MADISON — The traffic heading into the Surf Club in Madison suggested a big contest was on the horizon. The play on the field stated otherwise.
Behind the play of the Hand offensive line, the Tigers had plenty of room to run and more time to pass. The end result was a 47-6 Hand victory over West Haven in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision contest Friday evening.
The win, which came in relatively easy fashion for the Tigers, was Hand’s 16th straight since losing to Shelton in the second week of the season last year.
“One of the compliments we received last year was we got better as the season went on,” Hand coach Dave Mastroianni said. “We are just looking to do that again this year. We are looking to improve next week and every week after that.”
The Tigers, in a game they called a statement contest, showed they were ready from the start, scoring every way possible, taking a 17-0 lead after one quarter and a 40-0 advantage at the half.
Hand quarterback Phoenix Billings ran for 95 yards in the first 24 minutes and completed 9-of-11 passes for 164 yards and two touchdown passes. Billings finished the game with 205 yards in the air and 107 yards on the ground.”
“My offensive line is so good,” Billings said. “They give us room to run and time to throw. I am extremely confident playing behind our line.”
The Tigers (5-0) were so dominant in the field in the first half, the scoreboard was not the only place to justify this. Hand outgained the Westies 355-1 in what may be their most impressive half of football five games into the season.
“I am extremely proud of how we played tonight,” Billings said. “We are just playing the teams in front of us. It is nice to beat a Tier I team like we did.”
Before the Hand offense could get going, it was the special teams which helped produce the first points of the game. After West Haven recovered a Hand fumble deep in Hand territory on the opening possession of the game, a rushed punt failed to get out of the endzone, resulting in a Hand safety and a 2-0 lead 4 minutes, 26 seconds into the contest.
“They beat us in all facets of the game, special teams, offense and defense,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “They just crushed us.”
The Hand offense then took over. Colin McCabe raced in from three yards out for a 10-0 lead 1:30 later, and Billings capped a 5-play, 70-yard drive with a 47-yard run in which he went virtually untouched for the score and a 17-0 lead with 1:32 left in the opening quarter.
“We got beat by a great Hand team,” Boshea said. “This has been a long, storied rivalry game. This year, they are a great team. My hat’s off to them.”
West Haven (3-2) had negative yards in the opening quarter, and only two of its nine offensive plays went for positve yardage. By the time West Haven had more than a three-play drive, Hand led by 25 points after Billings connected with Ian Butler on a 24-yard scoring strike with 1:34 gone by in the second quarter.
“West Haven always scares you with their speed,” Mastroianni said. “We did not allow them to get going. We did not allow any big plays and I think they had only one first down in the first half. We have a legacy of great defensive teams here. To play defense here, you have to be able to run.”
If there was any question, the Tigers put the game away with two more touchdowns in the final 4:49 of the opening half.
Billings hit Ethan Haberman with a 21-yard scoring strike, and McCabe capped the first half scoring with a 10-yard run with 2:13 to go.
Hand held West Haven to just one drive of more than three plays in West Haven’s first eight drives of the game, with West Haven finally scoring with 5:42 remaining in the game on a Jordan Berrios to Shane Clarke 5-yard pass.
Hand 47, West Haven 6
West Haven 0 0 0 6 — 6
Daniel Hand 17 23 7 0 — 47
H–Colin McCabe 3 run (Isaiah McNeilly run)
H–Phoenix Billings 47 run (Isaiah McNeilly kick)
H–Chris Bartosic 24 pass from Phoenix Billings (Isaiah McNeilly run)
H–Ethan Haberman 21 pass from Phoenix Billings (Isaiah McNeilly run)
H–Colin McCabe 10 run (Isaiah McNeilly kick)
H–Colin McCabe 12 run (Isaiah McNeilly kick)
WH–Shane Clarke 5 pass from Jordan Berrios
West Haven (3-2, 3-2); Daniel Hand (5-0, 5-0)