CHESHIRE >> Nick van Dell has shown flashes of his potential and will be a solid leader for Hand for years to come.
On Friday night, he showed why Hand can be a dangerous team this fall.The 15-year-old sophomore quarterback threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score as Hand (4-1) won its fourth consecutive game with a 35-24 victory over Cheshire (2-3) at the Maclary Complex.
“Nick van Dell is a phenomenal football player,” said Hand coach Steve Filippone. “He is doing things as a sophomore that very accomplished quarterbacks can’t do as seniors. He has tremendous mobility and poise and seldom makes a mistake.”Van Dell made two big plays in the first half that gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead, finding senior wideout Tom Wilson in the end zone for 14-yard touchdowns in both the first and second quarters.“He’s a good, young football player and he made some plays against us,” said Cheshire coach Don Drust. “But it was nothing we couldn’t answer.”
True enough. Cheshire countered with a Josh MacNiven 1-yard touchdown run and, after van Dell was intercepted in the end zone trying to force a throw, Matt D’Andrea’s 34-yard field goal on the final play of the first half pulled the Rams within 14-10 at the break.
“(Van Dell) had two interceptions tonight, but he was trying to make plays,” said Filippone. “He learned something tonight and he’s going to grow exponentially.”
Van Dell connected with Josh DeMartino for a 21-yard TD pass to make it 21-10 before a 69-yard scoring run by Conor Dowd (19 carries, 132 yards) broke Cheshire’s back midway through the third quarter.
“That was a blown assignment,” said Drust. “And it was a big play that changed things.”
A Jack Cunningham (18 carries, 104 yards) run and the two-point conversion closed it to 28-18, but that would be as close as the Rams got the rest of the night.
Van Dell scored from 2 yards out for Hand’s final score of the night while Cunningham connected with Andrew Yamin on an option pass to close out the scoring for Cheshire.
“We turned the ball over too much, and you have to win the turnover battle in a big game,” said Drust. “We told them we had to take care of the football.”
Despite the win, Filippone wasn’t overly happy.
“I think we were flat tonight,” he said. “I don’t think we played as well as we did against North Haven last week.”
On the other side, Drust said he’ll have to look at the film for some answers.
“We made some mistakes that we have to fix,” he said. “But we fought like heck and the kids played hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Hand 35, Cheshire 24
Hand 7 7 14 7 — 35
Cheshire 0 10 0 14 — 24
H—Tom Wilson 14 pass from Nick Van Dell (Tyler Phan kick)Second quarter
H—Tom Wilson 14 pass from Nick Van Dell (Tyler Phan kick)
C—Josh MacNiven 1 run (Matt D’Andrea kick)
C—Matt D’Andrea 34 FG Third quarter
H—Josh DeMartino 21 pass from Nick Van Dell (Tyler Phan kick)
H—Connor Dowd 69 run (Tyler Phan kick)Fourth quarter
C—Jack Cunningham 5 run (Matt Covel pass from MacNiven)
H—Nick Van Dell 2 run (Tyler Phan kick)
C—Andrew Yamin 13 pass from Jack Cunningham (kick failed)
Team records: Cheshire 2-3; Hand 4-1