NEW HAVEN — After suffering its first regular season loss in two years a week ago against Shelton, West Haven needed a win Friday night in the worst way.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Blue Devils survived a gritty Hillhouse team, taking a 29-15 victory at Bowen Field in a Southern Connecticut Conference intra-tier game Friday night.
“This was a huge win,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “We played just well enough to win. In this league, we have another good team next week in Xavier and we have another one (Fairfield Prep) the week after that.”
West Haven climbed to 7-1 with the victory and remained in a CIAC Class LL playoff spot. With a crowded field in LL, any stumbles could be detrimental to the Blue Devils’ chances.
“I think 9-1 should make it, but you might end up having to go to (top-ranked) Darien,” Boshea said.
The Blue Devils took the early lead thanks to a botched snap by Hillhouse. Jordan Wetmore scooped up the ball at the Academics’ 26-yard line and raced untouched into the end zone for the score.
Hillhouse came right back to tie things at 7-7 when Neal Eley punched it in from four yards out with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
West Haven took the lead for good in the second quarter when Kyle Godfrey scored a pair of touchdowns from 34 and 3 yards out to make it 22-7 at halftime.
The second half was penalty-filled more than anything else, but Hillhouse was finally able to break through with 11 minutes to go. Taking advantage of a West Haven fumble inside the Blue Devils 5-yard line Shameen Brown (18 carries for 119 yards rushing) scampered into the end zone from a yard out to make it 22-15.
“We knew their speed matched up with our speed,” Boshea said.
West Haven didn’t take long to tack on an insurance touchdown. Zach Conlan rushed for 40 yards to push the ball down to the Academics’ 11 and Chris Chance banged it in from there to make it 29-15 with 8:05 remaining.
“It was closer than the score resembled, but it’s a tough one,” Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle said. “They’re not better than we were. We just didn’t execute as well and the ball didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
The Academics had a shot to make it a one-touchdown game again, but they were stopped at the West Haven 8-yard line with less than 5 minutes to go. Hillhouse had the ball a couple more times, but couldn’t cash in.
The Academics fell to 5-3 with the loss. With a crowded CIAC Class L, the Academics will need to win out against Foran and city rival Wilbur Cross and get a lot of help to have a shot at the state playoffs.
“We’ve been scoreboard watching before on Thanksgiving,” Lytle said. “That’s the position we’re in right now.”