WEST HAVEN — Chris Chance and the West Haven football team are well aware of what is at stake over the last two regular season games. The Westies were looking to clinch a bid in the postseason before its showdown at Fairfield Prep Thanksgiving morning.
Chance, who is recovering from an ankle injury, made sure that happened. Rushing for 190 yards, including 174 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, Chance led the Westies to a 45-7 victory over Xavier in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division I contest at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Friday evening.
With the victory, West Haven clinched a state playoff berth in Class LL by the narrowest of margins. The Westies will play for a high seed in their Thanksgiving Day showdown in Fairfield.
“I thought we played a good game,” Chance said. “We needed this win. The offensive line blocked great. They did a great job for us. I am just getting back (ankle injury). It feels great. We have two weeks to get ready for Fairfield Prep.
West Haven dominated on the ground, scoring all seven of its touchdowns by way of the running game. Along with Chance’s three scores, Kyle Godfrey and Zach Conlan each also ran for a pair of scores.
“You see what a difference a healthy Chris Chance makes,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “We are not making any excuses with the way we have played. But, he is a terrific player. He adds to our offense.”
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The Westies (8-1), who forced three turnovers in the contest, set the tone of the game right from the start as Douglas Johnson recovered a fumble by the Falcons on the initial drive of the game.
Just two plays later, Chance scored the first of his three first half touchdowns from 28 yards out, giving West Haven an 8-0 lead after Chance hit Conlan on the conversion attempt 2 minutes, 23 seconds into the contest.
After Xavier was stopped on fourth down at the West Haven 11 on its next drive, Chance raced around the edge for an 83-yard score and a 15-0 lead with 2:46 left in the opening quarter.
“Our defense played great tonight,” Boshea said. “(Coach) Mark Manes did a great job with the defense tonight.”
Xavier, which continued its pattern of alternating wins and losses this season, saw Tyrone Abrahams run for 97 yards in the first half, but another promising drive by the Falcons ended with a sack of quarterback Will Levis at the West Haven 41. Six plays later, Chance ran in from 31 yards out for a 21-0 advantage 2:59 into the second quarter.
Xavier (4-5) finally finished a drive with 8 minutes left in the first half as Abrahams ran for 36 yards, and the Falcons were aided by a pass interference penalty on West Haven. Abrahams capped the drive when he ran in from 12 yards out to get the Falcons within 21-7.
Any momentum the Falcons had disappeared when West Haven took 7:51 off the clock, using 16 plays to travel 77 yards. Godfrey ran for 85 yards in the game and capped a dominant first half in which West Haven held a 276-157 yard advantage, with a 1-yard plunge with nine seconds left in the half for a 27-7 West Haven lead.
“They are an outstanding team,” Xavier coach Andy Guyon said. “Their record is not indicative of how good they are. Their backs are outstanding and their offensive line does what it is supposed to do. They do their jobs well. They are a well-coached team.”
West Haven, which gained 412 yards in the game, never let off the gas in the second half, using a pair of Conlan touchdown runs to take a 45-7 lead. Conlan, who ran in from 13 and 29 yards to start the third quarter scoring, finished with 108 yards on nine carries in the game.
Levis finished 6-of-14 for 79 yards and two interceptions in the loss for Xavier. Abrahams ran for 129 yards on 26 carries.