North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella called the Indians offense more diverse this season.
The stats speak for themselves. Eight players carried the ball in North Haven’s 42-8 victory over Bridgeport Central on Friday as the Indians rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite the graduation of running back Jalon White, who gained 1,824 yards and scored 24 touchdowns as a senior last season, North Haven’s running game appears to be just as effective, even without White leading the way.
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North Haven prides itself on controlling the clock with its single-wing offensive attack. That deceptive style of offense will likely still cause fits for opponents this year.
“I think we’re capable of being more balanced this year than last season,” Sagnella said. “We’re still built to chew the clock and shorten the game, but that doesn’t mean we won’t mix things up.”
Sagnella noted that the Indians threw just 19 passes all last season. Against Bridgeport Central, North Haven quarterbacks completed 5 of 10 passes for 70 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown from Mike Halloran to Zac Kastenhuber.
“We’re more diverse,” Sagnella said. “We’re missing that fast strike with a kid. Jalon could take the ball on every given down and score. But that could be a good and a bad thing. It’s good because he saved you with a lot of first downs but bad because sometimes we relied on him all the time.”
Sagnella said he’s been pleased with the offense’s progression throughout the preseason and during the first game. Sophomore Mike Montano rushed eight times for 157 yards and a touchdown, senior Ethan Suraci carried 12 times for 57 yards and two scores and junior Cole Pecora gained 68 yards on seven carries and one touchdown in the win.
The coach was also impressed with the Indians’ defensive effort against an athletic Bridgeport Central squad.
“We were concerned with (the Hilltoppers’) speed and athleticism, and they had some big kids up front,” Sagnella said. “We’re not big on D but we ran well. The kids like to get to the ball. We got to the ball on D very well and we tackled well, which gives you a chance.”
The North Haven defense will again be challenged when three-time defending Class LL champion Xavier (1-0) visits Vanacore Field on Friday at 7 p.m. The Indians lost 49-12 in Middletown last season.
“Most of our players played in that game last year,” Sagnella said. “They won’t be star struck. I am hoping they go out and play football. I hope our team shows up. I hate to say this, but I hope it has that Surf Club environment. I hope our players show up, I hope our fans show up. That’s what you play the game for.”
JACK IS BACK
Jack Cochran won eight state titles during stints at Bloomfield, New Britain and New London, but he took on arguably his toughest challenge when he was hired at Harding in June. The Presidents haven’t had a winning season since 1996 and were 8-81 over the last eight years entering this season.
In Cochran’s debut at Harding on Wednesday, the Presidents scored three second-half touchdowns en route to a 32-14 victory over Law. The game was knotted at 14 at halftime.
The win was a tremendous confidence boost for the young and inexperienced Presidents, who went 0-9 last season.
“That part was unbelievable,” Cochran said. “No one who dressed Wednesday night had ever won a varsity game before. They got some validation for their hard work.”
It’s certainly been a work in progress at Harding, which was led by senior linebacker/wide receiver Reggie David and junior quarterback Christian Hopkins in the win over Law.
“It a daily process, just trying to build on the fundamentals and the basics,” Cochran said. “It’s the little things we stress every day.”
Derby rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat St. Paul 49-45 Friday in, perhaps, the opening weekend’s most thrilling finish.
The Red Raiders trailed by three with 2:05 left to play when Derby recovered its second onside kick of the contest. That led to the game-winner, with junior quarterback Mike Kreiger scoring on a 8-yard run with 40 seconds remaining.
Kreiger talked about the comeback following the game.
“It (winning in comeback fashion) says Derby football,” Kreiger said. “Never give up, never. Everyone of these kids fight. Everyone of these kids fight until the end.
“It’s something special, absolutely something special playing for this team.”
Kreiger played big when the team needed him the most. He finished with 153 passing yards and two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 160 yards and two more scores.
“I’m absolutely speechless on how well he played,” Derby coach George French said. “He took over the game. He wanted it, and he totally took control of it. I’ve never been more proud of him.”
It’s been quite awhile since the Red Raiders rallied from a large deficit to emerge victorious. On Sept. 18, 1999, Derby trailed Wilbur Cross by two touchdown with six minutes left before coming back for a 62-55 victory.
Last season, the Red Raiders went 6-4 to record their first winning season since 1996. Derby hosts Holy Cross (1-0) on Friday.
“Obviously it gives us a lot of confidence,” Kreiger said. “1-0 going into Holy Cross, who is actually a very good defensive team, so we just got to play it by week. We have to keep chucking forward.”
FOR THE RECORD
• North Haven sophomore kicker Sabrina Fronte became the first female to score a point in SCC history when she made all six extra points she attempted against Bridgeport Central.
Fronte’s contribution is a strength for a team historically lacking at the place kicking position.
“In the short history of North Haven kickers it’s a pretty good accomplishment, just to be automatic,” Sagnella said. “There’s some years where we stress over that (place kicking). She’s very business-like. She doesn’t seem to get rattled.”
Sagnella said the team has three other players (all males) who are capable of kicking, but Fronte won the job after she made all 18 extra point kicks she attempted during a preseason competition between the kickers.
The coach noted that Fronte’s field goal range is between 32 and 34 yards.
“She’s only a sophomore, so I anticipate her getting a little stronger, at least her leg speed with time,” Sagnella said. “I am confident on calling on her to kick a field goal when we get inside the 15-yard line. The team’s happy with her. She’s contributing to make the team successful.”
The state record for points and most points after touchdown in a single game by a female is nine, accomplished by NFA’s Elisa Formiglio against Newtown in the Class LL state quarterfinals last November.
• Ansonia senior running back Arkeel Newsome set the state record for career points in the Chargers’ 52-7 victory over Torrington on Friday.
Newsome scored three times and now has scored 758 career points, surpassing the 747 points set by former Ansonia standout Alex Thomas.
• Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore earned his 100th career victory when the Colonels defeated RHAM 42-6 on Thursday.
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