NEW HAVEN >> The Hand football team has been known as quite a potent offensive team over the past couple of years.
The Tigers showed Friday afternoon they are more than just an offensive squad against Wilbur Cross.
Clinging to a four-point halftime lead, the Tigers forced a turnover on Cross’ first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Hand scored two plays later and never looked back in a 37-24 win over the Governors at the Wilbur Cross Athletic Complex.
“That turnover was big,” Hand coach Steve Filippone said after his team improved to 2-1. “They have some great athletes over there. Their quarterback is a good player. They are a good team. I thought we made some plays, but I also thought we shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties and giving them extra yards.”
Cross could not stop Nick Van Dell as the Hand quarterback threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns, three in the decisive third quarter, in this SCC Division I game.
“I thought he had a great day,” Filippone said of Van Dell. “He made some plays out there for us. I thought the offensive line did a nice job for us, giving us some time.”
The Tigers scored 27 points in the third quarter, After Ben Onofrio recovered that Cross fumble, Van Dell hit Mark Hill with a 15-yard touchdown strike.
Then the Tigers needed 10 plays to take a 24-6 lead. Van Dell hit Hill for 16 yards, then capped the drive with a 6-yard scoring strike to a diving Shane Sweitzer.
Sweitzer was hurt on the play, and following the lengthy delay and Tyler Phan’s extra point, the Governors quickly responded. Quarterback A.J. Consiglio hit Wali McKelvey with a short pass and McKelvey raced 69 yards untouched down the sideline to get the Governors within 24-12.
Two possessions later, Hand was on the board again. Van Dell capped a five-play, 53-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run for a 31-12 lead.
“The turnover hurt,” Cross coach John Acquavita said after his team fell to 2-1. “We had a chance to get some points early and we did not do it. We talked about taking it to them early in the game and making a statement to start the second half and we did not do that.”
The Governors tried to get back in the game when Jason Atterberry returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for the score, but Van Dell connected with Andrew Fitzgerald for a 60-yard score and a 37-18 Hand lead before the third quarter ended.
In a game which saw both offenses combine for 345 yards of offense in the first half, Hand led only 10-6 at halftime. The Governors twice got inside the Hand 10-yard line, but each time came away empty.
After McKelvey intercepted Van Dell at the Hand 44 on the first drive of the game, Cross used five plays and a pass interference on the Tigers to get to the Hand 6, but stalled when Consiglio’s pass fell incomplete on fourth down.
The Tigers scored first, taking advantage of excellent field position,
starting at the Cross 31. Six plays moved the Tigers to the 10, before Phan drilled a 27-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead.
Hand’s defense set up its first touchdown of the game as the Tigers stalled a Cross drive at the Hand 43 when Taylor Houghton recovered a Tyvon Bradley fumble. Eight plays later, Van Dell hit Sweitzer in stride for a 21-yard score and a 10-0 lead.
The Governors again threatened on their second possession of the second quarter, but stalled at the Hand 10 when Consiglio’s pass on fourth down fell incomplete. One possession later, Cross was on the scoreboard.
A 12-yard connection from Consiglio to J.L. Gomez-Stafford and a roughing the passer penalty set up Cross at the Hand 16. Three plays later, Consiglio connected with McKelvey in the corner of the end zone for the score, cutting the deficit to 10-6 after the point after failed.
“He got better as the game went on,” Acquavita said of Consiglio. “He made some big passes.”
Consiglio finished 28-of-46 for 322 yards and three touchdown passes to McKelvey.