North Haven (2-0) at No. 5 Notre Dame-WH (2-0)
NORTH HAVEN >> The single wing offense has been largely successful for North Haven. The Indians have reached the state playoffs in five of the last eight seasons. Since 2007, North Haven has compiled a record of 64-27, including two victories to start this season.
But the Indians have won just one playoff game during that span, a 35-0 victory over Platt in the Class L quarterfinals in 2013. North Haven was then shutout by eventual champion New Canaan 17-0 in the semifinals. The Indians lost a 22-6 decision to eventual champion Windsor in last season’s Class L-Small semifinals.
Some pundits feel in order for North Haven to take the next step and capture the program’s first state title, the Indians’ offense needs to become more diverse.
When posed that question, North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said: “Yes and no. I think you have to be who you are.”
The Indians still operate out of the single wing, but North Haven has implemented some spread formations into their arsenal this year.
“We have more diverse athletes,” Sagnella said. “We do some spread stuff now. I think a lot of that is personnel. We’ve always tried to build around what we’ve had to work with, and this year we have an experienced team. We have an experienced line, and we have a little more skill — diverse skill.”
Senior Mike Montano and Jack Steinman, a 6-foot-3, 210 pound junior, have shared duties at quarterback.
“Jack is more of a pocket type passer,” Sagnella said. “But he’s also capable of doing many other things. We’re trying to just put our kids in a position to be as a successful as we can.”
Sagnella called Montano (5-11, 185) a “true” single wing tailback.
“He can run, and he can throw well enough,” Sagnella said. “He can block. He can catch passes. He’s a tremendous leader. He’s intelligent. Most importantly, in terms of football, he worked his tail off in the offseason. He’s in great shape. He’s fiercely competitive. We’re lucky to have a kid like that.”
Steinman and Montano have combined to complete 7 of 10 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns this season. The Indians tossed just seven touchdown passes all of last season.
“It’s a good change of pace,” North Haven senior receiver Jeremy Imperati said. “We’ve been practicing throwing the ball all summer, and we’re really implementing it in the games.
“We tried it in the past, but it really didn’t work out. But we have Jack, he’s 6-3, he can throw the ball well, and our line’s blocked really well in our pass sets.”
While Steinman’s development has been key, so has Imperati’s. Imperati (6-2, 220) has four catches for 116 yards and two touchdown this year.
“Jeremy is a Division I athlete, which we haven’t had too many of those here,” Sagnella said. “He’s got that kind of ability. I think he’s starting to mature and realize that he’s a little different on the field than a lot of the other kids. He gets better and better every week. I’m not sure what the ceiling is for a kid like that.
“He can certainly present a challenge to the opponent that, when he’s out there as a receiver, he might be better than a lot of the kids trying to cover him. That hasn’t always been the case for us in years past. He’s a great kid. He’s a team guy. He blocks as hard as he runs a pass route.”
Imperati will be just one of the talented skill players on the field tonight when North Haven (2-0) travels to Notre Dame-West Haven (2-0), ranked fifth in the Register poll, in an anticipated SCC interdivision clash. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Veterans Field in West Haven.
The Green Knights have a star-studded cast of their own in senior quarterback Christian Lupoli, senior running backs Prince Brooks and Kobe Wiggins and junior receiver Nico Ragaini.
“It’s a huge test, the biggest game of the year,” said Imperati, who is leaning towards Dartmouth as a college choice. “They have a lot of good backs. They have a lot of good skill with Ragaini and Brooks, and Lupoli can definitely throw the ball. Defense will definitely be a huge test for us.”
Sagnella is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s going to be an interesting match up,” Sagnella said. “Our offense lends itself to be physical, so I think that’s going to be an interesting challenge, to see who can control the line of scrimmage. Then, when you’re looking at all the skill on the field, you have to prevent big plays. You can’t give anybody skilled on the field a seam or crease because they will make you pay for it. It has the potential to be a very good game. We’re going to have to play our best football to even be on the field with them.”