MIDDLETOWN >> After losing five fumbles in the first quarter, the Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech football team never had a chance Friday night.
Bullard Havens Tech senior running back Jose Cotto scored three touchdowns and senior quarterback Chris McNamara returned from an injury to toss three touchdown passes as the Tigers blasted the Bellhawks, 44-0, at Palmer Field.
It was the Tigers (5-2) fourth straight Constitution State Conference victory.
“We’ll move on from here and keep this thing going,” said Bullard Havens coach John Johnson, now in his 10th season. “We’re not going to worry too much about looking at playoff standings or anything like that. We have to continue to improve and get better, which we are at this point.”
The Bellhawks fumbled the ball almost every time they touched it in the first quarter and the Tigers took advantage, building a 24-0 lead.
“It almost seemed like it was a curse tonight,” said Bellhawks coach Joe Cefaratti. “It’s unfortunate but good teams bounce back and run the ball and gain yardage and score points and we didn’t do that.”
Tigers linebacker Hakeem Fletcher and defensive end Hector Mendez spearheaded a defense that held the Bellhawks to 22 total yards.
“I was very proud of the way we played defensively,” Johnson said. “Fletcher is a leader and he did a great job tonight. And Mendez made some big plays off the edge.”
The Bellhawks (3-4) were without leading rusher Evan Salisbury (sick). They also lost junior tight end Brian Owen (shoulder injury) in the first half.
“We didn’t have Evan and I don’t think it would have made a difference but sometimes psychologically that affects a team too,” added Cefaratti.
The Tigers set the tone on the game’s second play from scrimmage when McNamara found Ryshon Penix wide open for a 56 yard touchdown pass play.
Cotto made it 12-0 with a 6-yard TD scamper midway through the first quarter and then on the first play after recovering a fumble, McNamara zipped a 38 yard TD pass to Fletcher for an 18-0 lead.
Later in the half, McNamara, who completed 6-of-11 passes for 126 yards, hit Justin Banks with a 19-yard TD toss.
Bullard Havens (Bridgeport) led 38-0 at halftime
“We got our quarterback back,” said Johnson. “He’s been hurt the last couple of weeks and that made a big difference. They attempted to load the box and stop the run and he was able to throw the ball around. We had single coverage on the outside and he had three touchdowns to three different receivers.”
Cotto, who has gained over 1000 rushing yards this season, also had TD runs of 41 and 37 yards in the first half and finished with 108 yards rushing.
It was the Bellhawks third straight loss.
“We’ve got to pick up the pieces and regroup,” Cefaratti said. “That’s the bottom line. We’ve got four games left and we’ll prepare them for all four and let the cards fall the way they fall.”