NEW HAVEN >> It was an emotional Friday night at Bowen Field for many reasons.
First off, Southern Connecticut Conference rivals Hillhouse and Hand were hooking up in the second game of the year.
Even more importantly, Hillhouse had gone through the whole day dealing with the emotions of hearing that their teammate had been shot twice in a double shooting in the Dwight neighborhood of the city last night and was in the hospital.
The Academics (2-0) fed off those emotions and were able to pull out a 30-24 victory in just the second game under the lights at Bowen Field. It was Hillhouse’s first victory over Hand since 2001.
“I’m one of those people who believe you have raw emotion, but you use that emotion and come together,” said Hillhouse assistant coach Carl Bond, who spoke for head coach Reggie Lytle, who coached the game despite being sick.
“Family always comes together and you rally.”
Hillhouse running back Matt Brehon (94 yards rushing), who rushed for two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 78 yards for another touchdown.
“It was hard being in the hospital with my best friend. We dedicated this game to him. I know he would have been proud of us,” he said.
Brehon was the key in the second half as he returned a kickoff 78 yards down the sideline in front of the Hillhouse bench on the first play after Nick Leone’s 4-yard scamper gave Hand a short-lived 16-12 lead. That came with 9:26 to go in the third quarter.
Brehon’s 20-yard jaunt with 8:17 to go in the game made it 24-16, but that lead didn’t last long either as Mike Burchell scored his second touchdown of the night for the Tigers with a 56-yard run. Brett Bilcheck’s conversion pass to Chris Bartosic deadlocked things at 24-24 with 6:40 remaining.
Brehon came right back nine plays later by shooting through a wide open hole on the left side of the line and went untouched for 55 yards for what would turn out to be the winning score with 3:10 to go.
“Hard work pays off. It always does and always will pay off,” Brehon said. “But the linemen created everything for me.”
“I knew it was going to happen and I told our kids they were going to get ripped a couple times,” Hand coach Steve Filippone said. “He has tremendous speed and we can’t even remotely demonstrate what that speed looks like in practice. I figured we’d give up a couple early, settle down and get used to the speed, but we never caught up with them.”
Hand (0-2) had two possessions in the final three minutes, but Tiger sophomore quarterback Joe Ciotti (6-for-11, 87 yards passing) was picked off by Quintus Reid near midfield. Hand got the ball back again with 1:08 to go deep in its own territory but was unable to get past its own 36-yard line.
“I’ve been here 9 years and this is the first time we’ve beaten Hand,” Bond said.
Hillhouse quarterback Damian Henderson Jr. as 8-for-14 passing for 165 yards, while Burchell had 116 yards rushing for the Tigers.
“We felt coming into the season if we put 24 points up on the board with this defense, we’d win a lot of games,” Filippone said. “But we gave up 26 and 30 points and that’s disappointing.”
Hillhouse 30, Hand 24
(at New Haven)
Hand 3 6 7 8 0 — 24
Hillhouse 6 6 6 12 0 — 30
HD—Chris Bartosic 24 FG
HI—David Harris 37 run (kick blocked)
HI—C.J. Corbett 64 pass from Damian Henderson Jr. (pass failed)
HD—Mike Burchell 6 run (kick failed)
HD—Nick Leone 4 run (Bartosic kick)
HI—Matt Brehon 78 kickoff ret (pass failed)
HI—Matt Brehon 2 run (pass failed)
HD—Mike Burchell 56 run (Bartosic pass from Brett Bilcheck)
HI—Matt Brehon 55 run (run failed)
Team records: Hillhouse 2-0; Hand 0-2
Comments: Matt Brehon 3 TDs and 94 yards Rushing for Hillhouse , Henderson 8-for 14 Passing 165 yards.
Hand: Mike Burchell 11 carries 116 yards. Joe Ciotti 6-for-11 Passing for 87 yards.