By RICK RYAN
CHARLESTON — It sure didn't look good for Capital late in the fourth quarter at Laidley Field Friday night.
The Cougars trailed grind-it-out Princeton by eight points and their top playmaker, Kashuan Haley, kept dropping out of the lineup with cramps and other problems. That's how the ball wound up in the hands of freshman running back Silas Nazario, and that's how Nazario became the hero.
Nazario dashed across the goal line on a 2-point conversion in overtime, giving Capital a wild 29-28 victory over Princeton to remain unbeaten.
Capital (2-0), which trailed much of the way, was down 28-21 after the Tigers began the OT with a six-play burst, capped by an 11-yard touchdown run by Tahj Sho-Johnson. Earlier in the possession, Sho-Johnson converted a fourth-and-2 from the 12 with a 3-yard gain.
The alternating-possession format gave Capital the ball at the Princeton 20 with a chance to extend the game. Nazario got the possession started with a 15-yard dash to the 5, and quarterback Tyrhee Pratt rolled out on the next play and dived into the end zone to make it 28-27.
Instead of attempting a point-after kick to set up a second OT, Capital coach Jon Carpenter opted to go to his talented ninth-grader.
Pratt took the snap in shotgun formation and darted to the right on an option play. Even before the defense closed, Pratt pitched to the trailing Nazario, who caught it and cut across the far right corner of the end zone for the winning points as the Cougars' bench erupted in celebration.
"I feel great,'' Nazario said. "They just kept telling me I could do it. They kept saying, 'You've just got to do it.' I didn't want to lose.
"At first, I was a little nervous. Then after that, I believed I could do it. The team believed in me, and I believed I could do it.''
Carpenter said he didn't hesitate to go for the win instead of possibly tying the game.
"Good players is what it was,'' Carpenter said. "There's no such thing as a good call. That's stupid. If we go for 2 and if we don't make it, everybody would have fired me. And I'd probably quit. That was stupid.
"But No. 5 [Nazario] had that glow about him -- him and [Pratt]. Just give it to those guys who score, and he scored. He's pretty good, ain't he? ... He only weighs about 95 pounds, but he fights like a pit bull.''
Princeton (2-1) controlled the game for long stretches, like a 15-play march in the second quarter that chewed 8:24 off the clock and tied the game at 7 at halftime. That drive limited Capital to five snaps in the second quarter.
The Tigers then drove 80 yards on their first possession of the third quarter to take a 14-13 lead. It ended on a 3-yard scoring run by Sho-Johnson (17 carries, 86 yards), who had two TDs. When Devin Allen added a 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter, Princeton had a 21-13 lead.
It looked bleaker for Capital when Haley lost a fumble at the Princeton 41 with 10:36 left as he fought for yardage to pick up a first down on fourth-and-2.
The Tigers got gains of 13 yards by Allen and 20 by Sho-Johnson and had a first down at the Capital 25, but later had to punt it away.
For much of the game, the Tigers had a two-to-one edge in time of possession.
"That's why we went to the flexbone,'' said second-year coach Randy Peek, "to control the clock and we did a nice job. That one [late] series, if we make a first down there, maybe we win the ballgame and it doesn't even go into overtime.
"We're a grind-it-out team. We rely a lot on our offensive line, and they did a heck of a job tonight. I can't be down on these kids because they sold out tonight. They did everything we asked them to. Fundamentally, they did a great job.”
After Princeton punted it away, Capital started at its own 20 with 7:08 left.
Nazario keyed the drive with a 40-yard gallop to the Princeton 9. He scored on the next play to shave the deficit to 21-19, then Pratt ran an option right on the conversion and leaned across the goal line for the tying points.
Before its big rally, Capital experienced problems all over the field.
On their first series, the Cougars looked like they wanted to pull the Tigers offside on fourth-and-1 at the Capital 45, but the ball was snapped instead and Pratt had nowhere to go with it, giving Princeton good field position. Later, the ball was snapped over Haley's head in punt formation, resulting in a 23-yard loss.
A questionable pass interference call in the end zone negated an interception by Capital's Edmond Harvey in the third quarter and led to Allen's 1-yard TD run. Two plays after that, linebacker Jonathan Pittman was ejected after a dead-ball personal foul, one of 11 penalties against the Cougars.
Haley was the game's top rusher with 130 yards and one TD on 18 carries.
— Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.
Princeton....0 7 14 0 7--28
Capital.......0 7 6 8 8--29
C -- C.Pratt 39 pass from T.Pratt (Garrison kick)
P -- Palmer 1 run (Sho-Johnson kick)
C -- Haley 11 run (kick blocked)
P -- Sho-Johnson 3 run (Sho-Johnson kick)
P -- Allen 1 run (Sho-Johnson kick)
C -- Nazario 9 run (T.Pratt run)
P -- Sho-Johnson 11 run (Sho-Johnson kick)
C -- Pratt 5 run (Nazario run)
First downs 16 17
Rushes-yards 54-190 38-234
Passing yards 72 109
Passes 4-11 7-16
Had intercepted 1 0
Fumbles-lost 5-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-25 11-72
Punts-average 3-27.7 2-31.0
RUSHING -- Princeton: Sho-Johnson 17-86, Allen 12-58; Capital: Haley 18-130, Nazario 8-82. PASSING -- Princeton: Palmer 4-11-1-72; Capital: T.Pratt 7-16-0-109. RECEIVING -- Princeton: Jones 1-49; Capital: C.Pratt 3-56.