WEST HAVEN >> Ed McCarthy and his West Haven football team did not need to be reminded of last season’s opening game against Greenwich in which the Westies saw the Cardinals rally late to pull out the victory.
With Greenwich having all the momentum and rallying in the third quarter Friday evening, seniors Zatrell Lyons and Chris Franco made sure there would be no bitter ending this season.
Lyons’ interception helped hold off a late Greenwich charge, Franco helped with a goal-line stand 2 minutes later and sophomore Brandon Sebastian scored 3:52 seconds into the fourth quarter to help the Westies defeat the sixth-ranked Cardinals 35-22 in a SCC-FCIAC Challenge contest at Ken Strong Stadium.
“I just want to lead the team,” Lyons said after he finished with two interceptions on defense and 118 yards receiving on offense. “We have big plans. We have a lot of talent here. We are going to surprise some people.”
The Cardinals looked as if they would steal the contest for the second straight year as Ryan Pasquali scored from one yard out and Austin Longi ran in the conversion to cut the deficit to 28-20 just 2:37 into the second half.
Lyons stopped Greenwich with an interception on the next drive and Franco stopped a fourth-down play inside the five on Greenwich’s next possession.
Two possessions later, Sebastian scored his second touchdown of the night on a 36-yard burst to give West Haven a 35-20 lead.
“They say there are no great wins in September, but I think this might be one,” McCarthy said after the first game of his final season. “We are a young team and we beat a very good veteran team.”
While Lyons made the big play on defense, he was also part of the play which set the tone of the first half for the Westies as they took a 28-12 lead.
On the first play from scrimmage, Tim McCarthy found Lyons, who outmuscled the Greenwich defense for the ball, then raced 61 yards for the score just 16 seconds into the game.
“This is a tremendous feeling,” Tim McCarthy said after completing 8 of 18 passes for 142 yards. “We worked on that play. I know wherever I put the ball, Zatrell is going to catch it.”
The touchdown pass was the first of two McCarthy was part of in the opening quarter as he also capped a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge with 4:10 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Longi, who proved to be West Haven’s nemesis in last season’s loss, set out to do the same again on Friday as he scored from nine yards out with 2 minutes left in the first quarter. Greenwich did not connect on the conversion, which would haunt the Cardinals all night.
“They did not do anything we did not expect,” Greenwich coach Rich Albonizio said after his team put up 434 yards of offense, but struggled to hold onto the ball and botched snaps all evening. “We did not play with a lot of emotion early on. They were a better-coached team than we were.”
Sebastian, gave West Haven a 21-6 lead with a 3-yard score 2:46 into the second quarter, before Longi’s 6-yard run brought Greenwich within 21-12 as another conversion failed with just over five minutes remaining in the opening half.
The Westies continued their trend of sophomores scoring as Godfrey capped 75-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run with 2:37 left in the half.
The Westies had 240 yards of offense in the first half, but only 92 in the final 24 minutes, including just 9 yards in the third quarter.
“They really bottled us up in that third quarter,” Ed McCarthy said. “They picked up the intensity and the pressure. They were very successful.”
Marshont Little led West Haven with 108 yards on 19 carries, while Sebastian finished with 66 yards on the ground.
Greenwich quarterback Matthew Marzullu was 11-of-22 for 203 yards and Longi finished with 165 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
|No. 6 GREENWICH||6||6||8||2||—||22|
W—Zatrell Lyons 61 pass from Tim McCarthy (Tayvon Gibbs kick)
W—Tim McCarthy 1 run (Gibbs kick)
G—Austin Longi 9 run (Kick failed)
W—Brandon Sebastian 3 run (Gibbs kick)
G—Austin Longi 6 run (Kick failed)
G—Ryan Pasquali 1 run (Austin Longi run)
W—Brandon Sebastian 36 run (Gibbs kick)
G–Safety, Tim McCarthy ran out of end zone
Team records: West Haven 1-0; Greenwich 0-1