It was not quite there for the taking, but the Joel Barlow High football team’s 42-23 loss to Masuk of still left a sense of what could have been.
The showdown between unbeaten teams turned on back-to-back plays in the third quarter.
With Masuk (8-0) out to build on a 14-10 halftime lead, the Falcon defense put together a goal-line stand to stop the Panthers at the seven-yard line.
Looking to get out of the hole, Barlow quarterback Jack Shaban looked for John O’Connell on a short slant pass, but Masuk’s Kyle Fonteneau stepped in front and returned the interception 15 yards for what turned out to be a back-breaking touchdown.
“That second half interception gave them a touchdown,” said Barlow head coach Rob Tynan. “We thought it was there, but it was a bad play at that point after a great goal-line stand. If we then get a drive…”
Instead, the Falcons lost Shaban to a shoulder injury on the fourth play of their next possession. He will get his shoulder X-rayed to determine his future playing prospects.
Masuk held on downs at its 13 and the Panthers went to tight formation on offense and drove 89 yards in six plays,
Frank Bacarella accounted for 71 of those yards, including a 43-yard touchdown run that featured the senior cut back across the field and win the race to the end zone.
Chris Rubis, who was perfect on six extra-point kicks added the conversion kick for a 28-10 lead with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Bryan Gallaer came in to lead the Barlow offense, but Masuk’s defense didn’t make things easy.
“Bryan is a sophomore and to get thrown out there against a great Masuk football team and to see reads quickly is a lot to ask,” Tynan said. “It’s a growing moment.”
Gallaer got better with each possession, but Masuk’s offense kept the pressure on.
After a three-and out by Barlow following Bacarella’s 43-yard run, Peter Kokkoros returned the punt to the Barlow 34-yard line.
Masuk’s Malik Cummings, who spent time on the sideline with a bad ankle while Brandon Charney ran the offense, looked deep here for Thomas Milone.
Milone snatched the ball out of the air while double covered for a 34-yard score with 52.9 left in the third period.
“Milone gives you a ton of problems,” Tynan said of the Masuk star, who scored four touchdowns. “On our option he came flying up and that No. 95 (Bryan Monaco) comes off the edge and for a big boy moves quickly.”
Behind the blocking of Chris Huribal, Jordan Ewud, Jacob Boxer, Joe Socci and Alex Gallaer, Barlow put together a 57-yard scoring drive down 35-10 to close within 35-16 on William Wilson’s three-yard run.
Milone blocked the PAT and ran 62 yards for his fourth touchdown on the next play from scrimmage.
Alex Lockwood scored on a 19-yard run with 5:11 remaining to complete the scoring.
Lockwood had returned the opening kickoff 85 yards from the 12 to the Masuk three to set up Steve Miller’s touchdown run from that distance.
Scott Colby added the extra point and Barlow had a 7-0 lead with only 16 seconds off the clock.
Masuk answered three plays later when Milone turned a short pass into a 61-yard touchdown.
Shaban’s interception return from the Barlow 20 to the 46 thwarted a long Panther march midway through the opening frame.
Barlow drove 54 yards in 12 plays. Shaban had a 24-yard run, Miller a bruising 10-yard carry, and Lockwood found the edge and followed a great stalk block by Ian Carman for 21 yards.
Masuk held and forced a Colby to make a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 Barlow lead with 1:03 left in the period.
Milone scored on an 85-yard run at the 8:31 mark of the second quarter.
“You have to live to fight another day,” Tynan said after his team dipped to 7-1. “Our goal is to win the (SWC) Yankee Conference next week against Brookfield. “You win your next two ballgames, we’re in the state playoffs, as simple as that. It’s something no Barlow team has ever done. We’d like to be the first to do it.”
The Falcons visit Brookfield today (Thursday) at 7 p.m.