Westies fall on goal-line stand
By MIKE MADERA
(October 19, 2018) - The West Haven football team remembers vividly the opening day loss against North Haven where a goal line stand by the Indians at the end of the contest determined the winner.
Fast forward a month and the Westies were in the same situation once again. And again, the Westies were denied in the final minute.
An attempt by Jordan Berrios to score in the final seconds was denied atthe one-yard line as time expired, giving Cheshire a 21-14 Southern Connecticut Conference victory over the Westies at Ken Strong Stadium Friday evening.
West Haven against Cheshire, October 19, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
With the loss, West Haven fell to 3-3 on the year, including two home losses in the final seconds.
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, West Haven evened the contest when Juan Gutierrez scored on a 1-yard run. West Haven missed the extra point and trailed 7-6 with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
West Haven against Cheshire, October 19, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Cheshire took a 14-6 lead with 11:08 left in the half, before Berrios scored on a 1-yard run and Jaden Grant added the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14 with 1:55 left in the half.
The Rams took a 21-14 lead with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
Back in the Win Column
Westies blank Academics
By MIKE MADERA
(November 3, 2018) - The West Haven football team is back in the win column. After dropping a pair of contests, West Haven is once again above the .500 mark with a 28-0 victory over Hillhouse at Ken Strong Stadium Saturday evening.
The victory saw West Haven move its record to 4-3 in a contest played a day after its originally scheduled date due to inclement weather. West Haven's defense and special team were the key as the Westies took advantage of a pair of botched special teams plays by the Academics, while also stopping Hillhouse deep in West Haven territory on several occasions.
West Haven defense against Hillhouse, November 3, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
West Haven set the tone from the start defensively as it stalled a Hillhouse drive deep in West Haven territory with an interception.
West Haven promptly marched 96 yards,using an effective ground game, before Justin Medina's 3-yard score with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter. Tylen Jennette ran in the conversion to give West Haven an 8-0 lead.
West Haven again capitalized on another Hillhouse mistake early in the second quarter. After a botched snap on a Hillhouse punt, West Haven needed a short field for a 14-0 lead.
West Haven against Hillhouse, November 3, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Needing to move just 21 yards, the drive was capped when Juan Gutierrez ran in from six yards out 1:40 into the second quarter.
Special teams again allowed the Westies to take control of the ball later in the quarter as the Academics had trouble with another punt snap.
Taking over at the 34-yard line, West Haven used a short field and increased its lead to 20-0 when Jordan Berrios scored from one yard out with 3:11 left in the second quarter. The conversion failed, keeping West Haven's lead at 20-0.
As they did in the first half, the Academics again looked to get the initial points of the second half.
As was the case in the first half, the West Haven defense came up big. A goal line stand with just over five minutes remaining in the quarter preserved the shutout and just about sealed the victory.
The Westies put the game away less than five minutes into the fourth quarter. Berrios scored on his second one-yard run of the game and Jaden Grant scored on the 2-point conversion for a 28-0 lead with 7:49 left in the game.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, West Haven just needed to finish off the shutout. The Westies did just that when Demerick Blackford's interception at the West Haven 1-yard line with 1:15 left sealed both the game and the shutout.
Two in a Row
Westies top Xavier
By MIKE MADERA
(November 9, 2018) - As the final weeks of the season approach, the West Haven football team will lament the fact it had two opportunities in the final seconds of a pair of games to win with late heroics. Those games now take on even more meaning.
Winning its second game in a row, a 39-14 decision over Xavier at Larry McHugh Field in MIddletown Friday evening, the Westies improved to 5-3 on the year with contests against powers Shelton and Fairfield Prep on the horizon.
Both teams are in the op six of the Class LL pairings, with West Haven currently sitting in the number 12 spot. Eight teams will qualify for the postseason.
Jaden Grant scored three touchdowns on the night and the West Haven defense came up big on several occasions, setting up West Haven's second consecutive victory.
Jaden Grant (6) scored three touchdowns for West Haven against Xavier, November 9, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Grant gave West Haven a 6-0 lead when he ran in from 10 yards out 3 minutes, 25 seconds in for a 6-0 lead. Just 3:25 later, West Haven led 12-0 when Justin Medina scampered in from six yards out. Both two-point conversion attempts failed.
Grant was at it again just 51 seconds into the second quarter, scoring his second touchdown of the game on a 39-yard run. When Jordan Berrios connected with Demerick Blackford on a 55-yard pass connection, West Haven had a 24-0 advantage with 7:34 left in the first half.
Malachi Wright (8) and the West Haven defense played well against Xavier, November 9, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
West Haven's defense posted the shutout for a majority of the opening half until Xavier scored with five seconds remaining, cutting West Haven's lead to 24-7.
The Westies responded to open the third quarter, needing little time to put the contest away. Berrios opened the drive with a 59-yard run and Grant scored from 12 yards out for a 31-7 lead 2:22 into the third quarter.
West Haven put the game away for good less than ten seconds into the fourth quarter when Mekiel Coates scored on a 6-yard run.
Xavier added a long touchdown run midway through the final quarter and West Haven tacked on a safety with 1:53 to go for the 39-14 final.
Westies fall to Shelton
By MIKE MADERA
(November 17, 2018) - With a two-game winning streak and the tiniest of hopes of a postseason bid, the West Haven football team knew it had a tough task traveling to Shelton to take on the Gaels. The Westies saw first hand how tough this Shelton team is.
Scoring the first 42 points of the game, the Gaels ended any possible playoff hopes for the Westies with a 42-12 victory at Finn Stadium in Shelton Saturday evening. With the loss, West Haven falls to 5-4 on the year.
Jaden Grant (6) and West Haven against Shelton, November 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Trailing at the half, West Haven scored its lone points in the second half. Tylen Jennette got things going with a 53-yard run to the Shelton 4, before Jaden Grant capped the drive one play later with 3:09 gone by in the second half.
Grant scored the only other West Haven touchdown as well, scampering in from 24 yards out on a fourth down play with 3:02 left in the game to get within 42-12.
West Haven against Shelton, November 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Shelton got off to a quick start in the contest, jumping out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter and adding 28 more points in the second quarter.
The Gaels converted on fourth down, before their initial score 2:57 into the game, followed with a 57-yard scoring strike with 4:13 to go in the opening quarter and then added four touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of the opening half.
The Gaels used a 4-yard score 2:10 into the second quarter, then followed with an onside kick to set up a 45-yard score and a 28-0 lead.
Jesuits thump Westies
WH season comes to a close in 63-12 loss
By MIKE MADERA
(November 22, 2018) - Already in the postseason for the second straight year, the Fairfield Prep football team wanted to make sure its seed was also in place. More importantly, the Jesuits wanted to get off to a quick start and remain healthy as the postseason approached.
The Jesuits can check all off the list.
Scoring 49 first half points, and taking advantage of several West Haven miscues, the Jesuits cruised to a 63-12 victory over the Westies in a Southern Connecticut Conference Tier I contest at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Thursday morning.
“I thought the boys played very well today,” Fairfield Prep Keith Hellstern said. “We were able to play different guys and get them in and out. We have several kids we can run in and out of there which is big for us to keep moving the right direction.”
Jordan Berrios (1) and West Haven against Fairfield Prep, November 22, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Very well would be an understatement for how Hellstern described the play of his team. The Jesuits, who look to have finished fifth in Class LL with a 9-1 record and will travel to fourth-seeded Southington Tuesday evening in the Class LL quarterfinals, scored on their first four possessions of the game and never looked back.
Senior Thomas Walton not only scored twice in the opening quarter on runs of six and 26 yards, but also busted loose for a 78-yard kickoff return for a score after West Haven got within 28-6 late in the second quarter.
“I thought the kickoff was a great answer,” Hellstern said. “We are very lucky to have several players who can go in and out. We were not trying to run up the score. We were just trying to execute. It is a credit to the kids.”
For the Westies (5-5), the season ended with one of the most-lopsided losses in recent memory for the team. West Haven had a drive stalled after reaching the Prep 5, a pass intercepted, a punt blocked, and a pair of fumbles in the first 24 minutes of play.
“You have to give Prep credit,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “They are a very good team. They played a great game. They did everything right.”
Jaden Grant (6) scores for West Haven against Fairfield Prep, November 22, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Prep, which gained 160 yards in the opening quarter and 245 in the first half, started quickly and never slowed down.
After a short West Haven punt, the Jesuits needed just two plays to go 53 yards, capped when quarterback John Iaropoli hit Finn Duran with a 44-yard scoring strike and a 7-0 lead after Murray McCarthy hit the first of his nine extra points with 2 minutes, 55 seconds gone by in the game.
Walton then took over. After Prep pushed West Haven back and the Westies turned the ball over on downs even after Jordan Berrios raced 75 yards to the Prep 5-yard line, Prep marched 81 yards on 10 plays, including a running into the kicker on fourth down.
Three plays after the penalty, Walton followed his 35-yard run with a 6-yard scoring run and a 14-0 lead with 3:33 to go in the opening quarter. The Jesuits then needed just two plays to go 36 yards for a score on their next possession, again capped with a 26-yard score by Walton down the right sideline with 1:12 left in the opening quarter.
“Our line did a great job today,” Walton said. “We were able to run the ball very well. Our coaches called great plays all game.”
After a solid West Haven drive stalled again, Charles Wilcox came off the right edge and blocked a West Haven punt to the West Haven 19. Douglas Harrison raced in on the next play, giving Fairfield Prep a 28-0 advantage.
“It was important to get off to the quick start,” Walton said. “We set the tempo right from the start. I thought we did a good job with that.”
The Westies finally got on the scoreboard 3:06 later. Tylen Jennette, who finished with 99 yards rushing, led a four-play drive in which he also had a 36-yard burst, with a 4-yard score.
The Westies never had time to celebrate as Walton was at it again. Fielding the kickoff at his own 22-yard line, Walton cut through traffic and out ran the Westies for a score and a 35-6 lead with 4:54 left in the first half.
“We were able to get everyone in the game,” Walton said. “Everyone did their job. This is a great win for us.”
The Jesuits secured the fifth seed and also a running clock in the second half when they capitalized on a pair of West Haven fumbles to take a 49-6 lead at the half.
Connor Boyle scored the first of the two touchdowns in the final 2:57 with an 18-yard run, before lineman turned running back James Brown scored from 1-yard out in the final 46 seconds of the half.
“It feels great to get back there,” Hellstern said of the postseason. “We want to be productive in what we do and do it with a winning attitude. We are trying to prepare these guys to be great young men. It is about the process. If you don’t follow the process and do the right things, the wins and losses don’t matter.”
John Scholl (1 yard) and Dean Tsiranides (18 yards) scored for the Jesuits in the second half, while Jaden Grant added a 65-yard run for a touchdown with 2:39 to go for the Westies.
THE HOME OF WEST HAVEN SPORTS
State Champions - 1968 (Ranked No. 1 in Ct, No. 4 in the country, 9-0), 1972 (No. 1 in Ct., 10-0), 1986, 1987, 1989, 2002 (No. 1 in Ct., 12-0)
Retired numbers - Bert Siclari (Class of 1969) #71; Jerry Gambardella (Class of 2000) #21
All-State Players - Joe Gianotti '32; Bill Irons '39; Harry “Red” Bailey '39; Frank Cole '40; Jack McWeeney '42; Ken Provost '44; Gerry Apuzzo '46, '47; Jim McNulty '47; Fred Robinson '48; John Anquillare '59; John Poe '61, '62; Vin Sgro '67; Ted Williams '68; Mel Labelle '71; Don Herzog '72; Gene Staehly '72; Dave Rettig '73; Brian Nugent '74; John Verderame '75, '76; Mike Keyes '77; Bob McMillan '79; Ron Conyers '83; Rob Thompson '84; Dan Montesi '86; Chuck Bradley '87; Eric Thimas '89; Darian Colman '90; Rob Farnen '93; Craig Dicks '96; Gene Segaline '97; Ulish Booker '97; Jashawn Brown Robinson '01; Rob Jackson '02; Tommy DeMorro '02; Desmond Lymon '03; Jim Fitzpatrick '05; James Alford '06; Erik Matos '06; Dave Cinti '13; Ervin Philips '13; Zatrell Lyons '14; Byron Dickens '15; Anthony Godfrey '15; Anthony Godfrey '16; Byron Dickens '16
New faces on field and sideline as 2018 season opens
By MIKE MADERA
(September 5, 2018) - When the West Haven football team stepped off the field for the last time against Darien last December, the pain of a season-ending loss officially verified there would be no state title for the Westies.
West Haven against St. John's Prep, September 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
With the goal of reaching the state title always the case at West Haven, the Westies will have to do so with new faces on the field and sidelines in 2018.
Read a preview about the West Haven football team courtesy of GameTimeCT and Sean Patrick Bowley here.
West Haven opens the 2018 season Friday evening at home at Ken Strong Stadium against North Haven at 7 p.m.
Goal line stand by NH dooms Westies
By MIKE MADERA
(September 7, 2018) - Heading into Friday evening’s Southern Connecticut Conference tilt, both the West Haven and North Haven football teams knew they would have to establish new identities with an abundance of stars graduated from both teams.
When all was said and done, the Indians had a few more big plays and one more defensive stand, topping the Westies 20-19 in a thriller at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven.
Trailing by one point in the final minutes, West Haven converted a fourth down to get inside the North Haven two-yard line, but four plays produced just one yard, including a goal-line stand on fourth down by the Indians to stop Jordan Berrios a foot short of the goal line with 3 minutes, six seconds left.
Justin Medina (3) runs for a big gain against North Haven September 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
“Our defense was amazing,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “We are a young team and we were forced to grow up quickly tonight. We knew West Haven was going to be a tough team and they were. I am extremely happy with the effort we put in and with how we came up big at the end. We had to be tough today and we were.”
The Indians took a 20-19 lead with 9:32 left in the game, capping a 13-play 80-yarrd drive with a 5-yard touchdown run by Nicholas Dodge for the only points of the second half. After failing on their first two conversions of the game, the Indians turned to Dodge again and his run put the Indians on top for good.
“West Haven came out fast with the blocked punt, but we were able to fight back,” Dodge said. “We made the big plays when we had to.”
For the Westies, it was a heartbreaking end to what was a solid comeback, holding a 19-12 lead into the fourth quarter.
“North Haven made all the big plays,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “Give them credit. When we needed to make big plays, we could not get them. They held us at the goal line. When we had to make the big plays, we could not do it. But, I am happy with how we hung tough. We were down and went the length of the field.”
The West Haven defense makes a big play against North Haven September 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Despite being outgained by 87 yards in the opening quarter and 28-3 in plays to start the contest, West Haven held a 19-12 lead at the half with a pounding ground game and efficient passing.
The Westies opened the scoring just 1:43 into the game when Malachi Wright blocked a North Haven punt from six yards out, and scooped up the loose ball in the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
The Indians, looking for their own set of stars, responded in emphatic fashion, marching 96 yards in 16 plays to get on the scoreboard.
Dodge capped North Haven’s second drive with a 4-yard run, but the the extra point failed and the Westies hung on to a 7-6 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
The Westies were held to just five yards in their only first quarter drive and punted to North Haven. The Indians then used nine plays, eight on the ground, and took a 12-7 lead when Dodge scored from one-yard out with 9:07 left in the first half.
The rest of the second quarter was all West Haven as the two teams reversed roles. West Haven outgained the Indians 126-7 for the remainder of the half, and more importantly, scored the final two touchdowns to take a seven-point lead at the half.
West Haven marched 82 yards in 10 plays, with runs of 17 yards by Justin Medina, 16 yards by Juan Gutierrez, and 20 yards by Berrios, before Berrios plowed in from one yard out with 4:51 left in the half for a 13-12 West Haven lead.
After the Indians were held on three plays, West Haven took advantage of a short field, going 38 yards on seven plays. The drive saw the Westies convert a fourth down one play before Berrios hit Demerick Blackford from 13 yards out with 28 seconds remaining in the half.
Jordan Berrios 1-yard touchdown run against North Haven, September 7, 2018. Video courtesy Mike Madera.
Jordan Berrios 13-yard touchdown pass to Demerick Blackford against North Haven, September 7, 2018. Video courtesy Mike Madera.
WH tops Hamden
Solid defense leads to first win
By MIKE MADERA
(September 14, 2018) WEST HAVEN - Three feet. That is all which separated West Haven from an opening day victory over North Haven. Don’t think the Westies forgot to use that as motivation all week.
Taking their frustrations out on Hamden, the Westies picked up their first win of the season with a 33-7 victory over the Green Dragons in a Southern Connecticut Conference contest at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Friday evening.
The West Haven defense makes a play against Hamden, September 14, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
“Our defense totally bailed us out today,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said after his team allowed just 113 total yards. “They played great. Hamden played hard. We made just enough plays to win this game.”
The story of this contest easily came on special teams where each team struggled on its punts. Hamden had the most glorious of the chances to capitalize, taking over three times inside the West Haven 30, but coming away without any points.
“I have to do a better job preparing the kids,” Hamden coach Tom Dyer said. “This is two weeks in a row where we have had turnovers in the red zone. As a coach, we are doing things that fall on me. I have to do a better job preparing these kids to be great.”
Leading 13-7 at the half, West Haven put the game away with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. Capitalizing on a short punt, the Westies raced 23 yards in six plays, capped by a 2-yard keeper by Jordan Berrios for a 19-7 lead with 6 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the third quarter.
West Haven celebrates a touchdown against Hamden, September 14, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
After Hamden fumbled going in for a score, West Haven needed just six plays to go 80 yards for a 26-7 advantage. Justin Medina, who finished with 112 yards rushing, had the key run of 34 yards, before Jaden Grant scored from nine yards out with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“We talked about that game,” Medina said of the opening loss. “We knew we had to do a better job. We were able to do so tonight.”
Grant finished with 92 yards on the ground and officially sealed West Haven’s initial win of the season three plays into the third quarter when he ran around the right edge and raced 37 yards for the score and a 33-7 lead.
“We need to work on our special teams and do a better job on offense,” Boshea said despite his team gaining 390 yards. “The defense making the stops after those punts was the story of the game. Coach (Tom) Unger had a great plan in place.”
The Green Dragons had two outstanding scoring opportunities in the opening half, twice taking possession inside the West Haven 15, but could not score. Only the second botched punt of the game by the Westies helped Hamden, which had just 59 yards of offense in the first half, get on the board.
That scoring opportunity was capitalized on quickly as Hamden quarterback Christopher Wallace hit Christopher Pigatt in stride for a 29-yard touchdown strike, getting Hamden within 26-7 with 2:58 remaining in the first half.
Aside from the defensive play by the Green Dragons in which they kept West Haven from building a bigger lead, Hamden could not get going.
West Haven capitalized on a pair of big runs as a 50-yard run by Medina set up a 1-yard plunge by Juan Gutierrez with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
The Westies then used a 51-yard burst by Tylen Jennette to set up Medina’s 4-yard scoring run with 7:49 left in the half for a 13-0 West Haven lead. The Westies finished the opening half with 192 total yards of offense.
Juan Gutierrez 1-yard touchdown run against Hamden, September 14, 2018. Video courtesy of Mike Madera.
Justin Medina 4-yard touchdown run against Hamden, September 14, 2018. Video courtesy of Mike Madera.
Westies run past ND
WH takes home 3rd straight Soderman Bowl
By MIKE MADERA
(September 22, 2018) — There is nothing like playing a pair of rivals to get back on track. After losing to North Haven to open the season, the West Haven football team has righted the ship with a pair of victories.
Behind three touchdown runs from Justin Medina, West Haven rolled to a 28-7 victory over the Green Knights at DellaCamera Stadium on the campus of the University of New Haven Friday evening.
Medina rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries and the three touchdowns to lead West Haven to a 2-1 record.
West Haven celebrates after its win against Notre Dame, September 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
West Haven scored the only points of the first half when Medina scored on a 4-yard run in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead. The score remained that way at the half, before West Haven scored three times in the final two quarters.
The Westies took a 14-0 lead in the third quarter when Juan Gutierrez ran in from one yard out and Jordan Berrios ran in the conversion.
Zackary Hochman scored the only touchdown for the Green Knights (1-2) in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard run to get Notre Dame within 14-7, but the Westies had the final two scores.
Justin Medina (3) scores against against Notre Dame, September 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Medina ran in from five yards out for a 21-7 lead following the point after by Isaac Morales, and Medina's third touchdown of the night, this one from 41 yards out, gave the Westies a 28-7 lead.
Westies thump Bassick
WH opens with 3-1 start after 50-6 win
By MIKE MADERA
(September 22, 2018) — When the regular season comes to a close on Thanksgiving weekend, the West Haven football team may have two very different takes on the season opener against North Haven.
That loss where the Westies fell inches short of a win in the final seconds will either be one which propelled the Westies, or one which hurt its playoff chances.
Three games later, it appears as if West Haven is rallying around the defeat. Opening up the offense after a slow start, West Haven cruised to a 50-6 victory over Bassick in Bridgeport Friday evening, winning its third straight contest and improving to 3-1 on the season.
Tylen Jennette scores for West Haven against Bassick, September 28, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
The Westies did not get off to a good start in the contest as they turned the ball over twice to start the game, but both times the defense made the stand, holding Bassick inside the the 20-yard line.
Jordan Berrios then took advantage half way through the opening quarter. After the second West Haven stand, Berrios raced 78 yards for the score and a 6-0 lead. West Haven never looked back.
After holding Bassick to start the game, the defense then put up points. Tylen Jennette picked off a Bassick pass on the ensuing possession and returned the interception 28 yards for the score and a 13-0 lead with 5:39 to go in the opening quarter.
Jennette was just getting started. The senior then added a 35-yard touchdown run and the run on the conversion for a 21-0 lead less than two minutes later.
West Haven applied the pressure all night against Bassick, September 28, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
Special teams then got into the act for the Westies as Bassick had trouble on the punt snap with under a minute to go in the quarter. When the snap sailed into the end zone, West Haven had a safety and a 23-0 advantage with 58 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
The Westies were not done.
With excellent field position to follow, Berrios scored his second touchdown of the evening, this time a 15-yard run with 9.6 seconds left in the first quarter for a 30-0 lead.
The West Haven defense took over from here. Senior Joe Rosemond had the next pick which allowed sophomore Troy Nelson to run in from five yards out for a 37-0 advantage in the second quarter.
Senior Demerick Blackford was next with an interception and that turnover set up sophomore Manny Haba's 8-yard touchdown run for a 44-0 lead with 1:25 remaining in the half.
Leading 44-6 after a long Bassick touchdown run, West Haven capped the scoring with 5:35 left in the third as Damian Torres scampered in from 31 yards out.
Hand thumps Westies
WH falls to 3-2 after 47-6 loss
By MIKE MADERA
(October 12, 2018) — The traffic heading into the Surf Club in Madison suggested a big contest was on the horizon. The play on the field stated otherwise.
Behind the play of the Hand offensive line, the Tigers had plenty of room to run and more time to pass. The end result was a 47-6 Hand victory over West Haven in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision contest Friday evening.
West Haven against Hand, October 12, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
The win, which came in relatively easy fashion for the Tigers, was Hand’s 16th straight since losing to Shelton in the second week of the season last year.
“One of the compliments we received last year was we got better as the season went on,” Hand coach Dave Mastroianni said. “We are just looking to do that again this year. We are looking to improve next week and every week after that.”
The Tigers, in a game many called a statement contest, showed they were ready from the start, scoring every way possible, taking a 17-0 lead after one quarter and a 40-0 advantage at the half.
Hand quarterback Phoenix Billings ran for 95 yards in the first 24 minutes and completed 9-of-11 passes for 164 yards and two touchdown passes. Billings finished the game with 205 yards in the air and 107 yards on the ground.”
“My offensive line is so good,” Billings said. “They give us room to run and time to throw. I am extremely confident playing behind our line.”
The Tigers (5-0) were so dominant in the field in the first half, the scoreboard was not the only place to justify this. Hand outgained the Westies 355-1 in what may be their most impressive half of football five games into the season.
West Haven against Hand, October 12, 2018. Photo courtesy of Todd Dandelske.
“I am extremely proud of how we played tonight,” Billings said. “We are just playing the teams in front of us. It is nice to beat a Tier I team like we did.”
Before the Hand offense could get going, it was the special teams which helped produce the first points of the game. After West Haven recovered a Hand fumble deep in Hand territory on the opening possession of the game, a rushed punt failed to get out of the endzone, resulting in a Hand safety and a 2-0 lead 4 minutes, 26 seconds into the contest.
“They beat us in all facets of the game, special teams, offense and defense,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “They just crushed us.”
The Hand offense then took over. Colin McCabe raced in from three yards out for a 10-0 lead 1:30 later, and Billings capped a 5-play, 70-yard drive with a 47-yard run in which he went virtually untouched for the score and a 17-0 lead with 1:32 left in the opening quarter.
“We got beat by a great Hand team,” Boshea said. “This has been a long, storied rivalry game. This year, they are a great team. My hat’s off to them.”
Jordan Berrios to Shane Clarke 5-yard touchdown pass at Hand, October 12, 2018. Video courtesy of Mike Madera.
West Haven (3-2) had negative yards in the opening quarter, and only two of its nine offensive plays went for positive yardage. By the time West Haven had more than a three-play drive, Hand led by 25 points after Billings connected with Ian Butler on a 24-yard scoring strike with 1:34 gone by in the second quarter.
“West Haven always scares you with their speed,” Mastroianni said. “We did not allow them to get going. We did not allow any big plays and I think they had only one first down in the first half. We have a legacy of great defensive teams here. To play defense here, you have to be able to run.”
If there was any question, the Tigers put the game away with two more touchdowns in the final 4:49 of the opening half.
Billings hit Ethan Haberman with a 21-yard scoring strike, and McCabe capped the first half scoring with a 10-yard run with 2:13 to go.
Hand held West Haven to just one drive of more than three plays in West Haven’s first eight drives of the game, with West Haven finally scoring with 5:42 remaining in the game on a Jordan Berrios to Shane Clarke 5-yard pass.
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