MIDDLETOWN >> The second half belongs to Xavier.
In game after game this season, the Xavier football team has played mediocre first halves, trailing in some, tied in others, and holding small leads in the rest.
But in the second half, watch out.
So it was in Saturday’s Homecoming Day game on sparkling new Larry McHugh Field on the Xavier campus as the Falcons came from behind in the second half to beat West Haven 27-7 in front of 1,500.
How different were the two halves? Here’s how different:
In the first half Xavier had exactly two (2) points and trailed 7-2. The Falcons had just 34 yards rushing and committed brutal mistakes, not the least of which was a roughing the kicker penalty that set up West Haven’s touchdown.
Then came the second half.
Xavier not only outscored West Haven 25-0 after intermission, the Falcons’ defense held the Blue Devils to just 82 yards — 23 on the ground — while piling up 219. Besides three touchdowns, Andrew Verre set what coach Sean Marinan believes is a new Xavier field goal record when he boomed one 47 yards.
“Once again the second half belonged to us,” said Marinan. “This is the third week in a row this kind of game has happened. Against Hillhouse and Amity we had big second halves after not very good first ones.”
Xavier also came from behind in the second half to beat North Haven, and beat Staples in the second half on a field goal by Verre in the closing seconds.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Marinan. “We’ve talked about it, but sometimes we just don’t seem to have the energy in the first half. Heck, against Amity we had more energy on the bus coming home than we did in the game.
“The same thing happened today. We had to wait around for the ceremony [dedication of the field to former coach Larry McHugh] and I was scared we’d lose the emotional edge. And we did.”
Xavier took command in the third quarter. Led by quarterback Mike Scherer, who had a brilliant game going 25-for-38 for 238 yards, the Falcons opened the second half with a 10-play, 56-yard drive to take a 10-7 lead on Ted Duarte’s (25 carries, 108 yards) 3-yard touchdown run and Scherer’s two-point conversion pass to John Sullivan.
With a minute left in the third, Verre kicked his field goal, and with 9:49 left in the game, Scherer threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Robert Baldo. With Verre’s kick, Xavier had this one safely tucked away at 20-7.
But Xavier (6-0) chose to put a little icing on its victory cake with a razzle-dazzle, double-reverse pass from erstwhile receiver Collin McCarthy to Scherer, who was all alone down the left sideline, for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:54 remaining in the game.
“We played hard,” said retiring West Haven coach Ed McCarthy. “We just ran out of gas. We’re very young. Our starting backfield has three sophomores and a freshman.”
The Westies missed a great opportunity in the third quarter.
Trailing 10-7, and after a successful fake punt from its own 28-yard line, quarterback Tim McCarthy hit a wide-open Anthony Godfrey downfield. Hit him in the numbers, he did. Godfrey dropped it. It most likely would have been a touchdown.
“That didn’t help, that’s for sure,” said McCarthy. “Just a tough day at the beach.”
Xavier finished with 371 yards to West Haven’s 185.
Marinan said that the game plan wasn’t necessarily to throw 38 times, but the game dictated that.
“We try to take what they give us,” he said. “They were packing the box and forced us to throw. Scherer played very well today. He makes us go.”
His primary target was McCarthy who had 12 receptions for 98 yards.
“We’re still making mistakes that drive me crazy,” said Marinan. “The roughing the kicker was an example, but the kid knew what he did. One thing I like is our kids don’t get discouraged. No matter what’s happened, they keep playing.
“And we’re 6-0 because of our defense. Our offense has been inconsistent, but our defense has kept us in the games.”
Xavier took a 2-0 lead on safety in the first quarter, but the roughing the kicker call set up Anthony Godfrey’s 4-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left in the half.
Then came the second half.
WEST HAVEN 0 7 0 0 — 7
XAVIER 2 0 11 14 — 27
X–Safety, Edwin Luster tackle in end zone
WH–Anthony Godfrey 4 run (Tayvon Gibbs kick)
X–Ted Duarte 3 run (Andrew Sullivan pass from Mike Scherer)
X–Andrew Verre 47 field goal
X–Robert Baldo 29 pass from Scherer (Verre kick)
X–Scherer 23 pass from Collin McCarthy (Verre kick)
Records: Xavier 6-0, West Haven 3-3