By NED X. GRIFFEN
North Haven coach Tony Sagnella needed to fill an open date for Week 4 this season.
As soon as he saw New London had the same open date, he wanted to book a game with the Whalers.
"Even though we're not an experienced team, we want to point our team in a certain direction," Sagnella said. "And putting New London on the schedule is certainly pointing it in the right direction."
North Haven has enjoyed a good run of late. It finished 9-1 the past two seasons and qualified for the CIAC Class L playoffs.
The Indians were hit hard by graduation and returned just five starters. Headed into the season, about the only thing one knew about the team was tailback Jalon White, their single wing offense, and that Sagnella has developed a legendary reputation around New Haven County for making a top-notch pizza at home in his brick oven.
"We're not as deep or as experienced as we were a year ago, but we've been getting better every week, which is a good thing," Sagnella said. "We have a small senior class of only about 10 kids, and really about three or four were experienced players coming into this season that played significant roles.
"We're really a junior team right now. We have 22 juniors, and most of the (starting) spots are being held down by kids that played mostly JV roles last year. So it's been a lot of fun because they've had to grow up on the fly. It's kind of like on-the-job training. I think we're doing a good job of that and getting better-and-better. The next month will define our team, I think, with New London, then Hillhouse (of New Haven), then Sheehan (of Wallingford) and then (third-ranked) Hand (of Madison)."
North Haven is 2-1, its loss coming at the hands of two-time defending Class LL champion Xavier of Middletown, the top-ranked team in The Day's Top 10 state coaches poll. The Falcons won, 49-12.
"It didn't look pretty on paper if you just looked at the score," Sagnella said. "But I thought we played at times very well in that game. And we we're competing with a team that's extremely talented. They really are. They don't appear to have too many weaknesses.
"We did some things at times that were very good, but we did not put it all together. In an environment like that, you almost have to play the perfect game, and we weren't capable of that. But I certainly think as the game went on, we grew up and became a better team. I'm sure of that."
White had 23 carries for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
"That's a pretty good night for a 160-pound skinny kid," Sagnella said.
White and two-way lineman Matt Marcarelli are North Haven's only two starters back on offense. The seniors also started on defense last season, along with classmate Connor McDonald (linebacker).
The first thing that will get New London talking when they first see the Indians play is their single wing offense. Much like the double wing (a.k.a. "GOD'S OFFENSE") became identified with Fitch, North Haven has become known for its old school offense that features an unbalanced line, four players in the backfield, lots of running and even more misdirection.
The offense has been the perfect marriage of team and system. During last season's Class L quarterfinal at Masuk of Monroe, the Indians had a 17-play, 80-yard drive that took almost nine minutes.
"It's been the right thing for our town," Sagnella said. "It's an easy offense to teach fundamentals to all grade levels, and it's easy to install. It has flexibility. You can make it whatever you want. It can be a spread offense if you want it to be. You can make it into an option offense if you want it to be, a power or an option offense, and get the the ball in a lot of people's hands, especially if you have more weapons."
Stylistically, Friday's game is an intriguing matchup as the two team's offensive systems are as far apart as any in the state. New London plays at breakneck speed with no huddle and lots of quick passes. North Haven wants to hold on to the ball and take as much time off the scoreboard as possible.
The Whalers will throw five times on one drive. Sagnella joked that his team hasn't thrown it five times yet this season (they've actually attempted 10).
"I'm very impressed with their athleticism and their foot speed," Sagnella said. "They're dangerous. They're quick strike. It's a completely different style than we play. We can't get into a hole with them and let them do what they've been doing because it'll become a long day, and we may not catch up with them.
"It'll be a big challenge for our kids to play good defense and try to play some ball-control offense and play in a place that has an awful lot of history in Connecticut high school football. We're certainly looking forward to it."
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Below are links to stories penned by state football writers and upstanding gentlemen. Even Sean Neil Patrick Harris Bowley, despite his contempt and hatred for the state coaches' poll:
Sean Patrick Bowley, Hearst Inc., SPB's Elite 8: Week 4
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Maloney, Platt players were filled with grief, inspiration in wake of fatal stabbing
Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican American: Wolcott making major strides — What we learned in Week 3, and, Winless Pomperaug remains optimistic
Pooch Diggity Dogg, New Haven Register: "FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Guilford, Foran both earn first victories
Lemmy and Vinny Paul Brennan, The NVL Blog: Week 3 Wrap, and, Week 4 Predictions
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DeAngelo Berry returned the opening kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown and ran 29 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns as top-ranked Xavier of Middletown beat Fairfield Prep Saturday, 35-14. ... Ansonia receiver Andrew Matos filled in at tailback Thursday when record-setting Arkeel Newsome injured his ankle. Matos ran seven times for 105 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a 43-yard touchdown as the second-ranked Chargers routed neighbor Derby, 48-6. ... Robert Quinn Fleeting completed 23 of 31 passes for 310 yards and five touchdowns and ran six times for 60 yards as No. 5 Windsor blanked Bristol Eastern Friday, 41-0.
Ervin Philips had 16 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns as No. 7 West Haven beat rival Notre Dame of West Haven Friday, 34-13. ... Frank Bacarella ran for three touchdowns and Thomas Milone ran for two touchdowns and scored on a 60-yard punt return as No. 6 Masuk of Monroe thumped Immaculate of Danbury Saturday, 55-8. ...Justin Gombotz ran 10 times for 105 yards and three touchdowns as No. 10 Berlin trounced Tolland Saturday, 55-13. Scott McLeod added eight carries for 83 yards and three touchdowns.
Jacob Thomas ran 20 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns as Wilby of Waterbury downed Watertown Thursday, 22-7. ...Tyler Hassett threw an 11-yard touchdown to Thomas McGlone with four minutes, 48 seconds left in the game, then threw a two-point conversion to Justin Shafer, as Weston beat Pomperaug of Southbury for the first time in program history Friday, 22-21. ... Jacquan Overbey ran 13 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns as Sacred Heart of Waterbury beat Whitney Tech of Hamden Friday, 50-30.
Manchester stuffed Simsbury quarterback Steven Steijn at the goal line on fourth down with 19 seconds left to win Friday, 14-7. ...Chris Young ran seven times for 247 yards and three touchdowns as Rocky Hill downed East Catholic of Manchester Friday, 49-22. Ryan Joyce recovered two fumbles for Rocky Hill, too. ... Hillhouse of New Haven's Harold Cooper scored on touchdown runs of 78, 27, 27 and 13 yards in Friday's 32-18 win over Branford.
Dario Highsmith ran 11 times for 57 yards and two TDs and threw two more as Middletown shut down Maloney of Meriden Friday, 43-0. The Blue Dragons have outscored opponents, 135-0. .Duane Gary ran for 124 yards and a touchdown for the Westies. Notre Dame's Cameran Tucker ran 44 times for 323 yards and two touchdowns. ... Justin Potts ran 20 times for 246 yards and three touchdowns to lead Platt of Meriden past Plainville Friday, 28-13. ... Montville's Jeremiah Crowley ran for 214 yards and three touchdowns Friday as his team routed Bacon Academy, 47-0.
Eric Zergiebel ran nine times for 187 yards and four touchdowns — all in the first half — as Guilford blew out Lyman Hall of Wallingford Friday, 56-7. ...Griswold's defense allowed just 60 yards in Friday's 35-6 win over the St. Bernard/Norwich Tech co-op.
Mike D'Agnone scored on interception returns of 37 and 47 yards and caught touchdowns of 6 and 30 yards as Naugatuck scorched St. Paul of Bristol Saturday in an affront to defensive football, 70-33. Mick Pernell ran 17 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns and had four catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns for Naugatuck while Jason Bradley completed eight of nine passes for 234 yards and five touchdowns. Logan Marchi completed 17 of 35 passes for 325 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions for St. Paul. Also, Reid Morin had five catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns.
Ivan Guadalupe ran for an 18-yard touchdown with nine seconds left to give Farmington its 35-28 win over Bristol Central Saturday. ...Nick Roberts threw for 376 yards and five touchdowns as Trumbull beat Fairfield Ludlowe Saturday, 35-7, and gave coach Bob Maffei his 100th win. Mike Williams had 178 yards receiving and three touchdowns for the Eagles and Jeff Sam had two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
Dan Hebert returned the opening kickoff for an 85-yard touchdown, ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns and had 79 yards receiving as Newtown beat Stratford Saturday, 43-14. All of his touchdowns came in the first half. ... Billy Wilson ran six times for 102 yards and three touchdowns and Jack Shaban ran nine times for 161 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half — as Barlow of Redding beat Notre Dame of Fairfield Saturday, 55-12. ... Northwest Catholic of West Hartford made six interceptions Saturday, but it wasn't enough as Bloomfield won, 7-6. David Campbell's 71-yard touchdown run and Terrence Mitchell's extra point in the third quarter was the difference in the game for the Warhawks.
Richard Jernigan threw four touchdown passes for Hartford Public in its 27-0 win over E.O. Smith of Storrs Saturday. ... Zach Dobbins threw for 206 yards and four touchdowns as Hall of West Hartford routed South Windsor Saturday, 35-0. ... Andre Rose returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and added three interceptions, one of which he returned for a 45-yard touchdown, as Cheney Tech of Manchester beat Wilcox Tech of Meriden Saturday, 36-19.
Derek Villard ran 10 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 32-yard interception return as Cromwell thumped Haddam-Killingworth, 53-8. ... Justin Cheverier had 13 carries for 139 yards and five touchdowns and added 22 tackles as Valley Regional/Old Lyme beat Old Saybrook/Westbrook Saturday, 33-17. ... Malique Jones completed 8 of 14 passes for 243 yards and five touchdowns as New Britain strafed East Hartford Saturday, 43-6.
T.J. Meyer blocked a field goal attempt to end the game as Nonnewaug of Woodbury edged East Hampton/Vinal Tech Saturday, 8-7, its first win since Sept. 20, 2008. Nick Bordierre ran for a 3-yard touchdown and Christian Metallo threw a two-point conversion pass to Nick Uberti. ... Mark Piccirillo completed 16 of 25 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns and had 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown as Shelton edged Amity of Woodbridge Saturday, 34-28.
Mike Nicol ran for three touchdowns and threw for 114 yards and a touchdown as Wolcott beat Crosby of Waterbury Saturday, 47-26. ... Wilton's Brett Phillips did a lot of everything in Saturday's 31-8 win over Bassick of Bridgeport. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, ran 13 times for 86 yards and a touchdown and also had a 53-yard kickoff return.
We've saved the best for last as it involves running the football ... New Fairfield's Joe Pacheco ran wild over Bunnell of Stratford Monday. He had 23 carries for 336 yards and four touchdowns in the Rebels 41-23 win. His touchdown runs were for 80, 76, 72 and five yards. Believe it or not, his 336 yards doesn't crack the state's top 20 list for most rushing yardage in a game. Ansonia's Alex Thomas set the state record when he ran 44 times for 518 yards and seven touchdowns in a 62-35 win over Woodland of Beacon Falls on Sept. 27, 2007. It was a crazy sight to behold.
Vaya con dios....