EAST HAVEN — With Hand-Madison on the horizon, West Haven football coach Ed McCarthy was hoping his team was not looking past its tilt with Wilbur Cross.
Senior quarterback Duane Gary made sure of that.
Involved in four first-half touchdowns, Gary led his team to a 50-7 Southern Connecticut Conference Division I East victory over the Governors Friday afternoon at Frank Crisafi Field in East Haven.
West Haven improved to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the division heading into Friday night’s battle against the Tigers.
“We work hard in practice all week,” said Gary who ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more in the first half. “We play together. Our line has been excellent. They have been blocking well. We were focused on this game.”
West Haven set the tone in the first half, holding a 261-56 advantage in yards and a 35-7 lead. When all was said and done, the Westies held Cross to just 71 yards of offense while gaining 507.
“Our defense has stepped up a lot,” senior Jesse Ridgway said. “We have played teams with two great backs the last two weeks and stepped it up. We have to keep stepping up to another level.
“We are going into a new season. We have Hand, Shelton and Fairfield Prep coming up. We have to keep playing like this.”
The Westies took a 7-0 lead just 3 minutes, 30 seconds into the game when Ervin Philips ran in from 24 yards out just four plays after the Westies recovered a Cross fumble.
“Our defensive coaches have really done a great job,” West Haven coach Ed McCarthy said. “Ted Czepiga, Ron Luneau and Mike DeVito have really coached these kids up well. They are getting more confidence. We changed over the summer from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and the kids are really starting to feel more comfortable.”
After holding the Governors (3-5, 0-2) on their next possession, West Haven needed just three plays to take a 13-0 lead. Gary hit Philips with a screen pass and the speedy back did the rest, racing 55 yards for the score with 5:34 left in the opening quarter.
Cross, which gained only 41 yards in the first quarter, was held again on its next possession. This time the Westies needed four plays once again as Gary hooked up with Philips on fourth down for a 35-yard touchdown with 1:58 to go in the opening quarter.
“This was a pretty big game for us,” Gary said after running for 78 yards and throwing for 137. “We knew they had good athletes. We could not sleep on them.”
The Governors quickly made it a game when Elijah Long raced down the left sideline on the ensuing kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown, cutting the West Haven lead to 21-7.
Gary needed the final 3:07 of the opening half to ice the contest. He capped a 13-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown on fourth down, then capped a 9-play drive with a 2-yard score and a 35-7 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the first half.
“We have some big play players,” McCarthy said. “We want to keep the ball in their hands. Cross has some really good players. They are close. Unfortunately in our league, it’s tough. Put them in any other league and they are 8-2. They
are going to win some games.”
West Haven’s defense stepped up and put points on the board on the Governors’ second offensive play of the second half as the Westies tackled Stevie Swinson in the end zone for a 37-7 lead.
Two plays later, Anton Graham raced in from 30 yards out for a 43-7 lead and Philips capped his day with a 1-yard score late in the third quarter for a 50-7 advantage.
Graham finished with 102 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Philips ran for 59 yards and two scores for the Westies.
Swinson led Cross with 42 yards on 12 carries.