NEW CANAAN -- The game that meant everything had everything a football fan could ever see.
As King School and St. Luke's battled for the FAA football title Saturday on Watson Field at Pedrick Stadium, there were fumbles, interceptions, a safety, points taken off the board, a bushel of penalties on both sides and goalline stands.
In short, more drama than a cable TV miniseries.
And when time finally ran out, King handed St. Luke's its first loss of the season, 18-12, so the Vikings could celebrate their first FAA football championship in three years.
"It's a great feeling," said Joey Santoro, one of King's four senior captains. "It was the last chance for our (11) seniors. I've spent 13 years of my life at King School and the last eight playing football. This is the way I wanted to finish my career."
It's not quite over yet for King (6-1). The Vikings will play an opponent to be determined for the NEPSAC football championship next weekend at a neutral site to be determined.
"This is a surreal moment," said King senior captain Zach Mulhern. "I wanted to win this game more than any football game I've ever been in. Now we're FAA champions and we earned a trip to the New Englands."
It was Santoro with a pair of second-half touchdowns -- including a three-yard sweep around right end with 4:23 left to play. And it was Mulhern, with an interception inside the King 25 with 1:28 remaining who provided the finishing touches on a milestone triumph.
"At halftime, I said to the kids `I'm a selfish guy. I want to spend another week this season as your football coach.' " veteran King football head coach Dan Gouin said. "I love these kids to death. I'm so proud that they came through for me."
It began as a one step forward, two steps back afternoon for King.
A fumble recovery on the second play of the contest became senior David Meyers' 24-yard field goal after the St. Luke's defense held its ground in the red zone.
Another St. Luke's goalline stand became a second Meyers field goal that was taken off the board by a St. Luke's penalty. King's offense still couldn't score, but the Vikings defense forced a safety by tackling a St. Luke's runner in the end zone for a 5-0 lead.
King punter Bo Kane later pinned St. Luke's on its own 1, but no points resulted for the Vikings.
In fact, St. Luke's (7-1) led 6-5 at halftime. Quarterback Charlie Nelson's 1-yard plunge capped a six-play, 79-yard march, highlighted two passes for 73 yards.
"A bunch of chances slipped by," Gouin said. "But the biggest thing was still `Could we stop the St. Luke's offense?' "
St. Luke's speedy senior running back Myles Gaines injured his knee early in the third period and never returned.
That kept St. Luke's from moving senior slot back Noel Thomas all over the field.
Thomas finished with 18 yards rushing on seven carries along with eight receptions for 87 yards. But only one touchdown, finding paydirt with 1:18 left in the third quarter, putting St. Luke's ahead 12-11 when the run for two points failed.
"Nobody has held St. Luke's to two touchdowns or 12 points in the last two years," Gouin said. "We've been a bend but don't break defense inside our own 40-yard line all season."
The King defense stood tall when it mattered most. The Vikings got their first two sacks of the afternoon to pin St. Luke's punter in his own end zone. Bo Kane's 15-yard punt return set King up at the St. Luke's 17 with 6:04 to go.
Four running plays later, Santoro scored with 4:23 remaining for a 17-12. Meyers' PAT made it 18-12.
St. Luke's refused to quit, driving to the King 35 with 1:48 left before Mulhern made the interception he'll never forget at the King 20.
"My responsibility was deep over the top. My first job was to prevent the touchdown," Mulhern said. "When their quarterback began scrambling, we had seen on the films that he likes to throw to the other side of the field. (Joey) Santoro had the receiver covered so I just played the ball."
Giving King the FAA title all the Vikings had been waiting for.
"My kids gave me everything they had. It was a great defensive game on both sides," said St. Luke's head coach Noel Thomas Sr. "Santoro is a tough, quick running back for King. The 29 guys on our roster fought together and never gave up. We wanted to go to the New Englands. But that's football."
NOTES: In a nice gesture since King's Senior Day was wiped out by Hurricane Sandy, St. Luke's introduced the 11 King seniors and their parents before the seven St. Luke's seniors playing their final home game were honored Saturday.
King 18, St. Luke's 12
KING 5 0 6 7 --18
ST. LUKE'S 0 6 6 0 --12
K -- David Meyers 24 field goal
K -- Safety (StL player tackled in end zone)
SL -- Charlie Nelson 1 run (kick blocked)
K -- Joey Santoro 4 run (pass failed)
SL -- Noel Thomas 2 run (run failed)
K -- Santoro 3 run (Meyers kick)
Records: King 6-1; St. Luke's 7-1.