Home Local Sports Salesianum football scores late, escapes with win over tough Cape Henlopen: Photo...

Salesianum football scores late, escapes with win over tough Cape Henlopen: Photo gallery

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Andrew Ransome had 70 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Salesianum in a 28-21 win over Cape Henlopen. (Dialog photo/Jason Winchell)

WILMINGTON — Salesianum’s football team struggled to get its offense moving for much of the night of Sept. 1, but when the Sals were in their biggest moment of need, they found they could rely on an experienced running back.

Cape Henlopen’s T.J. Messick scored on a 13-yard run with 4:37 to go, giving the Vikings a 21-20 lead in front of a stunned crowd at Abessinio Stadium. But the Sals did not panic, marching 56 yards in just over three minutes to escape with the win.

Andrew Ransome capped the final drive with a 2-yard run off right tackle with 1:17 to go, and the Salesianum defense shut down Cape’s last-minute attempts to get those points back to preserve a 28-21 victory in the season-opener for both teams.

The Vikings trailed, 20-14, when they got the ball back after a Sals punt with about eight minutes remaining. They turned to junior Maurki James, who dazzled all night. He ran on the first play of the drive for 24 yards, taking the ball to the Salesianum 49. James then went up the middle for 13 more, followed by a pair of 2-yard runs.

Facing a third and six from the Sals’ 32, quarterback Joseph Coveleski hit Messick with a screen that went for 17 yards. After James picked up another two, Messick went up the gut to give the Vikings their second one-point lead of the night.

Vincent DelliCompagni gave the Sals good field position by returning the kickoff to his team’s 44-yard line with 4:30 on the clock. On third and 3, freshman quarterback Ryan Stoehr found Hunter Balint at the Cape 44. From there it was all Ransome. He picked up 25 yards on his first run, six on his second to give the Sals a second and 4 at the Cape 13. Ransome came up a yard short of the end zone, and after a loss of one on first and goal, he went in standing up as the Sallies’ faithful celebrated.

“We were just in a tough situation,” Ransome said. “They called my number, and I delivered for the team this time. This is a team full of heart. Them scoring late didn’t really affect us and didn’t affect our heart.”

Stoehr, believed to be the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Sals since current assistant coach Gene Delle Donne in the early 2000s, said he didn’t feel any added pressure in those closing minutes.

“We have trust in our guys, and we have trust that we can make the plays. I had trust in my teammates that we could win this game,” he said.

Stoehr said he has been dreaming of being Sallies’ starting quarterback since sixth grade and that he has been embraced by his teammates.

“I’ve been embraced since the day I came here, and it’s been awesome,” he said.

The teams played a scoreless first quarter, with one Salesianum drive ending with an interception by Messick at the goal line. Salesianum thought they had scored on a punt return in the opening seconds of the second quarter, but that was negated by a penalty. They began that drive instead at the Vikings’ 44, and it ended with a 33-yard James Collins field goal with 8:35 to go in the half.

Cape’s best drive of the first half got them to the Salesianum 27, but Sals defensive end Nate Ray ended that threat by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Aidan Lucey. Ransome carried for 33 yards on first down to the Vikings’ 27, but the drive stalled at the 21. Collins added three more points, this time from 38 yards, to double the lead to 6-0 with 95 seconds remaining in the first half.

Any thoughts that Cape would sit on the ball and go into the locker room with a six-point deficit were quickly dispelled. Coveleski capped a quick 81-yard drive with a scrambling 35-yard touchdown pass into the far right corner of the end zone with just 22 seconds on the clock. The point after put the Vikings on top.

But the lead lasted just 12 seconds. Nicholas Strusowski took the kickoff at the Salesianum 10 and streaked down the right side of the field for a touchdown, restoring a six-point Sals advantage with 10 ticks left.

Ransome finished with 70 yards rushing and two scores. Balint caught five balls for 30 yards, and he had another for a two-point conversion. The Sals (1-0) face a tough assignment next week when they visit Sussex Central on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.

James finished with 18 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown, and he caught three passes for 122 yards. Cape (0-1) hosts Class 2A power Woodbridge in its home opener, set for Thursday at 6 p.m.

All photos by Jason Winchell.