The wide grin on Devin Lofton's face told the story.
The senior tailback capped off a spectacular performance Friday night by rushing for a game-winning 3-yard touchdown run with 1:15 remaining as Fairfield Warde defeated McMahon 22-15 in its season opener.
"The coach (Duncan Della Volpe) kept feeding me the ball and I just kept running and gunning," said Lofton, who finished with 218 yards on 31 carries.
Coming off 5-5 records in Della Volpe's frst two seasons, the Mustangs believe they are ready to take the next step in the always competitive FCIAC, which is why they felt winning Friday's contest was critical.
"We hyped it up," Della Volpe said. "If we're going to be good and get to the next level at any point, this year or in five years, we had to win this game tonight and somehow we did it."
Friday's contest was a back-and-forth affair with the Senators rallying from deficits of 8-0 and 15-8. Warde matched 74 yards on 11 plays for the winning score, which came after the Mustangs twice stopped McMahon in their territory in the second half.
On their second possession of the second half, the Senators drove from their 29-yard line to Warde's 17, but Ryan Jacob picked off McMahon quarterback Damian Vega to end the threat.
On their next possession, McMahon turned the ball over on downs at Warde's 26, and the Mustangs went to work, pounding the ball to Lofton. Running behind a huge offensive line, he carried on eight of the 11 plays on the winning drive.
"I'd get him the ball almost every time if we can," Della Volpe said. "When you have a player like this you have to give him the ball. We have other people to spread it around to, but tonight was one of those nights."
After two first downs, Lofton ripped off a 25-yard gain for a first down at the Senators' 16 with the clock moving inside four minutes.
"No. 5 (Lofton) is a tough runner," McMahon coach A.J. Albano said. "We knew that coming in. And I'll tell you what, a great tailback has a great line in front of him."
Lofton appeared to be stop short of the goal line on third-and-goal from the 3, but he powered his way into the end zone with second and third effort.
"They had it stopped," Lofton said, "but I kept fighting."
"Devon played a great game and that's exactly what we expect from him," Della Volpe added. "The last play, the last touchdown, I said, 'Can you get in', and he said, 'I'm good, coach.' I told everyone we don't stop until the (referees') arms go up for a touchdown and that's what we did."
Dave Wolff sealed the victory with an interception on the ensuing possession, the fourth turnover forced by the Mustangs, who turned the ball over three times themselves but none in the second half.
The game's first score came after an exchange of fumbles. Warde quarterback Chris Foley caughed up the ball at the McMahon 3-yard line, but the Mustangs got it right back as Jordan Irizarry recovered a fumble at the 8 two plays later.
On second down, Foley made amends for the fumble by finding Kevin Sullivan in the end zone and the conversion run made it 8-0 with 4:45 left in the first quarter.
McMahon tied it on Danny O'Brien's 8-yard TD scamper and the two-point conversion run with 5:17 left in the half.
However, the Senators hurt themselves with five penalties in the first half. Albano pointed to those mistakes and the missed oppurtunities in the second half.
"Good football teams can't made mistakes like we made tonight," he said. "We shot ourselves in the foot the entire first half with penalties and fumbles and then in the second half, I'm not worried about their last drive, I'm worried about our last two drives. We were inside the 20 in a tie ballgame and we didn't punch it in."
After McMahon's first score, the Mustangs responded as Foley hit Dario Puglio for a 25-yard TD strike on a 4th-and-19 with 1:12 left in the half.
The Senators marched 92 yards after taking the second-half kickoff and pulled even on Christian Jordan's 11-yard TD run.
Still, the Mustangs did a solid job containing Vega, who is a dual threat and can be dangerous in the open field.