MADISON >> A new-look Surf Club. The same old Hand magic.
The host Tigers, playing their second game on their renovated home field, scored on the game’s opening possession and used a stout defensive effort to knock off previously unbeaten North Haven 21-6 in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision contest Friday. Hand gave its rowdy supporters something to cheer for when it drove 71 yards on 14 plays on its first drive. The possession was capped by sophomore quarterback Nick van Dell’s 19-yard touchdown pass to senior Tim D’Annolfo that put the Tigers up for good less than four minutes into this highly anticipated contest.
Since the SCC formed in 1994, Hand and North Haven, currently ranked No. 8 in the Register Poll, have now played 16 times. North Haven’s lone victory remains a 21-20 decision in 2001. Hand has won eight straight in the series.
Senior running back Conor Dowd had five carries for 34 yards on the game’s first drive. He finished with 82 yards on 20 attempts.
“We knew they were a physical team,” Dowd said. “We just wanted to come out and smack them. I think that’s what we did. We really set the tone at the beginning. I think we came out and did a good job of that. Scoring on that first play really put things into place for us.”
While Hand coach Steve Filippone admitted he was disappointed in his offense, the Tigers’ defense was suffocating.
“Reid Sweitzer, the youngster, the sophomore, he made some huge hits on the edge,” Filippone said. “Our linebackers played very well; our defensive linemen; our cover guys, nobody got by them. Everybody on defense played well.”
Junior safety Tommy Wilson returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
“Our defense, we’re relentless,” Wilson said. “We won’t give up. Never.”
In the first half, North Haven (3-1) punted twice inside Hand territory and turned the ball over on downs another time.
Hand took a 21-0 lead with under four minutes to go in the third quarter when van Dell connected with senior Jacob Mirando on a 6-yard touchdown.
It wasn’t until there was about a minute left in the quarter that North Haven completed its first pass. Senior Mike Halloran finished 1 of 13 for 10 yards.
“That was frustrating,” Sagnella said. “We had opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on any of them. That makes it very difficult to run the ball when they have nine or 10 on the line and you can’t capitalize on your opportunities to throw. That was disappointing. I thought we would be better in that part.”
Halloran (18 carries, 78 yards) finally put North Haven on the board when he scored on a 10-yard run with eight minutes left in the game. Senior Ethan Suraci finished with 69 yards on 19 carries and sophomore Michael Montano was held to nine carries for 32 yards for the Indians.
Scott Sweitzer also had an interception for Hand and teammate Pat Rogers recorded a sack. Filippone praised his punter, Reid Sweitzer, and the play of the special teams.
“Our kicking game was great,” Filippone said. “Reid did a great job punting the ball, we did a great job covering it. We did a great job returning (punts and kickoffs). I really felt like the game would be won in the kicking game, and if our defense or our kicking game could score. Our defense scored, and that really is the difference in the game.”
Hand 21, North Haven 6
North Haven 0 0 0 6 — 6
Hand 7 7 7 0 — 21
H—Tim D’Annolfo 19 pass from Nick Van Dell (Tyler Phan kick)Second quarter
H—Tommy Wilson 35 int ret (Phan kick)Third quarter
H—Jacob Mirando 6 pass from Nick Van Dell (Phan kick)Fourth quarter
N—Michael Halloran 10 run (kick failed)
Team records: Hand 3-1; North Haven 3-1