WEST HAVEN >> West Haven’s Ervin Philips is known for his electrifying runs and game-changing speed. After Friday evening’s classic against Xavier, one can add another line to his résumé.
With the help of Nyrell Moore, Philips and the Westies may have saved their season.
The West Haven defense, which was pushed around for a majority of the night, made the biggest play of all, stopping Xavier’s Joe Carbone on a 2-point conversion attempt in overtime to defeat the Falcons 35-34 in front of a frenzied crowd at Ken Strong Stadium Friday evening.
“I helped on the play, but you have to credit the whole right side,” Philips said of the stop. “I just knew we needed a stop and we made the play.”
Not lost in the thrilling Southern Connecticut Conference Division I victory was West Haven head coach Ed McCarthy tying former Ledyard coach Bill Mignault for the state record with 321 wins. McCarthy will have a shot to break the record when the Westies travel to Hamden next Friday.
“That is secondary,” McCarthy said of the record after his team improved to 5-1. “You guys talk about it, but we never mention it.
“Someday, I’ll look back and be very proud of it. This was our fifth win in a row after we suffered a loss in our first game, which was the worst in team history. After that game, we said we were going to win the rest of our games and finish 10-1. We are halfway there.”
Playing by Kansas tiebreaker rules in overtime with each team starting at the 10-yard line, West Haven needed two plays to score when Philips ran in from 9 yards out and kicker Tayvon Gibbs squeaked in the extra point.
That extra point loomed large as Carbone brought Xavier within 35-34 with a 1-yard score two plays later.
After calling a timeout, and with Xavier dominating the West Haven line all night, head coach Sean Marinan opted for the two-point try.
Carbone looked on his way to the winning conversion before Moore, Philips and the Westies made the stop short of the goal line, setting off a wild celebration.
“We talked about it and said, ‘How long are we going to keep playing with them?” Marinan said after his team fell to 4-2. “We felt we had a little momentum at that point and my gut said to go for it.”
After West Haven quarterback Duane Gary evened the game with an electrifying 57-yard run just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, the final 11 minutes were about who would make the big play.
The biggest play may have come on fourth down when West Haven forced a fumble and Marquis Lockhart recovered to stall the Falcons at the West Haven 22 with 5:30 remaining.
“What a great game,” Philips said. “We wanted to get this win for Coach Mac. We knew we had to make a big play. I had to rally the guys. In the big games, big-time players make big-time plays.”
In a game which was tied on four different occasions, it was the running games which proved to be the difference.
Xavier’s Carbone and Andrew Meoli combined for 342 yards on the ground and all five touchdowns. Meoli evened the game at 7 with a 1-yard run in the first quarter and Carbone evened the game at 14 with a 33-yard scamper with 13 seconds left in the first half.
Carbone’s 1-yard run to start the third quarter had Xavier in front 21-14 and his 2-yard run 5 seconds into the fourth quarter had the Falcons on top 28-21.
West Haven’s triple threat of Marshont Little, Philips and Gary ran for 378 yards and all five scores. Gary had the electrifying runs as his 49-yard burst opened the scoring with 1:38 left in the opening quarter and his 57-yard run one play after Carbone put the Falcons on top evened the game at 28 in the fourth.
Philips scored on a 57-yard run for a 14-7 lead and Little evened the game at 21 with a 43-yard score with 2:51 left in the third.
Carbone finished the night with 185 yards on 25 carries, while Meoli ran 29 times for 157 yards. Gary led the Westies with 171 yards on 13 carries, while Philips added 123 yards and Little had 84.
West Haven 35, Xavier 34 (OT)
(at West Haven)
Xavier 7 7 7 7 6 — 34
West Haven 7 7 7 7 7 — 35
W—Duane Gary 49 run (Tayvon Gibbs Kick)
X—Andrew Meoli 5 run (Andrew Verre Kick)
W—Ervin Philips 57 run (Gibbs Kick)
X—Joe Carbone 33 run (Verre Kick)
X—Joe Carbone 1 run (Verre Kick)
W—Marshont Little 43 run (Gibbs Kick)
X—Joe Carbone 2 run (Verre Kick)
W—Duane Gary 57 run (Gibbs Kick)
W—Ervin Philips 9 run (Gibbs Kick)
X—Joe Carbone 1 run (Run Failed)
Team records: West Haven 5-1; Xavier 4-2
Stats: Xavier: Joe Carbone 25-185 rushing, 4 TD; Andrew Meoli – 29-157, 1 Td
WH: Duane Gary 13-171, 2 TD; Ervin Philips 16-123, 2 TD