NEW HAVEN >> With the ice water dripping down his back after a bucket dump from his team, Hamden Hall coach Joe Linta finally had a chance to exhale and enjoy the moment.
After a slow start against rival Hopkins, Linta and his Hamden Hall team scored 35 unanswered points and defeated the Hilltoppers 42-23 in New Haven Saturday afternoon. The win allowed the Hornets (6-2, 4-2) to take home a piece of the Fairchester League title.
“It took a little while for us to get going today, but once we did, we are tough to stop,” Linta said. “I thought they did a great job of playing keep away early on. But, there is just a lot of talent on this team.
“The chemistry these guys have after playing together for three years is incredible. If bad things happen, they rebound. This is some group of kids.”
Hopkins controlled play to open the game, taking 25 of the first 32 snaps and leading 9-0 after tackling Michael Breuler in the end zone for a safety and Quinn Ferguson scored on a 1-yard run with 8 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Hornets needed just 55 seconds to respond as Brandon Ginetti rumbled in from 4 yards out to cut the deficit to 9-7. When Bennett Amador scored on fourth and inches on a 69-yard run four plays later for the Hilltoppers, a fuse seemed to light for the Hornets.
Hamden Hall quarterback T.J. Linta was the spark. Linta started a string of 35 unanswered points when he connected with Michael Whalen on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 3:56 left in the half, then ran one in himself from 1 yard out for a 20-16 halftime lead.
“We were not ourselves early,” T.J. Linta said after throwing for 313 yards and two scores and running in three more. “It was tough. We only had the ball once in the first quarter. We were able to get going after that.”
Hopkins seemed to steal the momentum to start the second half, holding the Hornets on downs. But, Hamden Hall’s Jordan Gifford recovered a Hopkins’ fumble two plays later. Linta scored from 1-yard out seconds after for a 28-16 lead following the two-point conversion.
“We had to get defensive stops,” Hopkins coach Tom Parr said after his team fell to 2-5 in the season finale for the Hilltoppers. “They are a very good offense and we did not get enough stops. They are tough. I am very proud of my kids. They played hard. We installed a new offense and had them off-balance early, but we did not get enough points. Things did not fall our way. That is a very good football team.”
Then Ginetti intercepted Hopkins quarterback Quinn Ferguson and raced 30 yards to the Hopkins’ 9-yard line. T.J. Linta connected with Dylan Millhouse for the score on the next play for a 35-16 lead.
Linta’s 8-yard touchdown run capped the string of 35 unanswered points before Amador stopped the streak with a 26-yard score with 7:19 remaining.
“This is big for the senior class,” Joe Linta said. “It is a culmination of a lot of hard work. We play a dominant game at times and that is a lot of years of hard work.”
The win for the Hornets was the second in a row over Hopkins after years of frustration and losses since 2001.
“Coming in my sophomore year, we had not beaten them in a long time,” T.J. Linta said. “It just built up for last year and this year is great to beat our rivals and win the league. I am so proud of the team. We worked hard and never stopped.”
Amador led Hopkins with 180 yards and two scores on 16 carries and Jim Martino added 90 yards on 20 carries.
Hamden Hall 42, Hopkins 23
(at New Haven)
Hamden Hall 0 20 15 7 0 — 42
Hopkins 2 14 0 7 0 — 23
HOP—Quinn Ferguson 1 run (Sasha Possick kick)
HH—Brandon Ginnetti 4 run (Jon Tessitore kick)
HOP—Bennett Amador 69 run (Possick kick)
HH—Mike Whalen 7 pass from T.J. Linta (Tessitore kick)
HH—T.J. Linta 1 run (kick failed)
HH—T.J. Linta 1 run (Brueler pass from Linta)
HH—Dylan Millhouse 9 pass from T.J. Linta (Tessitore kick)
HH—T.J. Linta 0 run (Tessitore kick)
HOP—Bennett Amador 26 run (Possick kick)
Team records: Hopkins 2-5; Hamden Hall 6-2