NEW HAVEN >> Hillhouse didn’t play a true home game all season due to renovations at Bowen Field.
Academics senior running back Harold Cooper said Hillhouse had to make Wilbur Cross its home field for the annual Elm City Bowl on Thanksgiving Day.
Cooper ran for two touchdowns and the Academics captured a 21-19 triumph over the rival Governors.
“We knew this was going to be our home game,” Cooper said. “We were going to make this our house.”
The Academics improved to 5-6 and dropped Wilbur Cross to 3-7 to close the season. Despite the win, a sideline-clearing fight in the third quarter could’ve put a damper on what was an otherwise productive day for the Academics.
“One kid from (Wilbur Cross) pushed one of his own teammates and he thought it was a Hillhouse kid,” Academics coach Reggie Lytle said. “A little tussle starts. It’s an emotional game.”
After a Hillhouse player got pulled out of the scrum and was being punched by a player from Wilbur Cross, the Academics’ sideline cleared. It took the referees several minutes to clear the mess. Unsportsmanlike penalties were handed out to both teams.
Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said this is not what New Haven football is about.
“You can tell it was in the moment,” Acquavita said. “After the game they shook hands. I don’t think anyone’s going to carry out onto the field. It’s just football.”
According to Acquavita, the fight hurt the Governors because kicker and safety Wali McKelvey was ejected.
Hillhouse was able to get past the brawl and rebound to jump out in front. Wilbur Cross managed to seize a 13-7 lead after a Jaylin Fuller touchdown run. However, the Governors, without their kicker, missed the extra point. A Hillhouse penalty gave Cross another shot, but a run attempt for a two-point conversion also failed.
The Academics took advantage as Cooper closed a Hillhouse drive with a burst to the left side for the tying touchdown. Cooper nailed the extra point and, after a Cross punt on the ensuing possession, provided the finishing touches with a 69-yard scamper for another touchdown.
Wilbur Cross fought back with a 1-yard TD run from Fuller, but the possible tying two-point conversion failed as quarterback A.J. Consiglio couldn’t find the end zone on a keeper.
For Hillhouse, this was Cooper’s last game in an Academics uniform. Lytle said he will be missed.
“I’ve been like his uncle for years, through Pop Warner,” Lytle said as tears rolled down his face. “It’s time for him to move on. It’s like a kid moving out of your house, I get a little emotional.”
Hillhouse 21, Wilbur Cross 19
(at New Haven)
Hillhouse 7 0 0 14 — 21
Cross 0 7 6 6 — 19
H—William Barnes 32 fumb ret (Harold Cooper kick)
W—Elijah Long 21 pass from A.J. Consiglio (Wali McKelvey kick)
W—Jaylin Fuller 3 run (Run fail)
H—Harold Cooper 24 run (Cooper kick)
H—Harold Cooper 69 run (Cooper kick)
W—Jaylin Fuller 1 run (run fail)
Team records: Wilbur Cross 3-7; Hillhouse 5-6