Beiser’s pick lifts Prep over West Haven, into Class LL final

Lineman Anthony Palazzolo and head coach Tom Shea of Fairfield Prep celebrate their 29-28 win over West Haven High School during the  CIAC Class LL Football semifinal game Saturday December 7, 2013 at Trumbull High School's  McDougall Stadium in Trumbull. (Peter Hvizdak — New Haven Register)

Lineman Anthony Palazzolo and head coach Tom Shea of Fairfield Prep celebrate their 29-28 win over West Haven High School during the CIAC Class LL Football semifinal game Saturday December 7, 2013 at Trumbull High School’s McDougall Stadium in Trumbull. (Peter Hvizdak — New Haven Register)

TRUMBULL >> Entrenched in an all-out turf war and deep into the fourth quarter on a cold December afternoon at McDougall Stadium, the Fairfield Prep football team pulled off the biggest and timeliest play of the game. And it came from the unlikeliest of players.

With the clock winding down, Prep clinging to a 29-26 lead and West Haven facing a second and 12 on the Prep 25 yard line, sophomore Brendan Beiser, seldom used on defense, came up with the stop.

Beiser picked off West Haven’s Duane Gary’s pass at the 8 yard line to give the Jesuits the ball back with a minute and six seconds left. The Prep offense ate up the remaining time and quarterback Colton Smith ran out of the end zone for the safety as the scoreboard read 29-28 for the final.

The seventh seeded Jesuits (11-2) punched their ticket to the Class LL state title game to face No. 4 Southington (11-1) at Arute Field at Central Connecticut State University on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. It is the first time since 1988 that Prep has advanced to the state championship.

[Photos: Fairfield Prep vs. West Haven]

“It means so much,” said Smith of advancing to the title game. “I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now.”
It was a game of momentum that featured six lead changes and a myriad of big-time plays. And Prep seemed to have more answers down the stretch.

Down 26-22 midway through the fourth quarter, senior back Nick Crowle highlighted a Prep drive as he collected a first down on fourth and 1. Crowle then busted to the far outside, shook a defender and dove for the end zone for the 28 yard touchdown, to give Prep the 29-26 lead with under four minutes to play.

“He’s (Crowle) a huge part of our team, huge part of that drive, Smith said. “Everybody feeds off of his energy. He’s always hyped up, always ready to go. (You) can’t ask for anymore in a captain.”

Crowle finished the afternoon with 95 rushing yards.

Prep's Nick Crowle dives for the end zone against West Haven late in the game.

With Ervin Philips defending, Prep’s Nick Crowle dives for the end zone for Prep’s eventual winning touchdown against West Haven late in the game. (Photo Peter Hvizdak)

The Prep defense was faced with the challenge of stopping a dynamic West Haven offense that had produced a few big plays in the first half.

With the clock ticking and West Haven needing an answer, Gary produced a big run down the field to put the Blue Devils at the Prep 34 with under two minutes left in the game. West Haven picked up another first down but Maxwell Trudeau and the Jesuit defense stopped running back Ervin Phillips for a 2 yard loss that set up the second and 12 play.

Beiser, who normally plays on offense for Prep, said that was his first interception of his high school career.

“Well, I just saw the wide receiver going for a pass so I just had to stay back and luckily I was just right there to make the play,” he said.

Added Smith: “I was nervous but I trust my defense with my life. And to have Beiser come up with a huge interception like that, it just puts the icing on the cake.”

Smith led the Jesuits with two touchdowns, and added 100 yards on the ground.

It was a disappointing ending for West Haven (10-3) as they came up short after an afternoon of an all-out gritty performance. Gary finished with 124 yards on nine carries, while Phillips had 16 carries for 126 yards.


Zatrell Lyons catches a pass from Ervin Philips to set up West Haven’s go-ahead touchdown, a short run by Marshont Little, early in the fourth quarter. It would be West Haven’s final lead. (Photo Peter Hvizdak)

“West Haven is like handling dynamite,” Fairfield Prep head coach Tom Shea said. “They are so explosive, they are very dangerous. But we got the stops when we needed too.”

The Prep defense molded to the formula of bend but do not break. After allowing a 65 yard TD run by Gary and a 65 run by Phillips to end the first half and start the second, the Jesuits defense made the plays when the time counted.

Late in the third quarter and West Haven up 19-16, Trudeau and Connor Brecik came up with a big sack to force a punt. Prep’s John DelliSanti corralled the ball and ran down the sideline 65 yards to the end zone to put Prep up 22-19.

West Haven answered though as Gary connected with teammate Zatrell Lyons for a 36 yard catch and then Marshont Little ran in for the 3 yard score.

But as the game went, Prep responded.

“They made one more play than we did,” West Haven head coach Ed McCarthy said. “We’re really incredibly proud of them (our team). Our seniors were 0-10 when they were freshman. We’re incredibly proud of our whole team, but tough loss. We wish them (Prep) luck; they’re going to win it. They deserve to win it.”

Fairfield Prep 29, West Haven 28
(at Trumbull)
Fairfield Prep 0 9 13 7 — 29
West Haven 0 13 6 9 — 28
Second quarter
W—Zatrell Lyons 29 pass from Duane Gary (Tayvon Gibbs kick good)
F—Anthony Johnson safety
F—Colton Smith 9 run (Hank Healy kick good)
W—Duane Gary 65 run (Pass no good)
Third quarter
W—Ervin Philips 65 run (Pass INT)
F—Colton Smith 3 run (Healy kick good)
F—John DelliSanti 65 punt ret
Fourth quarter
W—Marshont Little 3 run (Kick good)
F—Nicholas Crowle 28 run (Kick good)
WH–Safety. Prep’s Colton Smith ran out of end zone

Team records: West Haven 10-3; Fairfield Prep 11-2


  1. Brian says

    Old man McCarthy cost WH a trip to the LL final with his play calling. twice this year he has given safetys for no reason and it cost him twice.

  2. James says

    Very weird not seeing xavier playing four the fourth ? I still believe had they no been so generous and played on turkey day they would have gotten in and whimped up on southongtin today !!! Oh well

    • says

      How was that a choke Ray? They lost to that team during the season moron. Ray get a life and didn’t I tell you to learn the game first. Why would you take away from a great season and effort from Prep? Did anybody mention how class S was the worst group of teams ever assembled for a state championship. What s joke Ansonia is!!!! I wouldn’t even except a state title from beating those teams. Go watch your powder puff Class S garbage and like I told your pathetic no tooth Donkey breath self before stay away from BIG BOY FB its not for you. BTW the biggest choke in state history was Cromwell 14 ANSONIA 12. talk about gutless…..That is gutless

      • says


  3. The Truth Hurts says

    Prep runs the ball against Southington and they win.They attempt 18 passes in the 1st half like they did today vs West Haven then they lose.What was Coach Shea thinking ? This is a Harvard graduate,correct ?

    • FP Fan says

      Let’s recap Coach’s career and then reassess your dig. He took over a team that went 0-10. Then won 3, then 5, then 7 and is now one game away from winning a state title. Please cut the Harvard man some slack. He probably had a plan with all those passes in the first half.

  4. RAY LOSER says


    That’s right, call another group of hardworking kids names loser.
    Not to their faces though.
    Crawl back into your hole loser.

  5. says

    Man you know it’s a down year when people from these conferences that never win talk like world beaters. Next year can’t come fast enough…….The SCC is down and people start crawling out of the woodwork!!!! I think its great that everyone gets a chance this year. My advice ENJOY IT because it’s only a matter of time before all these leagues get put back in there place and the beatings begin again.

  6. GHS fan says

    At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many teams from a conference make the playoffs, only one team wins in a conference. You guys down south only wish for SCC teams to play each other. That’s boring- start your on league. First Xavier was the best this year, then Hand was the best, then West Haven. As they drop a game or two your top team changes. Now NC and Prep are the best. But your biases are tiring. Southington blew SCC darling Ridgefield by 45 points and still no respect. Why because they play in the CCC. If they played in the SCC you guys will be touting them as the team to beat. Let me guess Ridgefield is like six best in the SCC-RIGHT?. As far as I can see they made it to the dance in LL so they are at least 3rd best in the SCC behind Prep and WH. Turnovers hurt both GHS and Hall in their games, play those games twice and the scores would be different and the result.

    There is maybe three teams in the SCC that will challenge the top CCC teams in LL year in and year out. So if I had the power we would get it on every year.

    • JB says

      Ridgefield is in the FCIAC. They lost two games in the league to Darien and St Joes. Good team but not a top FCAIC team this year. Southington looks very solid, but Prep is in a different league with its OL/DL that controls the game. Doubt that Southington will move the ball well against Prep and certainly can’t stop its run game on offensive.

    • says

      Ridgefield isn’t in the top of anything in the SCC!!!!! They are not even in the Conference!!!!!! Do you know where Ridgefield is buddy? I can assure you it’s nowhere near New Haven County!!! Ridgefield = Fairfield County = FCIAC. Another Football Rocket Scientist

    • Fciac Jr. says

      Yep, and Prep wouldn’t beat Glastonbury either. You can only be wrong so many times before losing credibility.

    • The Truth Hurts says

      Prep is slow remember that statement ?
      They would not score much vs the best defense in the State{Glastonbury} remember that statement.It’s fine to have opinions but be humble when you are correct and when you are wrong.Southington is very good indeed.I thought they would defeat Ridgefield in a close competitive game but I was completely wrong on that one and give Southington it’s due that day.I think Prep wins LL if they decide to play Prep Football which is Physical,run the ball.18 passes vs West Haven in the first half was quite strange.Anyhow not to disrespect Southington but they would had a much tougher time qualifying for LL Playoffs in the SCC D1 than in CCC.Prep had to beat Xavier and West Haven back to back just to finish in 7th place in LL.

      • CT Football Fan says

        With all due respect, you either were not watching the Prep/WH game yesterday or don’t know football. WH was putting 8 and 9 guys in the box to stop the run. It was smart play calling to throw on that defense and but for a lot of dropped passes, it worked well. More importantly, it kept WH defense honest and opened up some running seams. I think Prep showed some balance on offense which is very effective.

  7. CT Football Fan says

    I’m a Prep fan and haven’t seen Southington much but they certainly look strong. I continue to be amazed at how negative all these posts are. These are kids playing a game. When did this become life and death for so many? Why can’t people praise the hard work these guys put in, no matter what school they play for? Who cares what conference is better, what school is better, what league is better? There are some seriously lonely and bitter people reading high school sports.

  8. James says

    Prep is a one hit wonder. X and hand will take back the scc next year. Oh by the way x won three in a row state history in ll. prep is a fluke

    • Fciac jr says

      Prep is young on both sides, qb and WRs are jrs or sophomores. 3 starting O linemen are jrs. DBs are all underclassmen. Should be back in contention next season to battle hand for the scc title.

      X loses a lot on both sides but most likely will compete better

      • Not Ray Brown says

        Prep isn’t a fluke, they will bring back a lot next year. And X loses some really good players, but a majority of starters on both sides return next year. They will be better next year than they were this year.

    • UBilly says

      James, have you ever wondered why so many people do not root for Xavier?

      Give credit to others, a little humility should be something inherently present in a true fan of a Xavierian Education.

  9. GHS fan says

    @truth hurts
    If you look at my post you will see i gave smith his respect. he was fast and elusive – made some big plays- however, play that game twice and the results are different. by the way Southington is bigger up front than GHS, plus Barmore can pass – Ollie threw for well over 300+ yards so I really think Prep will get blown out. They have no one to defend Jamele. And Southington is our biggest rivalry – that is humility giving props to your rival in a big game. My only issue is you guys who only think football is great in the SCC and give no credit to any other team.

    • The Truth Hurts says

      Credit is earned on the Field of play.I never degrade a team or player.Sometimes I give the teams or players that play at the higher level of competition the praise they earned and may have not received due to the losses or lack of unhuman statistics that others garnish .

  10. says

    How’s Glastonbury doing? Oh yea right there out!!!! They had one decent team that won a state title a few years back ONE!!!! The rest of the time they Lose in the states to a SCC or FCIAC team so please let’s see them for who they are.

  11. James says

    Prep will beat a bad southingtin team on Saturday. A team that has not been tested by its week conference ccc. Prep enjoy it now. How sad us it even if you win you wil not be ranked higher than 3rd.?? A double ll team 3rd after winning a state titie has never been done in ct. Enough said!!

  12. willie says

    interesting if one looks at maxprep ratings before the playoffs began and then look at the class LL and L results (m and s are a forgone conclusion), the only upset was ridgefield over newtown (but not mcuh of a surprise really). NH over platt was obvious from the rankings. Darien beats hand and middletwon. Southington beats NFA and routs ridgefield was also obvious from the rankings etc etc. WH routs Hall obvious call. NC over NH clear. Interestly, glastonbury, prep and WH were so close in the rankings they were a “pick em”, which seems about right.
    one point here is the maxprep ranking are much more accurate than the media and couches polls eg newtown, midddletown, platt, hall, nfa etc much higher ranked in the medi and couches polls than in maxprep. People say thees polls are “just opinions”. I dont actually believe that. I think the media and couches rank teams higher than teams they know would beat them for various reasons. in other words the polls are a joke as they dont really reflect the true “opinions” of the media and coaches. Anyway, thank goodness for the playoffs.
    maxprep top 15 AFTER the last two playoff games:
    2. Southington
    3. st joes
    4. prep
    5. darien
    6.west haven
    9. north haven
    Looks pretty good to me.Not someone’s so called “opinion”. But i would put Darien higher. They beat NC afterall.
    Southington is 2 in the maxprep rankings.
    Strength of schedule according to maxprep after two olayoff games:
    1. hand
    2.west haven
    5.ndwh joes
    11. NC
    12. north haven
    15. glastonbury
    20.southington. rated 2 because only one loss which offsets somewhat lower sos.
    So, enough of the numbers.
    Prep WH-excellent game. WH is a very good team. clearly top 6-7 team. very athletic, explosive and dangerous at the skilled positions. That prep beat them twice in 9 days is a remarkable accomplishment. prep had to throw the ball because WH ws jamming the line with 9 players. good call.
    Southington is clearly a very very good team. Barmore is excellent as is Jamele. and lets face it prep’s secondary is suspect..a weak link. a bit better in the secondary and perhaps prep is undefeated.
    that said, the advantage prep has is in strength of schedule. prep has had alot of close games, they have been behind and come back..X, WH,glastonbury and WH again was a bit tougher than nfa and ridgefield. so, if prep is not exhausted they should have the advantage in a close game..

    Prep-WH excellent game

    • JB says

      willie – I enjoyed ready your post, very well done with use of Maxpreps and recent results. We will see if Prep has “one more in the tank” … this time of year weather really matters to a passing attack. If Southingtin is forced to run to win, they don’t have a chance.

      • JB says


        NC v Darien
        Great final, but redemption for the Rams.
        NC 27 Darien 24

        Prep v Southington
        Its December, power football wins in LL.
        Prep 35 Southington 21

        S & M? Ansonia & Joes should have received their trophies in the mail by now …

        Top 10
        1. NC
        2. Prep
        3. St Joes
        4. Darien
        5. Ansonia
        6. Southington
        7. West Haven
        8. North Haven
        9. Middletown
        10. Hand

  13. DT16 says

    Prep – Southington should be a good game. Prep has beaten X, Shelton, WH (twice), and Glastonbury and lost on a last second hail mary to St Joes where a questionable offensive pass interference was not called. Prep can hang with anyone, let’s just hope they can do it for one more week.

  14. Based Task Force says

    Southington over Fairfield Prep

    New Canaan over Darien

    St. Joe’s over Brookfield

    Ansonia over Woodland

  15. johnnybaccala says

    So far the CHALK has won every playoff game including Brookfield over Valley and Ridgefield over Newtown. I don’t think fans realize just how good this ST. Joes team is. They have been averaging over 60 points their past three game. I know they were beaten by NC but they have bombed everyone else.

    If Ansonia doesn’t beat Woodlands by 40 points it will be an upset.

    St. Josephs should put 50 on the board against Brookfield. however Brookfield might put a 30 spot on the Cadets.

    Prep should handle Southington. Moles tell me that Ridgefield was awful.

    The Grandaddy of them all. New Canaan vs. Darien. Two friendly border rivals will go toe to toe. may the best team win. Darien committed 5 turnovers against the Rams and still won. If New Canaan targets Wyper they should prevail but it will be close. The New Canaan offense has been non-existent since the first St. Joes game but their defense has been carrying them. Darien is good on offense and defense. Special teams are equal. Both kickers will play somewhere in college. New Canaan has been making silly penalties while Darien never beats themselves. Both are big play teams with outstanding coaches. If the Rams revert back to the way they played during the early part of the season then I see them beating a game Darien team.

    • SCC fan says

      I wouldn’t say Ridgefield was awful but maybe didn’t deserve to be in the states over a Greenwich, Staples or Xavier. same goes for Hall and Newtown making the states. Yes, their record was good but realistically, beating a Brookfield or Barlow from class M should not give you the same amount of points as beating a Xavier, Greenwich or Staples. Lets hope we see a change of point system for next season so the teams that can actually make an impact will. Come on, the #1 loses to the #8, same for 2 and 3, what else is needed to prove the point system is flawed.

  16. jeb says

    MortimerSnerd—-You are correct but Joes was ahead by three td’s mid- way thru the 3rd quarter and then turned the ball over. Prep answered with three td’s of their own and lost on a hail mary. Joes was dominating that game though.

  17. CCC Follower says

    Prep was slow- Smith was the killer for Glastonbury.
    He was fast- and his runs beat Glastonbury- I don’t have a problem saying that. But GHS dug themselves a hole and you should not beat a team in the playoffs when you do that. But GHS put up 300+ passing. Barmore is one of thee best QBs in the state you do the math. And he runs unlike GHS’s QB.

    Oh, by the way unless your team is Xavier then I don’t think you should be disparaging GHS’s record in the playoffs. Prep has not won yet.

  18. willie says

    Glastonbury is a very good team. And it seems Southington is better. Southington did beat Glastonbury and seems to have more offensive weapons and a tougher defensive front. Prep’s secondary is suspect. Weather could be a factor is it is cold and windy this help s prep. At the same time Southington will stack the line with 8-9 defenders to stop the prep running game, as WH ddi. They will have to watch out however because southington does not have defensive backs as quick and athletic as phillips and gary of WH and they could get burned as prep can throw the ball as well as run. prep will have to play beter than they played against glastonbury to win. Should be a good game. I suspect it will be a better game than NC-Darien. But what do I know.

    • says

      The SCC is down this year, West Haven will lose 15 players after this season, They are an LL school with Class m numbers for football. Prep is LL and cut 30 kids from their program. That is the difference. They have Depth, West Haven has 5 kids playing both sides of the ball. Prep has a full Special Teams Unit, Full Defense and Offense. If one kid goes down another can fill his shoes and do the job. Prep won the game, bottom line . West Haven is a very good team , a team that one 10 games, in a very tough division and should be given the respect they deserve. West Haven needs to get more young men out playing football as well. Baseball players, Hockey players, Lacross WHERE ARE THESE KIDS AND WHY WONT THEY PLAY FOOTBALL. LL team with M participation.

  19. says

    Worked the game where Cheshire held Southington to 1 TD in the 1st half. Prep’s O-Line will wear down the Southington D and run all over them in the 2nd half…espcecially if the weather forecast holds true. Southington better be up 3 TDs at halftime if it expects to win the title.

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