NORTH HAVEN >> Never tell the North Haven football team they can’t, because they will.
Most pundits considered the Indians underdogs against No. 2 Xavier, the three-time defending Class LL champion.
But through grit, determination and believing, the Indians stunned the Falcons in a dramatic 42-28 upset Friday at Vanacore Field.
“The fact that everyone said we couldn’t,” said North Haven senior Ethan Suraci about what helped fuel North Haven. “For nine months, since last November, we’ve been playing for this very moment. We love playing on a big stage. In the pregame, we said that we didn’t need anyone else (to believe); we didn’t need the state of Connecticut, the SCC, we don’t need anybody. We have ourselves, we have our (football) brothers. We played for our family.”
The North Haven student section rushed the field as time expired to celebrate, perhaps, the biggest win in school history.
“Probably (the biggest win),” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “We had some good ones, but this is certainly up there.”
With the score tied at 21 with under four minutes left in the third quarter, North Haven senior Fred Sanchez made his second interception of the evening. On the very next play, Mike Halloran connected with Zach Kastehuber on a 50-yard touchdown pass to give the Indians (2-0) the lead for good.
North Haven picked off Xavier quarterback Joe Carbone three times — Evan Manemeit had the other one — and the Indians did a solid job of containing both Carbone and Falcons running back Andrew Meoli.
“We worked so hard as a team to make sure we were disciplined and that we were in our right spots,” Sanchez said.
Manemeit caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Halloran in the second quarter to put the Indians up 21-13 at halftime. Xavier (1-1) tied the game in the third quarter when Nate Gonzalez caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Carbone, who then found Nick Bisio on the two-point conversion pass to even the score at 21.
But the Falcons allowed too many big plays — Halloran and Kastehuber connected on a 71-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter — and did a poor job of tackling.
“It was a series of little mistakes here and there, over and over again,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said. “We had opportunities early on offense and we didn’t execute properly. That’s one of the things we were talking about, attention to details and focusing on the little things. We weren’t very good at that tonight.”
Carbone, who completed 12 of 23 passes for 180 yards and rushed 15 times for 56 yards, scored on a 16-yard run in the second quarter. He then threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Noah Cruz (six catches, 104 yards) that cut the lead to 35-28 in the fourth. Meoli added 107 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
Suraci (12 carries, 142 yards) scored on touchdown runs of 45 and 39 yards in the second half. Halloran, who scored on a 24-yard run, completed just 4 of 14 passes for 143 yards, but three of the four completions went for TDs. Kicker Sabrina Fronte made all six extra points she attempted.
“We thought coming into the season that we could be a little more diverse (on offense),” Sagnella said. “We had to. We only completed 19 passes last year; that’s not good. It’s hard to defend our passing game if you’re going to overreact to the running game. Many times I thought that’s what took place and we got kids behind people and they made plays. Mike Halloran made throws, Zach and Evan made catches, and that’s important.”
North Haven 42, Xavier 28
(at North Haven)
XAVIER 0 13 8 7 — 28
NORTH HAVEN 7 14 0 21 — 42
- N—Michael Halloran 24 run (Sabrina Fronte kick)
- X—Andrew Meoli 2 run (kick failed)
- N—Zach Kastehuber 71 pass from Michael Halloran (Fronte kick)
- X—Joe Carbone 16 run (Ricky Verre kick)
- N—Evan Manemeit 13 pass from Michael Halloran (Fronte kick)
- X—Nate Gonzalez 21 pass from Joe Carbone (Nick Bisio pass from Carbone)
- N—Zach Kastehuber 50 pass from Michael Halloran (Fronte kick)
- N—Ethan Suraci 45 run (Fronte kick)
- X—Noah Cruz 28 pass from Joe Carbone (Verre kick)
- N—Ethan Suraci 39 run (Fronte kick)
Team records: North Haven 2-0; Xavier 1-1-