Seeing a 20-point lead disappear against an undefeated Choate Rosemary Hall team playing before its home crowd didn’t dampen the Brunswick School football team’s spirits during Saturday’s NEPSAC Mike Silipo Class A Bowl game.
Instead, the Bruins responded like a team determined to win a championship bowl game.
Finishing with a flurry, Brunswick scored the matchup’s last 13 points and posted a decisive 33-21 victory over host Choate Rosemary Hall in the NEPSAC Mike Silipo Class A Bowl in Wallingford.
The win put the finishing touch on an outstanding 9-1 season for the Bruins, a 2022 campaign in which they won their final nine games.
“I’m so proud of the boys,” said Brunswick coach Wayne McGillicuddy, who concluded a memorable first season at the helm. “They played so hard and never quit. They stared adversity in the face and never backed down.”
Junior running back Bryce Davis, capped a spectacular season with a touchdown run, junior quarterback Elijah Cromartie produced another impressive performance, running for a score, senior defensive back returned an interception to the end zone and senior wide receiver Tomas Delgado caught a pass for touchdown, highlighting the Bruins’ championship bowl win.
The last time the Bruins visited Choate Rosemary Hall was in the 2018 NEPSAC Mike Silipo Bowl and the Wild Boars recorded a 25-8 triumph. Brunswick made sure such a scenario didn’t play out in Saturday’s showdown, jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first half, behind effective play by the offense and a tenacious defensive effort.
As he did all season, Cromartie efficiently ran the Bruins’ offense, completing key passes for first downs, while using his legs to also gain yards.
“This is my first year at Brunswick everyone welcomed me from the first day,” Cromartie said. “That first game against The Hun School didn’t go well for us, but after that, we flipped the switch and played great the rest of the season. Our running back, Bryce Davis, is the best running back in New England and our offensive line, once again, stepped up. We couldn’t have done anything on offense without our offensive line.”
The Bruins set the tone of the game early, courtesy of their stingy defensive unit. Senior defensive back Luke Michalik intercepted a pass from Choate senior quarterback Jaxon Carroll and returned it for a touchdown. Sophomore placekicker Oliver Reynolds converted the PAT and the Bruins took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
“That was all from watching film,” Michalik said of his interception return for a touchdown. “I noticed that they liked to pass to their tight end in situations like that and I jumped the route and intercepted the pass. This is a huge win for our team. We’ve always felt counted out by teams, so to come out on top is a great feeling. This team is all about brotherhood and it comes from the great job coach Cuddy (McGillcuddy) does with the program.”
Behind the running of Davis, Brunswick drove deep into Choate territory setting up a short field goal attempt for Reynolds, who split the uprights from within 20 yards, making it 10-0 late in the first quarter.
Brunswick’s defense struck again, creating more points. This time, senior defensive back recovered a fumble from a Choate Rosemary Hall running back on a running play, setting the Bruins up on the Wild Boars’ 40-yard line.
Davis gained 16 yards on a screen pass from Cromartie and Delgado had a reception, enabling Brunswick to enter the red zone. Reynolds kicked a 34-yard field goal, giving the Bruins a 13-0 edge with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter.
Excellent defensive plays by junior defensive end Liam Butler and sophomore defensive back Ethan Long, stymied the Wild Boars’ ensuing drive, then when the Bruins got the ball back, they promptly added onto their lead.
Protected well by the offensive line, Cromartie dropped back to pass and connected with Delgado over the middle, who caught the ball, then used his speed to reach the end zone, covering 57 yards and putting the Bruins in front, 20-0, at the 6:53 mark of the second quarter.
“This win feels amazing,” said Delgado, one of the Bruins’ captains. “After our first game, we started out from the ground up and we improved so much. We came out here today, happy to be here and excited to play in a bowl game.”
Coached by LJ Spinnato, Choate Rosemary Hall closed to within 20-14 and had the momentum going into halftime. They cut into the Bruins’ once 20-point lead by receiving a 10-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jon Marvan and 52-yard touchdown reception by senior wideout Seth Sweitzer off a pass from junior quarterback Nick Rubino, who relieved Carroll at QB.
The Bruins received key defensive plays from Wolfram, who intercepted a pass from Carroll and Long, who also picked off a pass in the opening half.
With 6:28 left in the third quarter, the Wild Boars gained a 21-20 edge on a touchdown run by sophomore Pearson Hill and an ensuing two-point conversion run.
A sack by senior defensive end Taylor Primack on Choate’s next possession prevented the home team from increasing its lead and when the Bruins got the ball back with 7:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, they embarked on the game-winning drive.
Cromartie’s 19-yard scramble for a score capped the scoring drive with 2:53 to go in the fourth quarter, putting Brunswick ahead, 26-21. On a fourth-down play on Choate’s ensuing drive, an impressive tackle by Michalik halted the home team’s possession.
Davis sealed the win by breaking loose for a long touchdown run, as Choate stacked the line of scrimmage, making it 33-21 with 50.8 seconds left to play. Then the celebration soon began for the Bruins.
As it had all season, Brunswick’s offensive line excelled. Senior Miles Walker, junior Matthew Augustine, senior Will Janis, junior Jadon LaFontant and junior Patrick O’Connor enabled the offense to effectively operate by protecting Cromartie and sparking the team’s running game, led by Davis. Last season, the Bruins dropped a 35-28 decision to Deerfield Academy in the NEPSAC Mike Silipo Bowl at Cosby Field. In 2019, the Bruins won the NEPSAC Todd Marble Bowl against Governor’s Academy, 19-12.
“All the hard work we put in throughout the season and before the season paid off,” the Ohio State University-bound Walker said. “We surprised a lot of people, who thought we were going to go 3-7 or 4-6 this season, but here we are at 9-1 after winning a bowl game. It was a tough battle out there today against a great Choate team and we got off to a little bit of a slow start. But we played better as the game went on.”