Meoli, Xavier outmuscle Hand for crucial victory

(Peter Casolino – New Haven Register) Hand’s Nicholas Van Dell drives for extra yards as the Xavier defense, including Edwin Luster, who lost his helmet, wraps him up during the second quarter. Peter Casolino/Register

(Peter Casolino -- New Haven Register)  Hand's Conor Dowd gets upended in the second quarter by the Xavier defense, including Nathan Gozalez (#4).

(Peter Casolino — New Haven Register) Hand’s Conor Dowd gets upended in the second quarter by the Xavier defense, including Nathan Gozalez (#4).

MADISON >> Xavier knew the uphill battle it faced against host Hand at the Surf Club, where few opponents leave victorious.

The Falcons, essentially playing a postseason elimination game, put the ball in the hands of quarterback Joe Carbone and running back Andrew Meoli in the second half after playing to a 7-7 tie at halftime.

The duo, behind a physical offensive line, responded and carried the Falcons to a rare victory on the Tigers’ home field. Carbone and Meoli, both seniors, combined to rush for 349 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-14 Southern Connecticut Conference Division I victory Friday.

“We wanted to get a little physical with them,” Carbone said. “Our offensive line did a great job; credit to them, they did all the work.”

The loss snapped a six-game winning streak by Hand (6-2), which lost its season opener to New Canaan. The Tigers hadn’t lost at home since Oct. 30, 2009, when Notre Dame-West Haven emerged with a 28-14 victory.

Xavier (6-2) earned a bit of revenge on Hand after the Tigers snapped the Falcons’ 30-game winning streak last season.

“We definitely had an extra chip on our shoulder tonight with that happening last year,” said Meoli, who rushed 31 times for 143 yards.

“We really wanted to make a statement with this game that last year wasn’t going to happen again.”

Xavier, the three-time defending Class LL champion, now sits in ninth place in the playoff rankings with games remaining against Shelton and Fairfield Prep. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.

“It’s win or go home, basically,” Meoli said. “If we lose, that’s our last meaningful game as seniors of high school football, so we’re definitely playing with an extra chip on our shoulders.”

Meoli’s 4-yard touchdown run gave Xavier a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Tigers responded on a 12-yard run from senior Conor Dowd (21 carries, 99 yards) to tie the game.

Just seconds into the third quarter, Carbone connected with senior Nate Gonzalez on a 64-yard touchdown pass, Carbone’s only pass attempt of the second half, to put the Falcons up 14-7.

Gonzalez, though, was called for a personal foul on the play — his second of the game — and was ejected. Under CIAC rules, a player who gets ejected must sit the following game. Gonzalez was flagged for excessive celebration after pointing to the Xavier faithful sitting in the stands behind the end zone. Xavier coach Sean Marinan hopes they can appeal.

“He was pointing at our crowd, not their crowd,” Marinan said. “The kid just ran for a touchdown, he’s excited; he’s a kid. Hopefully, rational people will sort it out, I hope.”

Carbone scored on an 85-yard touchdown run to put his team up 21-7 with just over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Later in that quarter, Hand quarterback Nick van Dell tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tom Wilson to cut the lead to 21-14. Meoli added the game’s final touchdown on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. Carbone finished with 206 yards on 27 carries.

Gonzalez, Cole Thorburn and Edwin Luster each had interceptions for Xavier. Noah Cruz scampered five yards for a first down on a fake punt at the Falcons’ 25 with under two minutes remaining to seal the victory.

Van Dell completed 15 of 32 passes for 205 yards, but was picked off three times. Hand, which has won twice this season on field goals in the closing seconds, didn’t have an answer for Xavier and its potent running game.

“We have been living — and I’ve told you guys — on magic, in one form or another,” Hand coach Steve Filippone said. “We got a lot of recognition for winning a lot of games, but we were doing it, basically, with smoke and mirrors, and we’ve been doing it with smoke and mirrors the whole year and, tonight, the smoke and the mirrors didn’t work.”

 Xavier 28, Hand 14
(at Madison)
Xavier 0 7 14 7 — 28
Hand 0 7 7 0 — 14
Second quarter
X—Andrew Meoli 4 run (Ricky Verre kick)
H—Conor Dowd 12 run (Tyler Phan kick)
Third quarter
X—Nate Gonzalez 64 pass from Joe Carbone (Verre kick)
X—Joe Carbone 85 run (Verre kick)
H—Tom Wilson 8 pass from Nick Van Dell (Phan kick)
Fourth quarter
X—Andrew Meoli 2 run (Verre kick)


  1. JB says

    OK, the SCC is unfolding. Shelton, Prep and Hand are pretenders. West Haven is the LL team to beat this year with Xavier right there. Prep and Shelton will fall away with 3+ losses. New Canaan is the clear #1 in the state. Would beat every SCC team by the Mike Quick’s 3-4 TD hyperbole! Sorry, Ansonia, but you are irrelevant playing no one. NC would beat you by at least 3TDs.

    I think Glastonbury is for real, but NFA is a pretender. LL is really up for grabs this year. Are any FCIAC teams going to peak for the state dance? And Newtown will get destroyed in round one, like every other year.

    • ciacfollower says

      X showed up & played a hardnose,
      mistake-free game. Hand pretty much, did the opposite. However, Hand turning out victorious against NH, Prep & Shelton, among others, wasnt exactly pretending or “smoke & mirrors” as coach Fil said. There’s still more dismantling for Hand to do this season & at least a semi-final round. Lets be real, the top 2 teams in the state are also in L (NC & Middltwn).

    • UBilly says

      I was at the Hand – X game last night and was shocked at the size difference in the lines. Even with that, X still struggled to put that game away. Think in LL this year it will be a team from the North – maybe Glastonbury or Southington, unless X can learn to pass the ball more. Too one dimensional.

      In L there is NC and everyone else. Not a big Middletown believer yet. And yes, I move New Canaan to #1 where they belong based on This Season’s play, not their long and excellent history.

  2. dave k says

    The rules states that two unsportsman like calls means an ejection. An ejection means you sit next week case closed. Making excuses for the kid or talking about an appeal is sending the player the wrong message. This is good lifes lesson for him.

    • Mike PucciMike Pucci says

      In my opinion, bad call by the refs to throw that flag on the celebration. The kid should not have to sit. The refs were awful all game.

      • Just Sayin says

        We already have an epidemic of ridiculous, childish behavior in the NFL and NCAA. Do we have to let it filter down to high school now as well?
        Football used to be played by men, admired by children. Now it’s played by men acting like children. Score the touchdown, act like a man, give the ball to the refs.

  3. XHS says

    Thing is middletown is not a top two team. They are also pretenders in a conference where they don’t play Southington, hall or Glastonbury. They would lose to a lot of teams including Hand which Xavier took care of. Time will tell !

  4. RAY BROWN says

    hand was having a good year considering it s losses to graduation——-losing to SCCrubs like xavier reinforces my point that the scc is a bunch of mediocrity.when your best teams are shelton and a team that gave up 33 to amity—–your mediocre

  5. XHS says

    The kid pointed to his own fans in the endzone. No taunting what so ever. I don’t want to sound like Ray Brown the homer but it was a total brutal call!

        • Just Sayin says

          Not from Hand, was rooting for Xavier, glad they won, don’t like showboating, my kid plays for another town and if he was penalized for pointing at the crowd I’d tell him he’s an idiot. And I’ll gladly take a rest, thanks for the suggestion.

  6. Concerned Fan says

    There was only (1) small set of bleachers in the end zone with a pregame sign left on it by Hand reading “Xavier Cheering Section”. This was occupied by the X student body that made the trip. When the X player entered the end zone, he never stopped, danced, took off his helmet, or made any kind of obscene gesture. As he was running by the only small set of bleachers, he pointed to his classmates as he HANDED the ball to the referee who then threw a flag for “taunting” and ejected him. Only Xavier fans were banished to the end zone, there was no one there from Hand to taunt. The call was one of many embarrassing one-sided call last night against Xavier. Like the refs huddling during a first down measurement for Xavier, and then pulling out a credit card to stick between the ball and marker before awarding the first down…. Yes they really did that!

    • HandFan says

      First of all there were 2 sets of bleachers in the endsone and they weren’t small at all. They each sat 100+ also I don’t know what game you were at but I thought the refs were bad on both parts maybe a little more on hand actually. Hand loss ill accept that, they didn’t play their best and Xavier took advantage. I’m more concerned about west haven. On the penalty part. I have seen refs call it multiple times this year (once on hand) for over celebration or taunting. I think it was a lousy call based on what he did but one thing we don’t know is if he swore or said something out of line to a hand player or official. If that is the case and the league finds out then don’t expect to see that kid play next week. I love high school sports and kids should be allowed to be excited and pumped up but we have to remember that their just kids and they need to know their boundaries. Best of luck to Xavier in their final 2 games.

  7. Concerned Fan says

    The Tigers had not lost at home since Oct. 30, 2009, and Never lost at the new Surf Club? Hmmm, I guess the ref’s record also fell last night…

    • UBilly says

      Concerned fan – now you really sound like a X fan!! Stop whining you won.
      I find it hard to believe you felt that the calls were one sided at that game, the refs were bad but I thought it went both ways. By the way, X did get the first down call on that measurement didn’t they? What is that complaint about…unless you think X should just automatically get awarded first downs like at Palmer field.

      • Observer says

        @ UBilly–You clearly didn’t watch the game. To my recollection, there was only one penalty called against Hand, while Xavier received a host of laundry (I’m guessing close to 10), in most instances after first down plays on offense. To say the refs were bad both ways is tantamount to admitting being blind, not fully understanding the game, or lacking objectivity. The simple fact that the fans of Xavier are complaining about refs despite winning, strongly suggests that there were some issues. In regard to the receiver who was ejected, I find the call unacceptable. If celebrating with your team members and fans in a non-offensive manner is considered flagrant, then every kid who scores a touchdown should be flagged. To expect every player of the game to simply hand the ball to the referee and emotionlessly leave the field is silly. Kids should be able to enjoy the game, so long as they don’t disrespect their opponent. If he had pointed to a section that had Hand fans, or had pointed at the opposing sideline, or had pointed at the Tiger band, or had pointed at the referees, or had pointed at Coach Fillipone, then I would fully agree with the call. That is not what happened. If the kid has to sit next week, during one of his final games as a senior, it is not only unjustifiably depriving him of an experience he deserves, it is also potentially compromising the experience of his peers. The CIAC, or referees should do the right thing here and allow him to play next week. He already served a penance by forfeiting his right to playing the second half versus the Tigers.

  8. Concerned Fan says

    Actually not an X fan, but a Glastonbury fan who Xavier has beat in the play offs on it’s way to it’s (3) consecutive State titles. I am the one who should be wining about Xavier, but I guess you can do that for all of us

  9. says

    I thought it was 4 in a row for X but what do I know. Ray aka Statbitch how can you call the SCC mediocrity? I’ll let you in on a little something Coaches in the SCC think of Ansonia as poo on there sneakers and that’s if they think of them at all.

  10. XHS says

    Guarantee the coaches (the only poll I look at as a lot of the media stay local and don’t even see all teams or watch film on them Mike and Bowles excluded) will have NC #1 as they deserve to be.

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