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Zip06

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20-Point Third Propels Tigers to Second Straight Class L Crown

Photo by John Vanacore/The Source

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Leading up to their Dec. 8 Class L state title game versus No. 2 Windsor at Rentschler Field, the main discussion of the Hand Tigers was the fact that they had won a school record 25 straight games following lopsided playoff wins over Platt and Masuk. To the Tigers themselves, though, the sole focus was ending the season with win No. 26 and, more importantly, a second consecutive Class L championship.

To accomplish that feat, Hand would have to take on another undefeated squad in Windsor that also had an appetite for championship glory after a tough semifinal loss to New Canaan in 2011 and appearing in the program's second title game-the first since 2002. The Tigers denied the Warriors' hunger as Hand captured its 11th state crown with a 23-6 win over Windsor. The Tigers were led to their destiny by senior quarterback Brendan Bilcheck and a fumble recovery for a score by junior Daniel Rogers. With the win, the Tigers now trail only Ansonia-which has 18 titles-for the most CIAC crowns in history.

Windsor struck first with a touchdown reception from Rhyeime Moore before the Tigers countered with a field goal. The Tigers then had two scores in the third on a TD reception and a fumble recovery for six points after the Warriors' miscue. Hand kept up the offensive pace with a touchdown run by Bilcheck.

Starting the game from its own 35 yard-line, Windsor got as deep as the Tigers' 14, yet turned the ball over on downs. Taking over, Hand followed up with its own turnover after a fourth down incompletion at the Warriors' 29. After a three-and-out by Windsor and a punt that started Hand just shy of midfield, the Tigers were forced to punt. After a three-play drive by Windsor, Hand started at its own 39 mark and Bilcheck was intercepted on a pass from the 43 for the contest's first pick. Beginning at the Tigers' 29, Windsor struck first with a 28-yard TD pass from quarterback Robert Fleeting to Moore for a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point to cap a three-play, 29-yard drive over 1:25.

Down by a score, Hand committed another turnover as Bilcheck was intercepted following a tipped ball to start Windsor at the Hand 25. It did not prove too costly, though, as the Warriors turned it over on downs yet again. From their own 26-yard hash mark, the Tigers got boosts from first a 25-yard connection between Bilcheck and Ewald, and then with a 20-yard hookup Bilcheck had to senior receiver Kyle Anderson that culminated in a 27-yard field goal from sophomore Tyler Phan to make it 6-3 at the break. The Tigers got within three thanks to a drive that lasted for 5:27 with 14 plays on 63 yards. Despite being down at half, the Tigers took control of the offensive yard battle 155-96 in the first 24 minutes of play.

Starting the half with the ball, Hand began at its own 20 following a holding penalty on the return before going three-and-done on the drive. After Windsor could muster little on its ensuing possession, the Tigers were catapulted by a 32-yard scamper from Bilcheck, which led to a 23-yard TD pass to Ewald and a 10-6 Hand lead on the next play.

With a Windsor 3rd down and 1, the Warriors fumbled the snap that was picked up by junior safety Daniel Rogers for a 42-yard recovery to the house for a 16-6 edge with 5:43 remaining in the third. Starting in Windsor territory at the 49 following a Warriors' possession, Hand scored again with a TD run from four yards out by Bilcheck to increase the lead to 17 after three quarters that ended a seven-play, 49-yard possession.

Starting at their own 41 following a block in the back foul, the Warriors' Fleeting threw a pick to Alexander Tuccero which was caught just inside the field for the turnover early in the final frame. Hand punted over to Windsor following the pick, which led to a turnover on downs by the Warriors. The Tigers were able to take control of the ball and run the clock out on the 2012 season and another state championship.


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