MADISON – Welcome to Hand football, circa 2000.
Without the personnel to run the spread offense, the Tigers went back to their old days on offense, utilizing the I-formation, wing and shotgun. The spread offense, which helped generate two states titles earlier in the decade is gone. It’s ground and pound and throw once in a while.
But Hand struggled on offense for most of the night and suffered a 26-20 loss to Fairfield Prep in overtime on a sweltering opening night of the 2016 season at the Surf Club.
“We’re just not a good football team on offense,” Hand coach Steve Filippone said. “We just can’t do it. We got tired. Defensively, we played very well but in key fourth down situations, but they got two touchdowns.”
Fairfield Prep had a tough time of things early, but played much better in the second half as the Jesuits’ defense held the Tigers to six points in the second half.
“The penalties were too many and we have to play a tighter game,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “It’s never easy at the Surf Club. This was a character win.”
— Ffld Prep Football (@Prep_Football) September 10, 2016
In overtime, Hand kept going backwards in its possession and turned the ball over. With a chance to win it right there, the Jesuits lost four yards on their first play.
However, the Tigers were flagged for ripping off the face mask of Nick Mirabile on second down and Fairfield Prep had the ball at the Hand 8.
Yale-bound quarterback Patrick Conte (21-for-36 passing for 175 yards) hit wide receiver Connor Byrne in stride for the touchdown that ended it.
“Receivers were making plays and all 11 guys were making plays in the fourth quarter and overtime,” Conte said.
It was a game that Hand could have put away early as the Tigers started drives four times inside the Prep 35, but the struggled to get the ball in the end zone at times.
Hand finally got on the board near the end of the first quarter when Mike Burchell scored the first of his three touchdowns on the night with 1:12 left in the period. Chris Bartosic added the extra point to make it 7-0.
Burchell scooted in from 16 yards out with 5:44 remaining in the half to take a 14-0 lead.
However, Fairfield Prep’s Anthony Mastroni scooted in from 9 yards out a minute and a half to close it to 14-7 at the break.
Conte closed out a 19-play drive with 5:56 left in the third quarter for a touchdown, but Hand’s Nik Avery blocked the extra point, leaving things at 14-3.
On the very first play from scrimmage after that, Burchell scored his third touchdown of the game with an 83-yard jaunt to put the Tigers ahead 20-13.
Conte connected with a wide open Phillip DeJesus across the middle for 32 yards and a touchdown with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
Both teams had chances in the final quarter but were stopped inside the other team’s 20-yard line.
“The kids did a far better job executing in the second half,” Hellstern said. “We just played on a short field in the first half.”
Fairfield Prep 26, Hand 20 (OT)
Fairfield Prep 0 7 13 0 6 — 26
Hand 7 7 6 0 0 — 20
H—Mike Burchell 1 run (Chris Bartosic kick)
H—Mike Burchell 16 run (Bartosic kick)
F—Anthony Mastroni 9 run (Andfrew Hickey kick)
F—Patrick Conte 3 run (kick blocked)
H—Mike Burchell 83 run (pass failed)
F—Phillip DeJesus 32 pass from Patrick Conte (Hickey kick)
F—Connor Byrne 8 pass from Patrick Conte
Team records: Hand 0-1; Fairfield Prep 1-0