Asked after a wild win for a reaction to the past two months, the coach admitted: “It’s been tough. It’s been tough on the players, tough on the coaches.”
On Friday in Potomac, Md., Bullis played from behind for much of the game. But whenever their demise seemed imminent, the Bulldogs manufactured a momentum swing.
They were down when they faced fourth and eight from the Carroll 32 with under six minutes left. Quarterback Christian Veilleux fired a touchdown pass on a post route to wide receiver Ashton Allen to keep them afloat.
“I knew he was going to get the ball there,” Allen said. “All I had to do was focus and make the catch, do whatever to make the catch.”
Bullis was still down heading into the two-point conversion. On the first try, Carroll jumped offside. On the second try, an incomplete pass, the officials flagged Carroll for pass interference. On the third, a stout defensive front stuffed Veilleux at the line of scrimmage. His offensive line pushed him over the goal line.
Bullis added a touchdown to pull ahead 35-27 before giving the ball back to Carroll one more time. Lions quarterback Robert Lawson drove the offense down the field, and he took it himself on an 11-yard touchdown scramble with 13.3 seconds left. More suspense: Bullis stopped the game-tying conversion.
Thus ended the season opener, giving way to what seemed to be a typical postgame celebration. With football to discuss again, Cilento kept the focus there, saying, “You want to come out one point ahead of the opponent, and we found a way to do that.”
For about six weeks over the summer, Cilento’s staff managed the team in his absence. When Cilento returned, Allen said, he addressed the team about the allegations.
“It was shocking. I just needed to learn more about it,” Allen said of the situation.
“I’m not going to jump to conclusions, because I trust Coach Cilento. I’ve been around him for 3½ years.”
Cilento did not respond Friday to a question about the alleged incident at his home.