Football playoff beat: Methodical North Haven looking to run past Platt

North Haven's Ethan Suraci will lead the Indians into the Class L state quarterfinals against Platt on Tuesday. (Arnold Gold/Register)

North Haven’s Ethan Suraci will lead the Indians into the Class L state quarterfinals against Platt on Tuesday. (Arnold Gold/Register)

NORTH HAVEN >> North Haven does not have an identity crisis. The Indians know exactly who they are.

While many teams prefer to run the spread formation, North Haven opts to operate out of a clock-chewing single-wing attack that relies on discipline and patience.

“When I watch us on film, when I watch our offense, I can bore myself to sleep,” North Haven senior running back Ethan Suraci said with a smile. “It’s very rudimentary play.”

The Indians’ offense may not be fancy, but it has certainly been effective. The Indians have rushed for 3,723 yards and 49 touchdowns this season.

Suraci leads the team with 145 carries for 1,003 yards and 21 touchdowns, but 11 other players have carried the ball this year for North Haven, which is averaging 36 points per game.

“The team is the star, I say that every time I talk to someone,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “We don’t have a great player. We have some very good players and, when they’re on, we’re a pretty good team. That’s a credit to the senior class and to the whole group of them.”

The Indians finished the regular season 9-2 and earned the seventh seed in the Class L state tournament. North Haven will visit No. 2 Platt (11-0) in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Falcon Field in Meriden.

Playoff brackets: CLASS LL | CLASS L | CLASS M | CLASS S

The Indians return to the postseason after a one-year absence, and for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

“Not making it to the playoffs last year kind of stunk, just not having anything to do after Thanksgiving,” North Haven senior quarterback/linebacker Mike Halloran said. “To be able to come back here and play after Thanksgiving feels real good.”

The Indians have succeeded this season despite being undersized and lacking the pure talent most opponents possess. North Haven is faced with a similar situation against Platt, a team with a big offensive line and quick and athletic skill players.

“I think we’re a very tough team,” Halloran said. “We tackle well, we block well, we run well, and I think that’s what we hold ourselves to.”

The Panthers will certainly test the North Haven defense. Platt features a dual-threat quarterback in senior Andrew McBride and one of the state’s best running backs in junior Tyzhan Leatherwood. Senior Creme Watford and junior Olajuwon McLeod are a formidable pair of receivers.

“They stress you all over the field,” Sagnella said. “Whenever their athletes have the ball in their hands, we’re going to have to be in the proper positions, the proper pursuit angles, etc., to make sure we’re getting off blocks and hustling to the ball.”

Although the Indians are in pursuit of the program’s first playoff victory, Halloran said the team is preparing just the same as during the previous 11 games.

“It’s like any other week,” Halloran said. “It’s not the playoffs, it’s Week 12. We just have to go in and see what we can do this week. It’s just one game. If we win, we keep going. I think with hard work and determination we can go as far as we can take ourselves. If we play the best that we can play, I’m confident that we can do something in the playoffs.”

While the Indians’ running attack can be frustrating to defend, North Haven’s lack of a consistent passing game proved costly in losses to fellow Class L participants Hand and Darien during the regular season. The Indians trailed in both games in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a problem, it certainly is,” Sagnella said. “But you have to dance with who brought you. Our kids have embraced our philosophy, but we have to keep a game within our reach. We have to be close going into the fourth quarter because we don’t have the quick-score capability. That’s part of who we are. The kids have been focusing on being disciplined, being fundamentally sound and working well as a team. That’s what kept us in every game this year.”

Comments

  1. Skip says

    North Haven a great town! But, Indians get scalped by Panthers on the prowl. Pride of Meriden, Panther Proud, Panther Pride. Go blue and gold!

  2. North Haven fan says

    I love the know it alls out there who doubt Coach Sagnella and his choice of offensive style. He smashed LL Xavier this year, his only losses to Darien – just beat the top of the state New Canaan and Hand – arguably the finest/best coached program in the state. Last year he lost three games – to the LL, L and M state champs. He has tough, hardworking players, apologies to their loud fathers – your sons are solid football players – the team structure of what they do is what makes them great. I was told this offseason that if north haven was going to compete with the top teams in the state then they needed to change what they do…Oh, is that why they are in the playoffs this year??? Great job north haven, I hope you smash Platt!

  3. D says

    If you watched Auburn or Clemson yesterday, then you were watching the single wing, you just didn’t know it. Go North Haven!

  4. ROY BRAWN says

    North Haven pounds the rock play after play after play after play and Platt finally gives up shortly after halftime because the incessant, painful pounding is too much for them. Leatherwood breaks a couple because NH lacks team speed.

    North Haven 42
    Platt 14

  5. Dave says

    Platt is a very good team. You don’t get to 11-0 without great athletes, good coaching and a few breaks along the way. I am sure the Platt vs North Haven game will be a very good game, played hard by both teams. Someone said Platt beat 2 playoff teams, while NH lost to two playoff teams. That pretty much says it all. Who ever can impose their style of play on the other team will win the game.

    • aok says

      Platt beat Bloomfield, Rocky Hill, don’t remember seeing either team mentioned around the top 15-20, NH lost to Hand and Darien{really a 2 pnt game} Platt then beat class s/m team rest of year. NH beat Xavier, which win does Platt have you could compare? Platt played 1 L school which had 1 win, still 11-0 not easy, Tueday should be a good game with Nh on top.

    • Walter Camp says

      Wasn’t Platt undefeated going into last year’s playoffs? They had a great RB and huge line. Hand was beating Platt 42-6 at the half when they pulled their first team and put in the subs for the second half. Platt may give NH a better game than they did Hand last year but I do not see a different outcome. If you play a Class A schedule and make the playoffs you are bound to play well and go far. If you play a Class D schedule and go undefeated the chances are you may end up one and done (with the exception of Ansonia). NH beats Platt.

      • says

        Platt was 8-2 last year when they faced Hand losing to Rocky Hill and NWC. They narrowly beat out North Haven for that 8 spot as North Haven was 7-3 losing to eventiail Class M Champion Hillhouse, Class L Champion Hand and Class LL Champ Xavier during the season.

        • UJake says

          NH was actually THIRD in line for that playoff spot, and it wasn’t that narrow of a gap (111 points to 97). Darien finished in the 10th spot, ahead of NH, and actually beat two teams that made the playoffs that year, and took a third to OT before losing.

  6. The Dude says

    If North Haven falls behind they are toast. It was shown in the Darien game that they are not equipped to play from behind at all.

  7. says

    North Haven is a very well run program and this yr’s team is tough. They played great vs Xavier and rolled all the teams they should. They played Darien very tough, almost pulling it out even with a bunch of kicking game miscues. Going 11-0 on any schedule is impressive but I think NH will knock them down. I’m thinking 34-20 NH.

  8. TigerPride says

    Having played both schools, I’m curious what the North Haven fans feel about the Hand vs Darien matchup? Good luck with platt boys….go SCC

    • Matt Glaszmattglasz says

      North Haven clearly played better against Darien than they did against Hand. NH was up 20-9 prior to the Wave kickoff return touchdown, and even after losing the lead I felt confident that NH would pull out a win in the fourth quarter.

      Obviously we know that didn’t happen, but the Indian’s defeat to Hand was much more sound. NH struggled mightily to run the ball on the Tigers in the first half, and the Indians can run on pretty much anyone.

      I think NH benefited from playing Darien at Vanacore Field and conversely found it much more difficult to play Hand at the Surf Club. Both Hand and Darien seem to have improved throughout the season and are playing their best football at the right time.

      I’ll give a slight nod to the Tigers because I think it’ll be tough for the Darien kids to get past the emotion of their win over NC. Also, Hand just always seems to find a way to win these types of games.

      I’ll predict a 31-28 Hand victory but really, it could go either way. Tough luck for whoever comes out on the short end, as either could make it to Arute.

      With regards to the NH – Platt game I’ve had the opportunity to watch two of the Panther’s games on film and I was more impressed than I’d care to admit. They’re very athletic and certainly bigger than North Haven. Everyone knows about Leatherwood, but my biggest concern is their quarterback who is very mobile and has multiple big receivers who go up and get jump balls.

      I’m hoping North Haven can control the clock, capitalize on scoring chances and take an early lead. The Panthers can score quickly so it’s important to limit their possessions. If it turns into a track meet the Indians will be one and done again.

  9. says

    North Haven really played a 2 point game with Darien the Wave scored an unneeded TD at the end when most teams would have taken a knee. The difference in that game was NH had to use their timeouts for stupid reasons like wrong personnel on the field so at the end of the first half they ran out of time with the ball inside Darien’s red zone and didn’t score. That’s and the kickoff return for TD. The Indians did what they did all on the ground as they only completed like 2 passes in the game. I think if Hand mixes the pass and run effectively in this matchup with Darien they will win. Plus their kicking game is solid. I like Hand winning like 28-21 or 28-17.

  10. Kahona says

    Dude really the DARIEN NH game was a good one give credit to the winner however lets not 4get the BIG MO CHANGER 15 YARD PENALTY ON THE BAND

    • Kahona says

      Tiger pride i know your coaching staff will be prepared they always are. However this is a VERRY talented team so go play your game. and we NH will see you in the next round

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