AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Returning two fumble recoveries for touchdowns wasn’t enough for Carl Cephas to give his team a win Saturday.

So he blocked a punt as Aviano defeated Vicenza 20-13.

Cephas scored from 60 yards and 20 yards in the first half, then turned Vicenza’s first possession in the fourth quarter into the winning points.

With the game tied 13-13, the Cougars (1-1) were forced to punt from their own 25-yard line. Cephas came hard from the left side and got the block.

“I really didn’t think I was going to get it, but then I saw he was starting to come my way,” said the junior from Tampa, Fla.

Aviano (1-1) took possession and gave the ball to running back Jacques Watson. After a 3-yard gain, Watson burst through the middle – shedding several tackles – and scored from 19 yards out to break the tie.

Anthony Young added the kick.

Vicenza still had plenty of time, but two drives stalled with the help of penalties. A desperation pass from quarterback Robert O’Doherty was intercepted in the final seconds by Anthony Williams.

The Saints had their share of penalties as well and both teams had trouble sustaining drives in the second half.

Aviano did have the advantage on time of possession, though.

“We didn’t have any big plays, but we kept the ball,” coach Ken McNeely said. “We had some penalties that hurt us, or we would have had another [score].”

The Saints were fortunate to finish the first half tied.

Vicenza struck first, with O’Doherty finding a wide-open Daryl Gonzalez for a 66-yard touchdown. The Cougars, who won their first game of the season last week after a winless season a year ago, couldn’t convert the extra point.

But Vicenza was back in the end zone again as the second quarter opened.

Starting at their own 17, the Cougars moved the ball down to the 9 after two long pass plays. O’Doherty then tossed the ball into the end zone and the lanky Gonzalez outjumped everyone else and came down with his second touchdown. Patrick Bailey’s kick was good.

Aviano, struggling to move the ball on offense, got on the scoreboard when Cephas picked up a O’Doherty fumble and ran up the right sideline. The kick after failed. But Cephas was back in the end zone a few minutes later. Eric Lain couldn’t control O’Doherty’s pitch and Cephas grabbed the football. He hit the ground, but was untouched. So he got up and ran into the end zone.

“Two big plays and we had a tie game,” said Vicenza coach Marvin Sessions. “We had the momentum. They weren’t doing much offensively. It just happened.”

O’Doherty was 12-for-20 for 218 yards. Gonzalez caught seven of those passes for 147 yards. He also intercepted a pass on defense. Vicenza had only 21 yards on 25 carries.

Watson had 113 yards on 24 carries for Aviano.

author picture
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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