NEW HAVEN >> When Hillhouse senior Tyler Williams began his high school career, he figured he’d have plenty of chances to play home games at Bowen Field.
In the end, he got just one, but he made the most of it on Thursday.
He caught two touchdown passes and earned defensive MVP honors as Hillhouse won the Elm City Bowl 40-20 over city rival Wilbur Cross.
Due to lengthy renovations and delays, it was the first football game at Bowen Field in three seasons and the first Elm City Bowl to be played there since 2011.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that we basically made history winning the first game on the new field,” Williams said. “I thought I would play more here, but they didn’t get it done fast enough, I guess.”
After losing 8-6 to Wilbur Cross last season, the Academics (8-2) have now won five of six and eight of 10 in the series (and lead 58-31-7 all-time). But their move to Class L from M this season means eight wins isn’t quite enough to qualify for the state playoffs. The Acs finished 40 points behind Middletown for the final spot.
“I’m happy for the seniors to at least get the game here today,” Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle said. “We still have a big group of young kids coming back, and they’ll get to play here all the time next year thankfully, and hopefully finish what we started today.”
The Governors finished 2-8 but were competitive in most games, including on Thursday. In the end, they actually outgained Hillhouse 314-311. Cross took an early 8-0 lead when quarterback Zion Setal hit Will Simmons for a 30-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
But one of the key plays in the game came on Hillhouse’s next possession. An offensive pass interference penalty and a personal foul had the Academics facing 4th-and-goal from the 37-yard line.
And they scored the touchdown.
Damien Henderson found C.J. Corbett in the corner of the end zone.
David Harris — all 5 feet 5, 125 pounds of him — then had a rushing TD to put Hillhouse ahead. On Cross’ next possession, Harris returned an interception 79 yards for a score to give the Acs an 18-8 lead at the half.
Henderson and Williams connected for the first time for a 27-yard TD on the first possession of the second half to give Hillhouse a commanding lead, but Cross didn’t quit. Senior defensive lineman Duane Rogers got his hands up on a screen pass, picked it off and rumbled 15 yards for a touchdown on his way to being the Governors’ defensive MVP. The score cut the Hillhouse lead to 24-14.
Cross was driving early in the fourth quarter when another lineman, Hillhouse’s Prince Boyd, intercepted a pass and dragged a couple of Governors into the end zone.
With a minute left, Henderson (5-for-13, 119 yards, 3 TDs) found Williams wide open for a 45-yard TD.
“Our first half against Notre Dame was our best half, and we were never able to get to that level enough,” Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said. “I think if we brought that here, it would have been down to the wire. We didn’t play well, had too many turnovers and we let them get too many big plays.”
Eight of the Williams’ 10 receptions this season went for touchdowns. He also added an interception return for a touchdown on Thursday, but it was called back due to a block in the back.
“I work hard on both sides of the ball and it’s great to see it pay off like it did today,” Williams said.
Zetal completed 13 of 25 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns for Cross. Jason Atteberry was Cross’ offensive MVP, while Harris received that honor for Hillhouse.
Hillhouse 40, Wilbur Cross 20
Wilbur Cross 8 0 6 6 0 — 20
Hillhouse 6 12 6 16 0 — 40
W—Will Simmons 30 pass from Zion Setal (Jason Atterberry run)
H—C.J. Corbett 37 pass from Damien Henderson (run failed)
H—David Harris 5 run (run failed)
H—David Harris 79 int ret (run failed)
H—Tyler Williams 27 pass from Damien Henderson (run failed)
W—Duane Rogers 15 int ret (pass failed)
H—Prince Boyd 45 int ret (Harris run)
H—Tyler Williams 45 pass from Damien Henderson (Terrence Mallory pass from Henderson)
Team records: Hillhouse 8-2; Wilbur Cross 2-8