MILFORD >> The last time the senior-laden Foran defense had to deal with Hillhouse’s scintillating running back Harold Cooper, the results weren’t anything that would be included in the Lions’ 2012 highlight reel.
Cooper only carried the ball three times, but that was more than enough as he scored on each one in a dominating win for the Academics. So when Cooper rumbled for 10 yards on his first career in Friday night’s Southern Connecticut Conference Division II contest, it looked like it was going to be the same old script playing out.
However, the fired-up Foran defense had other ideas, holding Cooper to no gain or negative yards on eight of his 17 carries. The Lions also forced four turnovers in a 34-6 victory over Hillhouse.
Cooper, who ran for nearly 500 yards in the three previous games against Foran, finished with 14 yards on 17 carries.
“We had to stay home,” Foran coach Jeff Bevino said. “He is so good, he is so fast, he cuts back, and this week was a nightmare trying to defend him. We had to corral him and we did. This is a great win for us.”
On the Academics’ second drive, Cooper swept right and, seeing no room to run, quickly reversed direction. Those moves have often resulted in highlight-reel touchdown runs during his four-year run with the Academics. However, seniors Samuel Olsson and Colin Lydiksen held their ground, cornered Cooper and waited for help to arrive. When Cooper emerged from the mass of humanity at the Academics’ 30, the run went for no gain.
With Cooper unable to break free of the relentless Lions defense, Hillhouse attempted to make some plays through the air.
However, Josh Mixie’s interception late in the first half gave Foran the ball on the Hillhouse 40. A Hillhouse penalty, a 16-yard pass from Jake Kasuba to Nick Weissauer and a 19-yard scoring run by Kasuba gave Foran the 7-0 lead.
Breakdowns on special teams led to the Lions’ next two scores as a punt went for a net loss of 11 yards, leading to a 1-yard TD run by Weissauer with 30.5 seconds left in the first half to give Foran a 14-0 lead.
The second-half kickoff was an adventure as it bounced off multiple players before Anthony Kopatch jumped on the loose ball at the 12. The Lions punched it in with their third straight two-play scoring drive on Weissauer’s 3-yard scoring run.
A fumble recovery by Zach Hubler set up Foran in Hillhouse territory yet again. Kasuba capped a nine-play, 36-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring pass to Connor Cadrin to put Foran (5-2) up 28-0.Hillhouse (3-4) then moved Cooper to quarterback. Back-to-back completions totaling 77 yards got the Academics on the board as Cooper threw a 45-yard TD pass to Markese Clark Jr. with 3:47 to go in the third quarter.
However, that was the only time Hillhouse was able to solve Foran’s defense.“Hats off to our defensive staff — Jim Esposito, Mark Manning and Garrett Walker,” Bevino said. “They just did a tremendous job of defending that kid. That kid is one of the best backs that we will see in our lifetime, and to hold him (down) the way we did is an achievement in itself.”
Olsson led Foran with eight tackles, Lydiksen had seven tackles and Andrew Melendez — who had the final touchdown on a 1-yard TD run — and Hubler added five tackles each.
“We planned on it all week,” Olsson said. “It was great. Our offense performed really well and it just helped our defense. It gave us motivation.
“We knew it would be tough with Cooper. He broke the (Hillhouse rushing) record and he is just a great back, but we just worked hard and stopped him.”
Kasuba was 15 of 28 passing for 134 yards while Weissauer had nine catches for 91 yards.
Scott Marks had a team-high seven tackles for Hillhouse.
Foran 34, Hillhouse 6
Hillhouse 0 0 6 0 0 — 6
Foran 0 14 14 6 0 — 34
F—Jake Kasuba 19 run (Samuel Olsson kick)
F—Nick Weissauer 1 run (Olsson kick)Third quarter
F—Nick Weissauer 3 run (Olsson kick)
F—Connor Cadrin 8 pass from Jake Kasuba (Olsson kick)
H—Markese Clark 45 pass from Harold Cooper (kick failed)Fourth quarter
F—Andrew Melendez 1 run (kick failed)
Team records: Foran 5-2; Hillhouse 3-4