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Holy letdown: Knights falter in loss to Trinity

Long before Anthony Brunetti rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including a key three-yard gain on fourth down late in the fourth quarter to seal Holy Trinity’s 19-14 win against Holy Cross at Bayside Athletic Field Sunday afternoon, Knights two-way lineman Chris Brathwaite knew his team was in trouble.

“Practice was flat, the game started out flat,” the Virginia-bound senior said. “We can’t try and come from behind. We have to come out hard from the first play to the last play. We came out real soft. They outhit us, they outhustled us, they worked harder. We’ve got to go hard every play in practice, every second.”

Last week, Holy Cross (2-1, 1-1 CHSFL AAA) rallied from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit for a dramatic 49-42 road win against defending champs Iona Prep. On Sunday, the Knights crashed back to earth after being outworked by the Titans.

“I think that we kind of got our heads too high and we have to know that football is unpredictable, anyone can win,” quarterback Dean Marlowe said.

Marlowe’s fumble of a punt return helped set the tone and set up the Titans’ first touchdown, a two-yard gain by Brunetti with 5:51 left in the first quarter. Marlowe was sacked twice on the Knights’ next possession, then freshman quarterback Chris Laviano (6-of-8 for 121 yards, one touchdown) hit Louis Cottrone for a seven-yard touchdown and Holy Trinity (3-0, 2-0) held a 13-0 lead with 1:51 left in the first quarter.

“We came out strong,” Holy Trinity Coach Tony Mascia said. “I thought our O-line played well and thought they sustained it for most of the game.”

Marlowe dived over the pile for a one-yard score on Holy Cross’ first drive of the second half, but Brunetti answered back, breaking Marlowe’s tackle en route to a seven-yard touchdown to extend the Titans lead to 19-7 at the end of the third quarter.

“We count on him and he delivers every time for us,” Mascia said of Brunetti. “He’s a special kid, he really is.”

Marlowe (6-of-14, 119 yards, one touchdown, one rushing TD) connected with Malcolm Mercer, who appeared to lose control of the ball in the end zone, on a controversial 22-yard touchdown pass with 5:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Knights had Brunetti stopped on a third down at midfield, but were victimized by a personal foul for a late hit, one of several costly penalties.

“I don’t think it was a letdown,” longtime Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh said. “They just outplayed us today. They took care of the ball .... They outhit us, they outhustled us and their offensive line did a heck of a job, controlled the game.”

Holy Cross, which opened the season with an emotional but sloppy win against St. Francis Prep in the Battle of the Boulevard, will now look to bounce back against Fordham Prep, which beat the Terriers for its first victory of the season Friday night.

“This week practice was real lackadaisical,” Brathwaite said. “People were late and people got kind of big-headed. Now we’re back down to reality.”

And back to practice.

Reach Dylan Butler at dbutler@nypost.com.

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