MIDDLETOWN >> Xavier coach Sean Marinan said he wanted his team to set the tempo from the beginning in its Southern Connecticut Conference game with Hillhouse Friday night, and, in his words, “to establish a presence and let them know they were in for a battle.”
That’s exactly what the Falcons did.
Xavier scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes to take a 13 point lead and never trailed in defeating the Academics, 42-14 in front of 1,100 at Palmer Field.
“This was our best game of the season, although it still was sloppy,” said Marinan. “We got a couple of breaks early and we capitalized on them.”
Except for one 62-yard lightning strike touchdown run, the Falcons also kept Hillhouse running back Harold Cooper (12 carries, 94 yards) in check.
“We got some shots in on him,” said Marinan, whose team held Cooper to minus seven yards in the second half. “We wanted to make them find some other way to beat us than with Cooper.”
But it was Xavier who did the beating and the Falcons did it with their star running back, Andrew Meoli.
“I’ve said that Cooper is one of the best backs in the state,” said Marinan. “But I’ve got one of the best on my team. What can I say about him? He’s durable, tough and dependable. We give him the ball and he gets us the yards.”
Meoli carried the ball 32 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
“We came out flat,” said Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle. “We didn’t show any spark. We’ve got to be ready to play. All of a sudden it was 13-0. We’re not getting the leadership from our seniors that we need. We’re getting it from Cooper and [Tarrol] Stafford, but not from the rest.”
Xavier took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards in seven plays with Meoli scoring from the 6-yard line with 8:46 to play. The two-point conversion failed, but on Hillhouse’s second play from scrimmage, Cooper fumbled and the Falcons were in business at the Academics’ 43.
It took Xavier (3-1) just six plays to score with Meoli running it in from 13 yards out. With Ricky Verre’s kick, Xavier led 13-0 with 5:58 to play in the first.
Cooper ran 62 yards to cut the lead to 13-6 just 58 seconds later, but Xavier took advantage of another Hillhouse mistake to take a 20-6 lead at the half.
Midway through the second quarter, punter Cedil Onivogui fumbled the snap and Xavier got the ball on the Hillhouse 20.
Two plays later quarterback Joe Carbone (4-for-5, 62 yards) hit Nathan Gonzalez from 22 yards out for the touchdown.
Xavier poured it on in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns in a minute and six seconds to put this one away, 35-6.
Both were set up by Hillhouse mistakes.
After the Acs went three and out, Onivogui had a punt blocked and Cole Thorburn returned it to the Hillhouse 30-yard line. Three plays later Meoli scored his third touchdown.
On the next series, Hillhouse’s Forel Kourouma fumbled at his 5-yard line and Xavier linebacker Derek Jones picked it up and rumbled in for a touchdown.
Hillhouse (1-3) scored on an 85-yard catch-and-run from Corey Maddox (8-for-18, 118 yards, two interceptions) to Paul Riles in the third quarter, but it was window dressing. Xavier matched that when second-string quarterback Mike Scherer scored on a 5-yard run with 3:24 left in the game.
“My seniors need to step it up,” said Lytle. “I though the kids would be pumped for tonight’s game, but they weren’t. The senior leadership has to come around. We’ll keep coaching them and we’ll see. There’s a lot of football left and the playoffs aren’t out of the question
“If I got better play from my seniors and better execution – nothing against Xavier – but we might be 3-1.”
Xavier finished with 297 yards offense, 235 on the ground. Hillhouse had 232 yards, but 147 yards came on two plays.