WEST HAVEN – Even in a game with 835 combined total yards of offense, that defense made the two biggest plays of the game comes as no surprise to the West Haven football team.
A fumble recovery by Jakai Manning off a bad snap and stuffed 2-point conversion attempt by Sheilan Velazquez in the fourth quarter propelled the Westies to a 35-26 victory over North Haven in a Division I contest at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Friday evening.
“We played better in the second half,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said after his team improved to 7-0. “We told the kids North Haven is a very good team. We made some big plays. I thought the biggest play was the fumble recovery (Manning).”
Trailing for a majority of the first half and through three quarters, West Haven awakened and outscored North Haven 21-6 in the final 12 minutes of the game. While Anthony Godfrey added a pair of scores and Kyle Godfrey added another in the quarter, it was Manning’s play which turned the game around.
The Westies were ahead 21-20 following a 10-yard score by Kyle Godfrey. But North Haven was driving for another go-ahead score. The Indians, however, made an errant snap and Manning won a foot race with Jamorea Hooks to recover it for the Westies at the North Haven 19.
Three plays later, Anthony Godfrey scampered in from 13 yards out for a 28-20 lead with 7:41 remaining in the game.
“We keep feeding him the ball and he keeps delivering,” Boshea said of Anthony Godfrey. “Chris Chance is a great third weapon for us. Teams will try to stop Anthony Godfrey and Kyle Godfrey, then we have Chris Chance.”
North Haven responded when Max Sullivan scored from nine yards out to cap a 9-play, 80-yard drive and pull within two with 3:53 remaining.
Velazquez would then come up with West Haven’s second big defensive play. Mark Montano looked as if he had the edge to get the tying points, but Velazquez made a great open field tackle to stop the conversion and keep West Haven on top, 28-26.
“Our coaches kept telling us what we had to do,” Velazquez said. “They told us to be ready all game long. We were able to make some big plays. We just came up with a big play there to stop them. They are a tough team, but we were able to make the stop.”
Anthony Godfrey then ended any hopes of a North Haven comeback with a 20-yard score in the final minute.
“We came out flat in the first half,” Anthony Godfrey said after finishing with 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. “We had to get in the right mind in the second half. We got the job done. The offensive line did its job. All the hard work they put in showed tonight. They opened the holes for me.”
The fourth quarter run by the Westies overshadowed a strong first half performance by the Indians in which they controlled play and gave a glimpse of how tough it was going to be for the Westies.
“They woke up,” said North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella, whose team fell to 3-4. “That did not surprise me. They have some great backs. They are on a championship mission.”
The first half belonged to the Indians in just about every offensive category. The Indians held a 216-198 advantage in yards, 36-19 advantage in plays, and held the ball for all but 1:51 of the first quarter.
North Haven set the tone of the opening quarter on the game’s first drive, holding the ball for 5:17 and marching 12 plays and 80 yards on the ground. Sullivan capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:43 left in the opening quarter.
The Westies, ranked fourth in the Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, quickly answered in one play as Anthony Godfrey broke around the left edge and raced 65 yards untouched for a score to even the game at seven just 14 seconds later.
The Indians mixed things up on their second drive, throwing twice in a 7-play, 73-yard drive. The two passes would prove big as the first was for eight yards and the second from Montano to Kyle Melillo was 20 yards to the West Haven 17.
Just one play later, the Indians again had the lead as Montano raced in from 17 yards out to give North Haven a 13-7 advantage with 3:19 left in the opening quarter.
The Westies tightened up defensively, forcing a pair of North Haven punts. But the Indians turned to their defense to keep West Haven off the board and increase North Haven’s lead to 20-7. After a Montano interception stopped one West Haven drive, he scooped up a West Haven fumble and raced 20 yards for a 20-7 lead with 3:36 to go in the first half.
The Westies needed just four plays to respond as Anthony Godfrey used a 70-yard run to open the drive and Kyle Godfrey ran in from two yards out three plays later to get the Westies within 20-14 with 2:12 left in the half.
Kyle Godfrey ran for 64 yards and two scores, while Chance ran for 74 yards on 10 carries in the win. Tom Dodge led North Haven with 131 yards on 24 carries.