BELMONT — Rotating two quarterbacks for a whole game can be tricky, as sometimes a hot hand can cool off on the sidelines.
But for Lawrence Academy in Saturday’s Independent School League opener at Belmont Hill, the Spartans found success with the system, and it paid off big time in a 22-21 double-overtime win.
Sophomore Ryan Puglisi took a bootleg around the right side for the game-winning two-point conversion after fellow quarterback Luke Reynolds played the first overtime. It was a classic finish in the first game for both teams since 2019.
“Finally we’ve got some depth here at Lawrence Academy, and you saw a lot of kids play today,” Lawrence coach Jason Swepson said. “The quarterback position in our system is no different. So both are going to play all year long.”
Belmont Hill had rallied from a 14-7 deficit to tie it with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter after quarterback Chris Milmoe hit AJ Muse for a 45-yard touchdown.
That sent the game into overtime, but it was far from over. The ISL uses college overtime rules, and each team started from the other’s 25-yard line. But neither Lawrence nor Belmont Hill could move the ball in the first extra frame, as each team missed a field goal.
In the second overtime, Belmont Hill scored first as Milmoe — who completed 19 of 30 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns — hit Sean Egan for a 17-yard score. Matthew Martines booted the PAT, and Belmont Hill had the 21-14 lead, and seemingly all the momentum.
But as it had all game, Lawrence leaned on senior running back Fenix Figueroa in the second OT. He ran three times, the first for 17 yards, the second for 4 more, and the last for a 4-yard touchdown. For the game, the 5-foot-11, 250-pounder rumbled for 132 yards on 22 carries.
Instead of going for the tie, Swepson went for the win. Puglisi went under center, then faked a handoff to Figueroa. The quarterback rolled to his right and, instead of dumping it off to a receiver, outraced a Belmont Hill defender to the pylon for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“Win the game,” Puglisi said of his mindset in that overtime. “It was that simple. We hadn’t been out here in two years. To come out here and win this as a team was a blessing and one I’ll never forget. Now all I’m looking forward to is next week.”
“It’s been way too long,” Reynolds said of the long layoff. “But it was super fun to come out here with the team.”
The offenses took a while to get going. Belmont Hill scored first on a 55-yard strike from Milmoe to Charlie Walsh in the first quarter. Lawrence answered when Puglisi found Evan Thompson on a 7-yard touchdown in the same place Puglisi later ran in the two-pointer.
Reynolds put Lawrence ahead in the third quarter when he made a tough, 10-yard touchdown run to give his team the 14-7 lead. Belmont fought back, but it was not enough to hold down the visitors late.