MADISON — At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Ethan Haberman is usually bigger than most of the defensive backs that try to cover him.
And when he can get behind coverage, he’s nearly impossible to stop.
The Hand senior wide receiver was just that Friday night as he had a career night with three touchdown receptions in the first half and four overall from quarterback Phoenix Billings as Hand belted East Lyme, 47-7, on Pink Paw Night in a Connecticut Football Alliance game.
“I just had to use my body,” Haberman said. “I know they are smaller than me. I was able to box them out in the end zone and scored.”
The Tigers saw the mismatch right away and with Haberman having moved to an outside receiver spot instead of inside, the Vikings had no chance.
“They never really adjusted to it and we kept going back to the well,” Billings said.
East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos said it was a tough night for his defensive secondary.
“We haven’t seen a receiver like that,” Bagos said. “He’s athletic and can catch the ball. We knew he would be trouble coming in.”
Hand (6-0 and top-ranked in the GametimeCT.com state football poll and CIAC Class L playoff rankings) raced out to a quick 20-0 lead after the first quarter.
Haberman caught his first touchdown pass of the night less than three minutes into the game as Billings hit him over the middle to make it 6-0.
Just four minutes later, Jesse Lutz (7 carries for 76 yards) scooted 19 yards and dove into the end zone to make it 13-0.
On the final play of the first quarter, Billings (11-for-15 passing for 200 yards) and Haberman hooked up again on a seven-yard touchdown pass.
East Lyme, which struggled offensively for most of the night against the strong Hand defense, had trouble getting across midfield in the second quarter and the Tigers took advantage of it.
Shane Reiner scampered two yards for a touchdown and Billings added another score from a yard out to make it 33-0 with 2:34 remaining in the first half.
But it was Haberman who made the big play of the night just before halftime as he caught a pass from Billings at the East Lyme 30-yard line and then outraced two Viking defenders to the end zone to make it 40-0 at halftime and initiated the running clock for the second half.
On its first possession in the third quarter, Billings connected with Haberman for a 38-yard touchdown pass to make it 47-0.
“I called that one,” Haberman said. “I told him at halftime I wanted my fourth.”
Isaiah McNeilly had five extra-point kicks.
East Lyme finally got on the board with 1:52 remaining in the contest on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Noah Perry to Hunter Lewis.
“They made it very difficult for us on both sides of the ball,” Bagos said.
The Tigers played their second consecutive game without head coach Dave Mastroianni on the sidelines. Mastroianni is recovering after cancer surgery. He may return next week against West Haven.
“It was an emotional week with feelings we never had before,” Billings said. “We felt the family vibe tonight. We definitely missed him and we’re thinking about him.”
East Lyme fell to 4-2 with the loss, but the Vikings still have a chance to qualify for the Class L playoffs.
“We have the meat of the ECC left, so it won’t be an easy road,” Bagos said. We still control our own destiny, but we have to out our work in.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Hand wide receiver Ethan Haberman caught four touchdown passes (9, 7, 60 and 38 yards).
“It’s terrible that Dave’s not here but his booming presence is felt in our offices and on the field at all times. You can almost hear his voice even though he’s not here. If we can make him feel better by watching his team perform well and play hard, that’s the best we can do as a staff and a team.”
— Hand assistant coach Mike DeVito, who has been filling in as interim head coach in Mastroianni’s place.
HAND 47, EAST LYME 7
EAST LYME 0 0 0 7 — 7
HAND 20 20 7 0 — 47
[DH] Ethan Haberman: 9-yard pass from Phoenix Billings at 9:28, 1st QTR
[DH] Jesse Lutz: 19-yard run (Isaiah McNeilly kick) at 5:37, 1st QTR
[DH] Ethan Haberman: 7-yard pass from Phoenix Billings (Isaiah McNeilly kick) at 0:00, 1st QTR
[DH] Shane Reiner: 2-yard run (Isaiah McNeilly kick) at 8:03, 2nd QTR
[DH] Phoenix Billings: 1-yard run at 2:34, 2nd QTR
[DH] Ethan Haberman: 60-yard pass from Phoenix Billings (Isaiah McNeilly kick) at 1:41, 2nd QTR
[DH] Ethan Haberman: 38-yard pass from Phoenix Billings (Isaiah McNeilly kick) at 10:02, 3rd QTR
[EL] Hunter Lewis: 35-yard pass from Noah Perry (Coleman Groff kick) at 1:52, 4th QTR