had completed two third-quarter touchdown passes, a 51-yard bubble screen to Zach LaPolice and a 29-yard pass to John Wise.
Ridgefield had not scored since late in the first quarter, when Matthews’ pass in the end zone went off the hands of Owen Gaydos and was caught by Agliardo.
Gaydos completed four passes on the drive, the last from 36-yards out to Gaydos, who was wide open.
“You just have to believe,” Matthews said. “It’s 14-7, we only have one shot at this, to beat New Canaan. They beat us up in youth, we know these kids, we know how good they are. You can’t give up now. We’ve got everybody. We’ve got everybody we need. It doesn’t matter how many D1 guys they’ve got. We’ve got everybody in our locker room that we need.”
Pyne, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 208 yards, but was intercepted three times, needed less than three minutes to drive the Rams (1-1) to the go-ahead score.
While the sentiment in Tiger Hollow was overwhelmingly ‘Here come the Rams,’ Callahan was not overly concerned.
“Their drive was so impressive, the way they went right down the field on us, with chunks and chunks and chunks,” Callahan said. “The thing that was different was we have an extremely good defense and they were giving up a lot of yards and they were making big plays. Even though they were moving the ball at times I felt comfortable that there was a big play in us.”
Ridgefield demonstrated that it has a multi-dimensional attack. Gianni Gorham (nine catches, 141 yards) and Prohaszka (6-106) both had over 100 receiving yards, while Gaydos (5-97) came close.
“It was a great game,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “I have to tip my hat to Kevin and his staff and his kids, they played their hearts out. It is a shame someone had to lose.”
Matthews said tonight’s outcome was proof that there is another team to be factored into the race for state playoff berths.
“We came out victorious and we believed that the whole week,” Matthews said. “Sometimes when people play New Canaan, when they play the Dariens, New Canaans, Greenwichs and St. Joseph’s of the world, they are kind of like who do we play after that, because they’re so disciplined and so talented.”
Matthews paused to catch his breath.
“We’re back baby. We’re coming for everybody. We’re stronger, we’re bigger, we’re better and we’re hungry.”