— Paul Doyle (@PaulDoyle1) November 28, 2018
WINDSOR — It began with one offense responding to another offense, a touchdown 2 minutes, 28 seconds into the game and another just over 2 minutes later.
Neither team, it seemed, could stop the other.
But Windsor coach Rob Fleeting and his staff calmed their players and were teaching on the fly Tuesday night. The adjustments were steadily implemented and, sure enough, the tide turned.
After the early offense, things settled between Windsor and North Haven in the Class L quarterfinal game. It evolved into a battle of defenses as Windsor advanced with a 34-14 victory.
“I think it’s just kids getting used to habits,” Fleeting said. “Just seeing things over and over again. They tend to get better at playing faster. We watch a lot of film on North Haven. Sometimes it’s never the real thing until they kind of get into it.”
Indeed, Windsor (9-2) pitched a second-half shutout after struggling to stop North Haven (8-3) early. And North Haven, which trailed 21-14 at the half, contained Windsor after the break — a touchdown on an interception and another came in the final few minutes.
The interception by Windsor’s Jashaud Jenkins, returned 35 yards for the score, came 49 seconds into the second half and thwarted North Haven’s hopes of seizing control of the game and stifled the comeback.
— Elliott Polakoff (@ElliottPolakoff) November 28, 2018
“That definitely turned the tide for us,” Fleeting said. “We kind of rolled from there.”
Windsor got 130 yards and a touchdown from Chante Adger while quarterback Courtenay Jackson was 10 of 14 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdown passes were thrown to Gabriel Bryan — 33 yards to open the scoring, 32 yards to cap the game with 1:46 remaining.
North Haven got touchdown runs from Noah Pastore and Shamus Meehan.
“They proved to be a little too much for us,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “Their passing game kind of found some weaknesses in us tonight and took advantage of us.”
Chante Adger 15 yard run as Windsor drives pic.twitter.com/lhiAJMiPft
— Paul Doyle (@PaulDoyle1) November 28, 2018
And the Windsor the defense found its footing, especially in the second half.
“I just think my kids played better, recognized things a little better, were able to hold their ground so that the linebackers could come up and make better plays,” Fleeting said. “It was just more about the recognition, being able to play faster. … It’s more about trying to see what’s broken, or who’s out of place.”
In the moments after the game ended, tearful North Haven players congregated at midfield. They talked and hugged and shared the field for the final time.
It’s a tradition in the program, as underclassmen tell the seniors what they meant to them.
“To play football is a huge commitment,” Sagnella said. “It’s a grueling game and it’s a game of humility. The seniors have led and demonstrated that the best in our program, because they’re the oldest. This is their goodbye and it’s unfortunate that it ends with a loss in a playoff game. But they are entitled to be told what they have meant to the program. … That’s all the emotion. It’s great. Because football is a game of emotion, it’s a game of highs and lows and this is a little bit of both.”
North Haven, is a young team, was making its sixth playoff appearance in eight years. Windsor, which beat North Haven in the 2014 playoffs, is making its seventh playoff appearance in eight years.
Yet both program battled to reach the post season. Windsor overcame injuries and Fleeting said he is immensely proud of the understudies who stepped up throughout the season.
And North Haven, lacking experience, was not expected to advance to the postseason. At least that’s what the coach thought.
“If you had said to me in August that we were going to be in the playoffs, I would have been, ‘Really?’” Sagnella said. “Because we only really had four seniors or so that had significant experience. The team grew. I thought we grew up quickly and we made a lot of progress as the season went on. I’m proud of them for that.”
WINDSOR 34, NORTH HAVEN 14
NORTH HAVEN 7 7 0 0 — 14
WINDSOR 14 7 6 7 — 34
- Windsor: Gabriel Bryan 32 pass from Courtenay Jackson (Boden Gapko kick)
- North Haven: Noah Pastore 1 run (Chase DiCarlo kick)
- Windsor: Toryal Dale 32 pass from Courtenay Jackson (Boden Gapko kick)
- North Haven: Shamus Meehan 1 run (Chase DiCarlo kick)
- Windsor: Chante Adger 15 run (Boden Gapko kick)
- Windsor: Jashaud Jenkins 35 interception return (kick failed)
- Windsor: Gabriel Bryan 33 pass from Courtenay Jackson (Boden Gapko kick)
North Haven (8-3); Windsor (9-2)