To have any chance at finishing off a stellar comeback, the Franklin Pierce Cardinals needed all hands on deck at crunch time Friday night.
That meant moving their best weapon, senior running back Hassan Kitt, to where he could be best utilized — the slot receiver position.
Things couldn’t have worked out much better on Friday night for Franklin Pierce at Orting Stadium, as Kitt hauled in a clutch 30-yard reception with 55 seconds left to set up the winning score as the visiting Cardinals defeated Orting, 23-21, in the SPSL 2A opener for both teams.
“I went up and I didn’t know I was going to catch it, but when I grabbed it, I knew I was going to bring it down,” said Kitt of the pass from quarterback Daniel Wheelock. “(Call me) a running back with hands.”
Kitt, who played some wide receiver in summer passing leagues, finished with just two catches, but rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries.
“We just saw that’s our best kid, and if we put the ball up for him he makes unbelievable circus catches all over the place for us on a regular basis,” Franklin Pierce coach Howard Lutton said.
While Kitt set up the play, running back Daimoni Delavergne finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left. After Orting was flagged twice for penalties on the point after, Delavergne eventually scored the two-point conversion to put the game away.
“We’ve never had a comeback like this before,” said Delavergne, who finished with 116 yards rushing on 15 carries. “It proves we’re a better team (than year’s past). We’re not the same Franklin Pierce that we used to be.”
Orting (2-1, 0-1 SPSL 2A) had a chance to close out the victory earlier in the quarter, but missed a 28-yard field goal with 3:08 left, which left the door open for Franklin Pierce.
“(We knew) it was going to come down to playing 48 minutes of football,” Lutton said. “If that ain’t 48 minutes of football, nothing is.”
It looked to be Orting’s ballgame early on. Franklin Pierce blew a golden opportunity to take an early lead, losing a fumble on the Orting 6-yard line midway through the first quarter, and the home team took advantage.
Orting needed just five plays to score, getting a 69-yard run from Jaysen Yoro to put them into the red zone before Devin Casey scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
“We came out, shot ourselves in the foot, unbelievably,” Lutton said. “I don’t think we have any feet left.”
The host Cardinals upped the lead to 14-3 at halftime after quarterback Eddie Prong hit Justin Kennett in the flat with a screen pass, and the senior spun through a couple of tackles and jetted 67 yards for a touchdown.
Orting pushed the lead to 21-9 late in the third quarter when Prong lofted a pass over a couple Franklin Pierce defenders across the middle and found Marquis Olmstead for a 28-yard touchdown. But Franklin Pierce (3-0, 1-0) started its comeback when Saul Rodriguez scored on a 23-yard TD run with 11:46 remaining. But the kick failed, and Orting led 21-15.