The sting from the last meeting with the King School lasted 11 months for Fieldston. It was Oct. 22 when the Eagles entertained the Vikings on its home field, suffering a humbling 22-point loss.
So as one might imagine, Fieldston was hoping to return the favor on the Vikings’ home field this time around as Eagles’ head coach Gus Ornstein peppered his team all week with talk of how this game could define their season.
“We talked about it all week that we kind of feel like we got embarrassed by them last year at our place,” Ornstein said. “So we talked about how this game would be a way to show who we were, and that it would be a big test for us, and we’d find out who we really are.”
What the Eagles did find out is while they have improved greatly over last season, it just wasn’t enough to topple King.
In a tightly played contest, the Vikings got an 8-yard touchdown run from James Townsend-Henry late in the third quarter to hold on to a hard-fought 22-14 victory over the Eagles in Stamford. It was a Fieldston fumble recovery on a play earlier in the drive that made the difference, especially after it was nullified by a referee whistle.
It was Fieldston’s first loss of the season after opening the year with two straight victories.
“That was a tough break for us,” Ornstein said. “They had second-and-goal at the 8-yard line, and we forced a fumble and recovered it, but the referees said they blew a whistle to stop play. Then they ended up punching in what proved to be the game-winner.”
It was a deflating ending for a feisty Fieldston team that came in ready to take down a King squad regularly among the finest programs in the tri-state area. But they gave the Vikings all they could handle.
King took an early 6-0 lead when Kelly Gouin galloped in from nine yards out with 8:08 left before halftime. Fieldston responded with its first touchdown when quarterback Jesse Cooper-Leary teamed with Pierce O’Hagan on a 25-yard scoring strike to put the Eagles up 7-6 with just 1:14 to go before intermission.
A halftime lead in a huge road game would have been a huge confidence builder for the Eagles, but King was not done in the half, taking over with just 30 seconds left. That’s all the Vikings would need to find the end zone again when quarterback Renn Lints connected with A.J. Greene on a 60-yard touchdown pass with 40.2 seconds to play.
By the time King added the two-point conversion, the Vikings were up 14-7 at the break.
“Giving up that touchdown pass with 40 seconds left in the half was a killer,” Ornstein said.
But Fieldston was not about to go quietly.
The Eagles knotted the game at 14 late in the third when Cooper-Leary threw his second scoring pass of the game, this one to Ben Rosen-Cappellazzo on a 12-yard scoring strike. The Eagles looked to be in good position to pull off a road upset.
But then came that quick referee whistle, followed by Townsend-Henry’s game-winning score, and the Eagles were denied their shot at spoiling King’s Homecoming Day.
“We challenged our kids to come in here and compete, and I’m really proud at how we competed,” Ornstein said. “I thought we battled them, I thought we competed, and our kids really played their butts off.”
No team could ever be happy with a loss, the coach said, but he showed pride in how his Eagles responded given to what happened last year.
Fieldston won’t have much time to lament as they have a quick turnaround to head to Morristown Beard in New Jersey for the first of five straight league games.
Despite the loss, Ornstein thinks his Eagles are ready to battle for their league title.
“I feel good going forward,” Ornstein said. “I think we got a good group and a group that knows how to compete. If we can bring the same kind of fire and intensity each week, I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”