MADISON – Sometimes a tough halftime talk is the perfect elixir.
That was exactly the case Friday night as Hand scored 26 unanswered second half points en route to a 40-7 thumping of Foran in a Southern Connecticut Conference Tier 2 clash at the Surf Club.
“We knew coming out we were the better team and we weren’t playing like it,” said Hand running back Delvantae Hutton, who rushed for 198 yards on 25 carries. “The coaches just grilled that in our heads.”
It was Hand rookie head coach Dave Mastroianni, who reminded his Tigers they can’t afford to get off to slow starts in the SCC.
“We can’t put in a full effort for two quarter or even three,” Mastroianni said. “We have to be a four-quarter team if we want to continue to have success.”
Foran coach Jeff Bevino said the difference was the physical game that Hand played. By the time the second half came around the Lions had players dropping like flies and that came after Foran lost star wide receiver Zach Cleary for the night early in the first quarter.
“They were very good defensively,” Bevino said. “They banged us up pretty good. By the end, we had four or five kids out. Outside of North Haven, this was the most rugged team we play.”
Hand started the scoring on the night by digging deep into its playbook for a hook and ladder play. Quarterback Phoenix Billing threw a three-yard pass to Brian Casagrande at the Foran 8-yard line, then Casagrande lateraled the ball to Kevin Hughes, who ran the final 22 yards to make it 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Foran quarterback Jared Hubler (15-for-26 passing for 93 yards and 33 yards rushing) tied things with an 8-yard run early in the second quarter. But Hubler was contained for the rest of the night on the Hand side of the field.
“We were physical at the point of attack,” Mastroianni said. “And had a game plan to take Hubler away.”
Billings then followed with three straight touchdown passes as the Tigers blew the game wide open. They took a 14-7 lead at the break when Billings hit Casagrande with a 19-yard scoring strike. In the third quarter, it became 20-7 when Ian Butler caught a 22-yard pass from Billings.
In the fourth quarter, Michael Tarantino scored on a 9-yard pass from Billings to make it 27-7 before the backups came in the game. Jesse Lutz scored on a 2-yard run and backup quarterback Isaiah McNeilly connected with Ethan Haberman for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 1:21 left.
Hand leads the SCC Tier 2 with a 4-0 record, half-game ahead of Wilbur Cross, which is 3-0 in Tier 2.
“Anytime you get off to a 4-1 start you have to be thrilled about it,” Mastroianni said. “We have some momentum going. We have a three-game winning streak going into a good team like Bunnell.”
Foran fell to 1-2 in Tier 2 and 3-2 overall.
“We’ll let the places go where they are,” Bevino said. “We’re just looking ahead to our next game.”