Ed Francis (24) with the kick as Rick McInnis (1) holds.
Bert Siclari (71) and Ted Williams combine on the tackle.
Ken McManus (4) helps tackle Notre Dame all-time great running back Art Spence with Pete Chirico (60) and Art Nugent (67) closing in.
What they are saying now:
"It was one of the best teams ever in the state," Tom Lavery said before West Haven played Xavier, November 11, 2011. "The players just gelled together. When the clock ticks perfectly, that's what happens. Greatness came out of it. A team like that comes along once in a lifetime."
"There were no superstars on the team," Bert Siclari said before the Westies played Cross, November 4, 2011. "No one thought they were the king. That made us play harder.
"We played every game like it was zero-zero. We never knew how good we were. We were just mean kids. We were going to go out there and hit you and we were going to win."
West Haven Ranked
By BOB BARTON
Register Staff Writer
Those 58.4 points per game West Haven High School scored last football season have brought the Blue Devils a varied harvest.
On the field, they helped bring West Haven its first perfect record since 1929 – nine wins, no defeats – and an easy District League championship.
From the Blue Devils’ victims, they brought some cries of anguish and an occasional expression of resentment.
From the sportswriters and Connecticut Coaches Association panelists who ballot on The Register’s weekly Top Ten ratings, they attracted attention which culminated in West Haven’s selection as the 1968 state champion.
The biggest and least expected dividend, though, came just this past week. The National Sports News Service of Minneapolis took a look at West Haven’s record – especially that scoring average – compared it with the best in the land, and assigned the Blue Devils fifth place in its national high school rankings.
McHugh: ‘Sheer Amazement’
Joe McHugh, coach of the Blue Devils, was dumbfounded when told about it. “My first reaction is sheer amazement,” he said. “I’m very happy, though, for the boys. They’re the greatest group I’ve ever had – dedicated, willing to do everything we asked them. As far as this kind of recognition goes - well. I’m just flabbergasted.”
West Haven is the first Connecticut team ever ranked among the service’s top 10 and the only New England outfit to crack the first 10 in a decade. The service has been selecting national schoolboy champions for 15 years.
Two Share Title
There are actually five schools ahead of West Haven in the 1968 listing. First place is shared by Reagan High of Austin, Tex. (15-0) and Coral Gables, Fla., High (12-1) – the latter, incidentally, coached by a onetime Yale assistant, Nick Kotys.
Reagan and Gables were also national co-titlists in 1967 and both repeated as playoff champions in their respective states.
Behind that pair come Valdosta, Ga. (13-0) in second position; Upper Arlington, Ohio (10-0) in third; Richard Montgomery High of Rockville, Md. (10-0) in fourth and West Haven in fifth.
Next, in order, are Latrobe, Pa. (10-0), two Southern California schools, St. Paul’s (11-0-2) and El Rancho (9-3-1), tied for seventh; Lakewood, Colo. (13-0); Booker T. Washington of Tulsa, Okla. (10-1) and McCluer High of St. Louis (10-0-1).
New London (9), runnerup to West Haven in The Register’s Connecticut poll, appears in 28th place.
West Haven’s per-game scoring figure was the highest among the top dozen teams and only Upper Arlington tallied more points – 527 to West Haven’s 526.
The Blue Devils’ victories were over Milford, 62-6; Notre Dame of West Haven, 50-12; Wilbur Cross, 42-6; Hamden 95-6; Lee, 58-20; Stamford 37-22; Ansonia, 72-16; Jonathan Law of Milford, 34-0, and Hillhouse 76-6.
Westies Capture State Grid Championship
By JACK MURPHY
Register Staff Reporter
West Haven fans’ “We’re No. 1” chant can now take on a ring of authority, for as of today the Westies officially reign as Connecticut’s 1968 football champions.
The final poll in the Register’s weekly Top Ten ratings shows the Westies with a 5-2 first place vote edge over New London, the team they battled with all season for the top spot.
The Whalers held the number one position from the first week of the season until two weeks ago when West Haven destroyed a fine Jonathan Law team 34-0 to vault into first.
For the Westies, the state championship marks a fitting conclusion to the school’s first undefeated campaign in 39 years. In September, coach McHugh’s outfit was regarded as a question mark. Everyone expected something from West Haven but no one knew how much.
A season-opening 62-0 romp over Milford raised some eyebrows but it wasn’t until West Haven throttled perennial power Notre Dame 50-12 that people started taking the Westies for real. That victory over the Knights boosted West Haven into second place in the poll, a spot held regularly while running roughshod through the schedule.
The seniors on the West Haven team will be the guests of the Register at the annual All-State banquet next Sunday and will receive the state championship trophy.
For New London, the results of the final poll – which is conducted with the sanction and cooperation of the Connecticut High School Coaches Association was a big disappointment. The Whalers also finished the season with a perfect 9-0 mark and captured the Capital District Conference title. It was the first time New London has ever achieved the league title and an undefeated season.
New Canaan, undefeated in ten games and champion of the Fairfield County Conference, finished third after a vain season long wait for either of the top two clubs to falter. Fairfield Prep, third last year and third all season until a final game loss to Stamford, fell only to fourth place in the final balloting.
Other teams in the final top 20 last year that gained spots in this season’s list include Notre Dame, fifth, Derby, seventh, Naugatuck, ninth, Jonathan Law, tenth, New Britain, twelfth, and Seymour, fourteenth.
Coach McHugh, when appraised of his team’s final standing was simple in his response. “I feel very good,” he said simply.
“The team went wild when I told them – they were really happy.”
McHugh admitted at the beginning of the year he had no real aspirations for the top spot.
“I figured we had a real good club but we were aiming at a winning season. We didn’t give much thought to the championship.”
Asked when he realized just how good the Westies were, McHugh answered, “the Stamford game. We came from behind twice in that game. That’s when t realized what we really had.”
Blue Devil Blitzkrieg Stuns Hillhouse
By RAY ANDRESEN
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (November 28, 1968) – The Balkan Wars lasted three months. The recent Israeli-Arab conflict went six days. The Third Reich brought down the Danish and Norwegian flags in one day.
But the fastest blitzkrieg on record is one minute and 34 seconds. That’s how long it took for the West Haven war machine to completely destroy Hillhouse in their Thanksgiving Day battle and ring down the curtain on the first undefeated season in 40 years for the Blue Devils.
With 10:26 showing on the clock, Westie halfback Tom Lavery rolled to his right and hurled a bomb to flanker Ed Francis who rambled unescorted into the end zone. It was the first time the Blue Devils had touched the football on a dreary, damp morning and not a soul among the 7, 000 in Ken Strong Stadium had hopes of stopping the stampede. Before the final whistle of the season, the Westies had annihilated the Academics by a 74-6 margin.
“We had that play planned from the beginning,” explained coach Joe McHugh as he hid in the coaches room to avoid a victory shower. “We knew they were going to try to stop our power offense up the middle so we decided to hit them quick with the halfback option.”
The stunned visitors never recovered as the Westies scored the first five times they controlled the ball and relinquished the pigskin only four times without putting points on the scoreboard. The win was West Haven’s ninth of the season and brought the District League championship to the shore town.
The top-ranked high school force in the state received an excellent performance from senior quarterback Harry Conlan who scored three touchdowns on two, seven and one-yard runs and completed seven of seven passes. He tallied three conversion runs, too, and claimed the area scoring championship with 132 points.
Francis caught another touchdown pass from Conlan, Steve Johnson and Tom Lavery scored one each, reserve Alex Sampara caught a scoring strike from Bill Dunleavy, second-stringer Tom Farina went 20 yards for another six points and tackle John Befus bludgeoned his way for a 28-yard touchdown with an interception.
The tanks corps even got in on the act as the Westie linemen took turns at carrying the ball in the final quarter.
“It was a tribute to the senior linemen,” McHugh said. “They had done so much and never had a shot at carrying the ball.”
That was an understatement. The defensive line of Befus, Bert Siclari, Peter Chirico, Art Nugent and Mike Samperi and linebackers Mike D’Eugenio, Ted Williams and Pete Sgro completely thwarted the Hillhouse ground game by causing six fumbles, D’Eugenio recovered three.
McHugh also praised his offensive line (Tony Vigliante, Williams, Chirico, Fred Youncher and Burt Cohen) which was an integral but overlooked part of the undefeated season. The success of the Blue Devil running game (381 yards against Hillhouse) depended on their blocking which caused bigger holes than a landmine.
Hillhouse wasn’t without its heroes, either. Amos Joyner, a bruising fullback-linebacker, scored all the Academic points on a one-yard plunge in the fourth period and shifty Sam Troxler completed 9 of 15 passes for 152 yards. Seemingly pinned down by the Westie defense throughout the game, Sam escaped the grasps of Siclari and Befus to continuously hit ends Ron Jones and Dan Lathrop with short passes.
Despite the rout on the scoreboard, the Ac line led by Many Sasser and Ken O’Sullivan, put the brakes on the inside attack but was too slow to halt the end sweeps.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” was McHugh’s reaction to the undefeated season. “I said I’d give myself five years when I first took the job and that’s what it’s been.”
What about next season?
“It’s a rebuilding year,” exclaimed McHugh, who loses 19 seniors from this squad. Only five starters return with three – Ken McManus, Sgro and Youncher – being elected tri-captains to keep the victory string going.
What they said:
“Overall, West Haven was probably the best team I’ve ever seen in Connecticut,” said Hillhouse High coach Dan Casey, “simply because there were eight or nine players who came in when West Haven didn’t have the ball. The defense would get the ball back so many times in the other team’s end of the field. I haven’t seen a team as well-balanced, yet with so many fine individuals. It’s a rarity to have such good ball players both on offense and defense.”
Perhaps McHugh tells it best.
“There were no true stars who should be called stars,” McHugh said. “Everyone worked together. There was team effort and dedication.”
Westies Rout Lawmen 34-0
Westies Blank Lawmen
By PAUL MARSLANO
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (November 16, 1968) – Steve Johnson scored two touchdowns and rushed for 186 yards Saturday morning as a powerful West Haven easily rolled to a 34-0 victory over seventh-ranked Jonathan Law at Ken Strong Stadium.
Nearly 3,000 rain-soaked fans watched quarterback Harry Conlan direct the Westies in compiling over 400 total yards. Conlan scored three times himself, twice on option plays and once on a one-yard sneak.
The Blue Devils, ranked second in the state, used a tight defense to completely stop the Law attack. In the second half, the Lawmen were held to 13 total yards and two first downs.
West Haven scored with 4:08 left in the first period when Conlan rolled left and then went six yards for the score.
In the second period, Johnson broke four tacklers at the five-yard line and lunged forward into the endzone with less than two minutes remaining in the half, making the score 14-0.
The Westies’ fired-up defense wasted little time in the second half and began pushing the Lawmen back and forcing them to punt.
Law quarterback Jim Ryan, who also handles the kicking duties, managed only one long punt during the contest. Bad snaps from center and a bruising defense caused Ryan to average only 18 yards per punt and gave the Blue Devils good field position all morning.
The Westies defense, led by Ted Williams and John Befus kept Law from getting closer than the West Haven 30 yard line and that came when a West Haven onside kick was recovered by Law and they started their only possible drive but finally lost the ball on downs.
Williams, who plays linebacker on defense and tackle on offense continually kept the Lawyers off-balance by blitzing and opening gaping holes on offense.
Johnson, who carried the ball 25 times and averaged over seven yards a carry, was joined in the backfield by Tom Lavery, who also gained over 100 yards.
“We tried our short game to their right side and our long sweeps on their left,” Coach Joe McHugh said. “They are a good ball club, but our boys have played consistently all year.”
On the Law defense, the Pietrini brothers, Pete and Russ, made most of the Jonathan Law tackles.
The Westies, fired up for the second half, stopped Law cold as the Lawyers managed only 35 yards passing and were minus 26 yards rushing.
Johnson broke loose for gains of 22 yards and twice for 16 yards as the offensive line opened holes in the Law defense which Johnson and Lavery burst through.
The third West Haven touchdown came when Conlan again rolled out and then broke inside from the five yard line which gave the Westies a 20-0 lead with less than four minutes gone in the third period.
The fourth score came when Johnson went in from the six-yard line and Lavery made the two-point conversion to make the score 28-0.
In the fourth quarter, West Haven took the ball at mid-field and marched 50 yards in 13 plays. Conlan tried three times from the six-yard line before he was successful on a one-yard sneak.
Jonathan Law lost the ball on the next play after the kickoff when Williams recovered a fumble on Law’s 35 yard line and Befus came charging through to drop Ryan.
The slight rain that fell through most of the game did not hurt the Westies attack.
“I feel that our boys could have even done better on a dry field, but for that matter I imagine that Law would also have been better,” McHugh explained.
What they said:
“West Haven was the best team I’ve ever seen in Connecticut,” said Law High coach Vito DeVito. “This includes going back to my days at Stamford. This club had so many big, fast players, it could two platoon and not be hurt. I thought that we’d be one of the few teams which could score against West Haven, yet we’re the only one they shut out. They went looking for national recognition and they got it.”
Westies Whip Lavender in 72-16 Rout
By RAY ANDRESEN
Register Sports Writer
ANSONIA (November 9, 1968) – “Did we run it up this time?”
Coach Joe McHugh immediately assumed the defensive Saturday after West Haven physically destroyed, demoralized and defeated Ansonia, 72-16, before 2400 fans at Nolan Field.
The truth of the matter is West Haven didn’t run up the score despite the awesome proclamation on the scoreboard. In fact, McHugh substituted wave after wave of Blue Devils but nothing short of a stalling tactic could have prevented the Westie explosion.
McHugh earned a touch of infamy, deserved or not, when West Haven rolled over Hamden, 95-6, previously and the Southern Connecticut graduate wasn’t about to increase his ignominy. He left his first string on the field for the first 23 plays but they chewed up 376 yards on the ground and crossed the goal line five times before the reserves took over for all but two series in the third quarter.
Harry Conlan, the first of five quarterbacks employed by McHugh, was superb as he scampered for two touchdowns and three two-point conversions while halfback Tom Lavery busted through for three long touchdowns and 230 yards on a dozen carries. There was little consolation for the Lavender as the bench-warmers resumed the attack on the Ansonia end zone for a 44-8 lead at intermission.
With the game four minutes old fullback Steve Johnson broke through left tackle and dashed 24 yards unscathed to light the fireworks. A minute later Lavery went 36 yards on a draw and then Conlan, picking up a devastating block by Tony Vigliante, raced 68 yards down the sidelines for a 20-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Conlan re-entered the end zone on the initial play of the second period as he swept left end for 30 yards with Steve Leavitt making the final block on Ansonia’s riddled and ragged defense. Lavery continued the onslaught by breaking three tackles en route to a 74-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Ansonia quarterback John Knapp was continuously pressured by tackle Bert Siclari as the huge, mobile Westie line limited the bespectacled scrambler to 10 completions in 44 attempts.
Enter the subs. Tom Farina and John Beauvais hammered at the crumbling Ansonia wall and reserve quarterback Dave Nelson carried an eight-play march into touchdown territory on a 17-yard sweep.
The Lavender, however, began to fight back. Knapp connected with Floyd “the Flea” Miller on a 36-yard pass which bounced off the shoulder of Craig Bradley, a Westie defensive back, with a minute remaining in the first half and then Jay Morgenstern capped a 79-yard drive with a one-yard plunge to paydirt. Ansonia was in the game momentarily.
Lavery drove 58 yards off right guard, George MacLeman grabbed a 24-yard pass from Bill Dunleavy and Dennis Cimino hauled in a 16-yarder from Nelson in the second half to push the Blue Devils into an invincible lead. The final score came when Gary Samperi returned an interception 48 yards.
What they said:
“West Haven was one of those teams which comes along for a coach once in a lifetime,” said Ansonia High coach Bill McAllister. “It had everything – a devastating ground attack, an air attack and strength on defense.”
Westies Survive Stamford Challenge
Defense Sparkles in 37-22 Win
By JACK MURPHY
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (October 26, 1968) – Stamford High invaded Ken Strong Stadium yesterday morning and gave West Haven its stiffest challenge of the season but the Westies had just too much - especially too much defense - for the downstaters, emerging with their sixth straight victory 37-22.
The Black Knights, who have now lost three games – all of them to unbeaten teams – were rugged in defeat and conceded nothing.
In the opening period the visitors shocked the near capacity crowd by registering on the scoreboard first, leaving the Westies behind for the first time since the second game of the season when Notre Dame enjoyed a short-lived 6-0 margin.
The Stamford TD came after a long drive that included a bad break and a cancelling good break. The Orange and Black took the opening kickoff and moved from their own 35 to the Westie 33.
Then the bad break. Rich McInnis, who was a dmon in the Westie secondary, picked off a Jack Lockery pass to put West Haven on offense for the first time. Then the break the other way. On the first offensive play, West Haven fumbled and Rick Brewer pounced on the ball for Stamford.
Five plays later – and after a successful fourth and one quarterback sneak by Lockery – Chris Willis raced in from the 19 for the score.
Taking the next kickoff, West Haven still had trouble generating an offense, moving the ball primarily on 20 yards worth of penalties assessed against Stamford. Finally the Westies gave up the ball on downs on the Black Knight 41.
Three plays later they had it back, on a fumble recovery by Gary Samperi. Two plays after that Harry Conlan hit Tom Lavery on a 49 yard pass play for a touchdown. Ed Francis kicked and the Westies were in the lead.
The second West Haven touchdown came as a result of a spectacular run by Steve Johnson. Heading into a stiff headwind, Johnson broke over tackle from his own three and raced 86 yards before he was caught from behind by Dave Neville. Still having trouble moving the ball, it took four plays to go the last 11 yards with Lavery plowing in from the one.
The Westies went up 21-6 five minutes later on a halfback pass from Lavery to Francis.
West Haven fans started breathing easier, but Stamford was far from finished. After a false start and a 35 yard pass on a fourth and 10 situation, Lockery connected with Prentis Wilson for a nine yard TD with just 43 seconds left in the half.
Intermission failed to dull the Black Knights’ momentum. Halfway through the third period Wilson took off on a 57-yard gallop and after a running conversion by Mike McNally, West Haven was behind for the second time in the game.
Just before the final period started, the Westies got another big break. End Pete Sgro pounced on a Stamford fumble on the 35. Conlan got thrown for a 12-yuard loss on the first play, but then connected with Francis for a 47-yard score.
In the last period, the state’s second ranked high school power finally got the offense into high gear. With ten minutes left, the Westies started on their own 20 and marched 80 yards in 13 plays and six minutes, Conlan scoring from the one, for the insurance touchdown.
The offense was more than adequate for the winners, but it was the defense that excelled yesterday.
McInnis, besides his own interception, deflected two more passes that Ken McManus picked off. In the line, Ted Williams and Bert Siclari made their side almost impregnable. West Haven took over the ball five times on fumbles and interceptions and held the visitors to just five completed passes in 20 attempts and 84 yards.
What they said:
“West Haven was the best football team we faced because of its depth,” said Stamford High coach John Hagan. “New Canaan beat us 54-20. If West Haven played New Canaan, I’d bet it would be one heck of a game, But West Haven’s depth would tell. I know West Haven wore us out. The two strong platoons are just too much.”
Johnson Leads Westies to 58-20 Win Over Lee
West Haven Bumps Lee
By JACK MURPHY
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (October 19, 1968) – On a gray overcast day in the 1920’s, legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice observed a now equally legendary Notre Dame backfield destroy an opponent and from the fertile mind of Mr. Rice came the enduring label “The Four Horsemen.”
One wonders what Rice would have called West Haven’s backfield of Conlan, Johnson, Lavery and Francis after yesterday’s 58-20 victory over Lee on a day that was not only gray and overcast but marred by raindrops.
The four Westie stars – as they have been all season – were devastating. Quarterback Harry Conlan called another outstanding game, running and passing superbly. Running back Tom Lavery had an excellent game, which for him is routine. Flanker Ed Francis caught passes, ran and blocked with his usual skill.
It was Steve Johnson, however, who wears the stars’ mantel for this game. A bulldozing runner, Johnson scored five times, three through the middle on power drives, two on long runs where Steve, once past the line, turned on the speed and outraced everyone.
The first capped a five play 42 yard march that started when Tom Nugent recovered a Lee fumble on the third play of the game. On the first Westie play, Johnson moved the ball to the 16. Lavery got it to the eight and Johnson powered in.
After another Lee fumble, this one recovered by Bert Siclari, West Haven drove 54 yards in eight plays with Johnson busting over from the four.
Lee then put on a show of getting back into the game when James Haley bounded 37 yards on a sweep around the right end. Things looked even brighter for the Mayors when Duane McKay intercepted a Conlan pass two plays after the kickoff. The Lee machine stalled however, forcing a punt and the Westies went back on the attack.
With 1:36 left Johnson plowed in from the three for the third first half tally.
Toward the tail end of the third period, the big senior got off his most electrifying run of the day, the 85 yarder. More impressive though was his last score, the 31 yard romp that came on a fourth down, one to go situation just before the first team retired with 3 ½ minutes gone in the final period.
The Westie subs went in for the last two touchdowns, a six yarder by John Beauvais and a five yarder by Rich McInnis with just 23 seconds showing.
Despite the lack of time remaining it wasn’t the last score of the day. On the kickoff after McInnis’ score, Haley went 82 yards up the sideline to give the Mayors the highest point total scored against West Haven this season.
Johnson, besides scoring five times, had net rushing of 188 yards in 16 attempts for an 11.7 average.
A surprisingly large crowd of about 2,500 showed up for the contest despite the downpour. Although the game was played in West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium, Lee was the home team. The game was originally scheduled for Bowen Field but was transferred when temporary seating erected because the stands were condemned proved inadequate.
What they said:
“West Haven was the strongest team I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching in this state,” said Lee High coach Jack Davison. “Both lines were aggressive. The offensive backfield also was strong and could do everything and the defensive secondary was quick. We played in the same jamboree, and there was a definite change between the jamboree and the Notre Dame game when I saw them again. From the second game on, there was real team unity and confidence. It is a tribute to Joe McHugh. In addition to the technical aspects, he taught the offense and defense to be sure of one another. I’m very reluctant to compare teams of different years, but none has ever impressed me more.”
Westies Roll Up 95-6 Score
Westies Humiliate Hamden 95-6
By JACK MURPHY
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (October 12, 1968) – West Haven High School combined a battering-ram ground attack, a dazzling aerial show, a crunching defense and, unfortunately, some questionable tactics to completely humiliate District League foe Hamden 95-6, Saturday morning before 4,000 people in Ken Strong Stadium.
Westie runners, primarily Steve Johnson, Tom Lavery and quarterback Harry Conlan, romped at will through the Hamden defense rolling up the awesome total of 400 yards rushing.
In the air, the Blue Devils were almost equally devastating. Conlan passed for over 130 yards of a total of 240.
The defense was crushing, first downs through the first three periods and an offensive total of 152 yards, most gained late in the fourth quarter when West Haven substitutes finally got into the game. The defense contributed two touchdowns to the West Haven cause, one a 30-yard gallop by Pete Sgro after intercepting an attempted lateral, the other a 95 run by Mike Samperi with an intercepted pass.
The glittering performance by the state’s second ranked football team lost a lot of its sheen at the start of the fourth quarter. At that point, with the score already 68-0, the West Haven’s first offensive unit was sent back on the field.
After running up 60 points in the first half, Conlan, Lavery, Johnson and Co. had retired to the bench-for the duration, thought most of the fans. Not so, however. After the second and third stringers managed to score only one touchdown in the third period, on came the front liners, much to the amazement of just about everyone in the stadium. After two admittedly-beautiful scoring drives the first team did finally retire to the sidelines for the rest of the way.
“This display of “pouring it on” left a sour taste that all the West Haven heroics did little to wash away, but it couldn’t destroy outstanding play on the field, and the Wsties had that by the carload.
Bert Siclari played magnificently as an every-play one-man blitz on the Hamden quarterback. Linebacker Ted Williams was devastating covering his own ground as well as that vacated by Siclari.
It was the offense, though, that excited the fans. Taking the opening kickoff the Westies marched 56 yards in seven plays for the first TD. An interception by Sgro several minutes later set the offense off on another drive, this for 44 yards on six plays.
The second period was a nightmare for Hamden. The Westies crossed the goal line six times in 12 minutes. Conlan tallied the first from a yard out, Johnson displayed a dazzling 47 yard gallop for the second on the first play after Ken McManus intercepted a Hamden pass. Two plays after the kickoff, John Befus intercepted another pass setting the Westies up 44 yards from the goal. Lavery went the whole way on three runs of 20, 21 and 3 yards.
The next time West Haven had the ball, it took four plays to go 35 yards with Conlan going the last 27. Sgro got into the act next bolting 30 yards after grabbing an attempted lateral in the Hamden backfield.
With less than three minutes left in the half, the first stringers sat down, but the scoring wasn’t over. With Bill Dunleavy at the controls, the Blue Devils managed to get in 11 plays for 36 yards. Dunleavy went over with just two seconds left. Rich McInnis got the extra point to make it an even 70 at halftime.
Hamden’s lone score, at 9:03 of the final period, was a beautiful 51 yard pass from Larry Greenwald to Nat Messina who broke open in the West Haven secondary and raced unmolested into the endzone.
The winners’ last touchdown, by Samperi, came with just 51 seconds showing. It was an electrifying 95-yard scamper down the sideline after grabbing the pass, the fifth West Haven interception of the day.
What they said:
“One of the finest teams I’ve ever seen,” said since-fired Hamden High coach Joe Bandiera. “I have never been associated with nor coached against as fine a team. There is no question in my mind that it was a great team. If Hamden had been the only team which West Haven routed, there might be a question, but West Haven beat everyone badly. I saw two games before ours, and maybe I saw ours. Every position had an outstanding player and there were plenty of replacements. Everyone contributed.”
Johnson Bulldozes Cross in Westie Win
‘Difficult’ 42-6 Debacle
By RAY ANDRESEN
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (October 5, 1968) – Fullback Steve Johnson minimized a stubborn Wilbur Cross defense Saturday with four touchdown runs as West Haven protected its No. 2 ranking in the state with a “difficult” 42-6 victory.
The vaunted Blue Devil juggernaut, which had steamrolled Milford and Notre Dame previously, couldn’t budge the Governor barricade throughout the first half. Moreover, it wasn’t until the final period that the Westies transformed the District League battle of unbeatens into a debacle before 2,000 wind-chilled fans at Ken Strong Stadium.
Johnson, a brawny senior, bulldozed the hard turf for 147 net yards gained and reached the end zone on runs of 33, one, five and one yards. Cross never led in the contest.
“They were keying on Tom Lavery, playing him one-on-one,” explained Westie coach Joe McHugh, “and Johnson had the room to run.”
Lavery picked up most of his 101 yards in the second half and hauled in a 15-yard aerial from Harry Conlan for a fourth period touchdown. Conlan, however, was noticeably ineffective as he completed only four of 10 passes and was intercepted twice.
“Harry had a thigh injury,” reported McHugh, “and the tape on his leg gave him a cramp.” Conlan carried the ball twice, well below his norm, and handed over the punting chores to Lavery.
It was the Blue Devil defensive unit, sparked by tall John Befus and guard Mike Samperi, that checked the onslaught of Governor backs Claude McBride and Dan Leslie who amassed all but 11 of Cross’ 126 yards rushing.
After a first period stalemate in which the fired-up Governors completely outplayed West Haven, the defense provided the breakthrough with two interceptions that were promptly converted into scores. Two plays following Alex Sampara’s kidnapping of a Jim Foley aerial, Johnson busted through the middle of the Cross armor, swerved to his right and shouldered safety Frank DeCato en route to a 33-yard touchdown scamper. Five minutes later, Johnson walked over the goal line from a yard out to complete a 25-yard march set up by Pete Sgro’s interception. Tom Lavery swept around right end both times for the extra points and the Westies led 16-0 at intermission.
Defensive end Grover Darden, who contained the Westie sweeps for the most part, intercepted a Conlan pass in the early moments of the second half. On the next play, Darden, a two-way performer, caught a cross-field pass from Foley and fought his way to the 25-yard line. Leslie carried twice from there, dragging three West Haven defenders into the end zone with him on a 13-yard dash.
The Cross score ignited the hitherto dormant Westie attack. Johnson busted over right guard for five yards and his third touchdown and began the fourth-period fireworks with a one-yard plunge behind the blocking of Ted Williams.
Controlling the ball throughout the second half, the Blue Devils lit the scoreboard again when Conlan hit Lavery in the right flat and the senior halfback raced Leslie into the end zone. The Westies completed the rout with a minute to go when reserve quarterback Bill Dunleavy sneaked over the goal line.
West Haven has now outscored its three victims by a 156-24 margin.
What they said:
“West Haven was the first team I’ve seen that could two-platoon and be strong both ways,” said Cross High coach Horace Marone. “It’s what most coaches wish for. I had never seen anything like it. This perfect balance made it a great team.”
Westies Stun ND 50-12
Lavery, Conlan Star in Rout
By JACK MURPHY
Register Sports Writer
WEST HAVEN (September 29, 1968) – West Haven’s stunning 50-12 victory over Notre Dame before a packed house at Quigley Stadium yesterday is going to cost coach Joe McHugh some money but he couldn’t care less.
“I promised the kids I’d have the ball bronzed if we won,” said the jubilant McHugh. “I don’t care what it costs.”
His joy at the startling win was matched by the Westie players and the fans. West Haven hadn’t beaten Notre Dame since 1963 when the Knights bowed 12-6. McHugh had never beaten Notre Dame in his tenure at West Haven and last year suffered through a 52-6 debacle.
“I’m on cloud nine,” he exclaimed. “This is wonderful.”
To say McHugh had reason for his happiness is a huge understatement.
The Westies were superb. It wasn’t a cheap win. Notre Dame did not play that bad a game. The Westies played one that was THAT good.
Tom Lavery’s running and Harry Conlan’s play calling was flawless. The West Haven offensive unit played with a ferocity that was matched only by the West Haven defense.
Lavery rolled around the ends time after time until he accounted for 148 yards in 23 carries – better than six yards a try. Twice he went into the endzone for touchdowns, one on a pass from Ed Francis.
The game started as though it might again turn into a West Haven disaster. Kicking off to start the game, the Westies attempted an onside kick that gave Notre Dame the ball on their own 46 yard line. On three plays, Art Spence moved the ball to the West Haven 40. Then, with the game less than two minutes old, All-State quarterback Ray Tellier uncorked a 40 yard pass to Mike Farrington to put the Knights in a 6-0 lead.
Those who immediately foresaw another West Haven collapse were in for a big surprise.
“These kids don’t quit,” said McHugh afterwards. “They’ll come back. I knew they would.”
Held on Downs
It took the Westie offense a while to get in gear, but the defense held the fort. On two successive series, Notre Dame was forced to give up the football after four downs. Finally the Westie offensive unit started to click.
Beginning on the Notre Dame 40, West Haven used eight plays with Steve Johnson covering the last five for the score on the last play of the first quarter. Ed Francis kicked the extra point to put the Westies into a lead they never lost.
Three times they scored in the second period with Lavery on the first, a 62 yard pass from Francis, Johnson again on the second, a three yard run and quarterback Conlan on the last with a 12 yard rollout. In the third period, West Haven scored on a 25 yard Conlan to Pete Sgro pass. Notre Dame also got its second and last touchdown in the third quarter. Tellier faded to pass, suffered a terrific rush and lobbed a little safety valve to Spence who weaved and bobbed 38 yards into the endzone.
Second for Lavery
Lavery got his second TD at the beginning of the fourth period and the Westies hit the “50” mark with only 40 seconds remaining. Bill Dunleavy hit Ken McManus on a 22 yard pass play.
The lone bright spot in an otherwise completely grim Notre Dame picture was the running of All-Stater Spence. Held to only 33 yards in last week’s victory over Bridgeport Notre Dame, the senior speedster netted 151 yards yesterday.
The victory for West Haven, tied for fifth in the Register’s first weekly poll of the high school Top Ten, will undoubtedly boost it higher. Notre Dame was third in the poll this week. The loss was the first by Notre Dame to a Connecticut opponent since 1964 when Bulkeley turned the trick.
The wonderful feeling in West Haven will probably continue through the year. Notre Dame was generally regarded as the toughest team on the slate. With consecutive high scoring victories over its first two opponents, West Haven could sail through the schedule unsullied.
What they said:
“West Haven was one of the best teams in the last 20 years,” said Notre Dame High coach Ray Tellier. “Both lines were physically strong, maybe defensively more than offensively. You have to go back to the Hillhouse teams with Levi Jackson in the 1940’s to find this exceptional strength.”
Blue Devils Rip Milford 62-6
MILFORD – (Special) – West Haven High got its grid season off to an impressive start by manhandling Milford 62-6 here Saturday to spoil the debut of the Indians new coach Dick Pacelli.
Leading a host of Westie stars was Tom Lavery who tallied three touchdowns in the first half to help put the intermission count at 40-6.
The game’s first score was set up in the first period when Lavery ran 89 yards with it before being caught from behind. Three plays later, he caught a 12-yard pass from quarterback Harry Conlan in the endzone.
Lavery next brought the crowd to its feet as he slanted over tackle and sped 69 yards for another touchdown.
Conlan next completed a 33-yard aerial to end Steve Leavitt who was tackled immediately at the one. The Blue Devil pilot sneaked it in from there.
Conlan then hit end Pete Sgro with an 18-yard pass for one of three more Westie scores before the half ended.
Milford’s only tally of the day came in the second period when Dany Shaw intercepted a Conlan pass and raced it back 60 yards into the endzone.
Among West Haven’s second half scores was a safety when lineman Pete Chirico fell on the Milford punter in the Indian endzone following a poor pass from center.
What they said:
“West Haven didn’t have any weaknesses,” said Milford High coach Dick Pacelli. “It’s a team which comes along once in a decade. Maybe once in two decades. I didn’t really know how good West Haven was at the time. It was my first game as head coach. I had a very bad weekend after that game. I hope 22 of them graduate because we have got to play them first again next season."
Bert Siclari (71) makes a tackle.
Tom Lavery (23) gains extra yards with Ed Francis (24), Ted Williams (77) and Burt Cohen (50) blocking.
Ed Francis runs against Hamden with Pete Sgro (81) and Steve Johnson (35) in the background.
West Haven's Steve Johnson (35) and Ted Williams (77)
West Haven huddle with quarterback Harry Conlan (12) calling the play.
Rick McInnis (1) has the ball within his grasp.
Harry Conlan scores for West Haven.
Tom Lavery (l., No. 23) runs the sweep with Harry Conlan (r., No. 12) leading the way.
Steve Johnson (35) runs the ball with Tony Vegliante (72) in the background.
Tom Lavery (23) runs with the ball as Burt Cohen (50) and Ted Williams (77) block.
West Haven's Steve Johnson with some running room.
Bert Siclari (71), Art Nugent (67) and John Befus (78) in pursuit along with Ted Williams (77) and Pete Chirico (60).
Harry Conlan has running room.
Harry Conlan eludes a tackle.
Steve Leavitt (back, No. 85) makes a play.
Tom Lavery (23) on a sweep against Ansonia with Steve Johnson (35) and John Befus (78) blocking.
Tom Lavery (23) runs for the Westies.
Pete Sgro (81) makes the tackle with Alex Sampara (2) closing in.
Steve Johnson (35) hauls in a pass for the Westies.
Type your paragraph here.
Tom Lavery is tackled against Cheshire in a preseason Jamboree.
John Befus (78) returns an interception 28 yards for a touchdown against Hillhouse.
West Haven's Steve Johnson is tackled.
THE HOME OF WEST HAVEN SPORTS