NEW HAVEN — Hillhouse quarterback Terrell Watts has not been happy with the way his team has played in the first half of games this season.
Luckily for the Academics, Watts was not about to be denied Friday night.
Behind a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes from Watts, Hillhouse rallied to defeat Hamden 20-13 in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division II contest at Bowen Field.
“We have not done a good job in the first half,” Watts said. “We have to clean things up. We have to make the plays. We have to make better decisions. We should not be in the position we are in to have to come back.”
Trailing by a touchdown entering the final quarter, Watts directed an 11-play drive which ended when he found Tyzohn Poole for a 14-yard scoring pass with 8 minutes, 24 seconds to go, bringing the Academics within 13-12.
After forcing Hamden to punt, Hillhouse (3-1) took the lead for good on its ensuing drive.
Just four plays after gaining possession, Watts found Quintus Reid for a 65-yard scoring strike. Watts then hit Terron Mallory for the two-point conversion, giving Hillhouse a 20-13 advantage with 2:41 to go in the game.
“We are not changing anything,” Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle said of the second half. “It is just getting the kids to execute. We did not do a good job of that. We set those plays up. We saw them and we were able to execute.”
Hamden (1-3), which looked as if it was ready to take control of the game in the second half, took a 13-6 lead with 6:36 to go in the third quarter when quarterback Sahim Hasan hit John Mayes with a 10-yard scoring pass.
“I felt like we really played hard tonight,” said Hamden coach Tom Dyer, who formerly coached the Academics. “I am very proud of the way we played. We were just a couple of plays away. We left some plays out there.”
The first half was all about defense as neither team gained more than 100 yards, combining for just 171 between the two teams. The two teams also combined for four turnovers, with Hamden recovering two fumbles and Hillhouse picking off a pass and recovering a fumble.
“Our defense was swarming to the ball.” Lytle said. “Tom Dyer is an excellent coach. I am not happy with the way we are playing, but I will take where we are at.”
Each team came up big on the defensive side as Hillhouse used an interception by William Anderson in the end zone to stop the Green Dragons’ initial drive of the game.
Hamden also stopped a pair of Hillhouse drives, picking up two loose balls, the second by Anthony Guarnieri at the Hillhouse 4-yard line.
Just one play later, Hamden had a 6-0 lead as Joshua Marshak ran in from four yards out. The extra point sailed wide with 9:22 left in the opening half.
“I am really proud of the way the kids competed tonight,” Dyer said. “Last year, we got pounded by them. This year, we competed and made it a football game. We have a lot of heavy hearts right now. We have a lot of kids here who feel like they let one slip away.”
The Academics evened the contest with 3:04 left in the second quarter as a six-play, 48-yard drive ended with a 1-yard run by Neal Eley. Hamden blocked the extra point, keeping the game even at six.
Video via WTNH-8/Sportzedge.com