WOODBRIDGE – Despite only three starters returning from a four-win team, North Haven football coach Anthony Sagnella believed there was potential for big things.
The Indians accomplished one major goal on Thursday. Their victory over Amity, a 46-7 decision at William Johnson Field, clinched the program’s fourth state tournament berth in the past five years,
North Haven (8-2) plays at Hand on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class L tournament. Amity finishes the season at 3-7.
“Every experience, every week, we overcome a different obstacle,” Sagnella said. “Some weren’t as obvious to the public. I just wanted to see us compete and take care of business, and we did.”
Seniors Mark Montano, Kyle Pearson and Korbin Pecora were the only North Haven starters back from last season, a team that played several close games in its first season as a Tier I team in the competitive Southern Connecticut Conference.
The rest of the roster was either on the junior varsity or backups.
“We had a lot of growing up to do,” Sagnella said.
It took time for North Haven to hit its stride. It lost the season opener by six points to West Haven, a Class LL playoff qualifier, and at the halfway mark was 3-2 after an 11-point loss to Shelton, another LL playoff team.
A wild 50-49 victory at Xavier and a seven-point win on Nov. 10 over Fairfield Prep, also in the Class LL field, put the Indians in position to clinch on Thanksgiving.
They wasted little time against Amity, using a two-play, 76-yard drive on its first offensive series to take a 6-0 lead. Montano (16 carries, 188 yards, two touchdowns) had a 33-yard run to set up Devan Brockamer’s 38-yard touchdown.
A safety and a 24-yard Montano-to-Steven Erbe touchdown pass made it 15-0 with 2:39 to play in the first quarter. An Amity fumble set up Montano’s 8-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.
Montano ran another touchdown in from 40 yards out, while Noah Pastore’s 2-yard plunge gave North Haven a 34-0 lead at halftime.
“I felt Amity has improved quite a bit,” Sagnella said. “You can see they’re playing tough and hard. We expected a game. We did not come in here looking past them at all. Our focus was on Amity.”
Amity moved the ball well enough for the majority of the game. The first half turnovers were costly. A couple of other time-consuming drives stalled deep in North Haven territory.
Sophomore quarterback James Laubstein (11-of-30, 183 yards) connected with Chris Butler for a 49-yard completion in the third quarter, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Ryan Sabo that served as the Spartans lone score.
Amity also received inspired play from senior tight end/linebacker Luigi Luciani, who caught four passes for 57 yards in the first half and led the team with 10 tackles to earn the Thomas Laugeni Award as Amity’s game MVP.
North Haven is back to practice on Friday to prepare for Hand (9-1), which played on Wednesday night and gets an additional day’s rest. The Tigers also played Shelton, losing by two points, and, like the Indians, scored a tight victory over Cheshire with easy wins over Harding and Foran.
Sagnella was pleased with his team’s effort, ending the regular season on a positive note.
“Our guys played with a purpose and stayed focused,” Sagnella said. “Going into the playoffs, you have to be able to do that. You have to deal with crowds and win on the road. This team has relished the journey and grown from it.”