WEST HARTFORD >> With possibly 24 minutes left in their high school careers, Ervin Philips and Duane Gary were not going to let the season end.
Trailing by one point after a flat first half, Philips and Gary ignited the Westies to the tune of 30 third-quarter points, leading sixth-seeded West Haven to a 51-26 victory over No. 3 Hall in the quarterfinals of the Class LL state tournament Tuesday night.
With the win, West Haven gets a chance to avenge a Thanksgiving Day loss to Fairfield Prep when the two teams meet again Saturday at 2 p.m. at Trumbull High.
“We just came out flat in the first half,” Philips said after rushing for 144 yards and four touchdowns. “We should have been doing that all along. We knew we could come back.”
Trailing 14-13 to start the third, West Haven wasted no time taking the lead for good, scoring three times in 3 minutes, 22 seconds. Philips capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive on West Haven’s first possession with a 3-yard score for a 19-14 lead just 3:16 in.
After forcing Hall to punt, West Haven used a 41-yard run by Anton Graham to set up Philips with a 9-yard score just 1:12 later for a 27-14 lead after Philips hit Gary on the conversion.
“We have some playmakers,” West Haven coach Ed McCarthy said. “It was just a matter of making the plays.”
The Warriors (9-2) never backed down and were in position to make it a one-score game again when quarterback Tom Honyotski quickly moved Hall to the West Haven 3-yard line. Javone Bellamy fumbled and Gary made the recovery, his second of the game, in the end zone for a touchback.
On the next play, Gary hit Zatrell Lyons in stride for an 80-yard touchdown and a 35-14 lead after Philips ran in the conversion with 5:22 left in the third.
“We did not want the season to end,” Gary said after throwing for 122 yards. “The coaches asked us if the bus ride home was going to be a long one or a happy one. We wanted to keep playing. We came out a different team in the third quarter.”
Gary capped the 30-0 run with an 8-yard score for a 43-14 lead with 8.6 seconds to go in the quarter.
“Honestly, I thought we came out flat to start the game,” McCarthy said after his team improved to 10-2. “We are a tired team. We are not the same team we were two weeks ago.
“I just think the kids did not want to go home. They did not want the season to end. Other than the 96-yard fumble recovery in the first half, we did not do much.”
The Warriors showed early they didnt’ plan on being an easy opponent when Honyotski threw for 70 yards on Hall’s second drive and hit Octovio Thomas with a 30-yard scoring strike with 3:59 left in the opening quarter. West Haven evened the game on its next possession when Philips scored from 4 yards out just 1:02 into the second.
“This is great for our program,” Philips said. “We have not won a playoff game in a long time.”
Honyotski looked as if he was going to put Hall on top during the Warriors’ next possession, but Hall fumbled and Gary scooped up the loose ball and raced 96 yards for the score and a 13-7 lead with 9:27 left in the half.
“I am just trying to be a leader out there,” Gary said. “I am just trying to pick up my team. I was always taught to play hard until the whistle blows. That’s what I did.”
Honyotski, who finished with 407 yards passing and three touchdowns but was victimized by numerous drops, put Hall on top with 2:54 left in the half when he connected with Robert Parra on an 11-yard score for a 14-13 lead.
“It’s not often you can say their guy threw for 400 yards and you won,” McCarthy said. “They have good team speed and all their receivers are good. They have a good scheme. You are not going to win too many games giving up 400 yards.”
West Haven 51, Hall 26
(at West Hartford)
West Haven 0 13 30 8 — 51
Hall 7 7 0 12 — 26
H—Octovio Thomas 30 pass from Tom Honyotski (Honyotski kick)
W—Ervin Philips 4 run (Tayvon Gibbs kick)
W—Duane Gary 96 fumb ret (kick failed)
H—Rob Parra 11 pass from Tom Honyotski (Honyotski kick)
W—Ervin Philips 3 run (pass failed)
W—Ervin Philips 9 run (Gary pass from Philips)
W—Zatrell Lyons 80 pass from Duane Gary (Philips run)
W—Duane Gary 8 run (Lyons pass from Gary)
H—fumb recovery in endzone (kick failed)
W—Ervin Philips 14 run (Anton Graham rush)
H—Rob Parra 16 pass from Tom Honyotski (pass failed)
Team records: Hall 9-2; West Haven 10-2
Woodland 47, Morgan 21