GUILFORD — Ed McCarthy didn’t mince words at halftime Friday night with his West Haven football team. He knew the Blue Devils weren’t playing up to their potential and something had to change — and quickly.
“Yeah, we yelled at them and challenged them,” McCarthy said after West Haven scored 35 unanswered points in the second half to take a 42-14 victory over Guilford at Kavanaugh Field. “We didn’t see a lot of leadership in the first half, but we did in the second half.”
It also helped that McCarthy had quarterback Duane Gary (10 carries for 138 yards) and running back Ervin Philips (18 carries for 121 yards) on his side.
With Guilford (1-3) keying on the Syracuse University-bound Philips the entire night, Gary was able to work some magic throughout the second half, including a huge touchdown on a broken play.
“They let me have the ball,” Gary said. “Coach says big players make big plays and our linemen adjusted in the second half.”
However, West Haven (3-1) looked in trouble in the first half. Guilford marched down the field on its first possession, closing out the drive on a 13-yard pass from quarterback Joe Nault (16 carries for 50 yards) to Tony Pensa.
Marshont Little’s 18-yard run early in the second quarter tied things at 7-7, before Nault scampered 20 yards to put Guilford ahead at the break, 14-7.
The Blue Devils had two other big chances to get on the board in the opening 24 minutes. They were stopped at the 1-yard line midway through the first quarter and just before halftime Philips fumbled the football inside the Indians’ 5-yard line as they were heading in to score.
“I don’t want to say we didn’t play well in the first half, but Nault had us going crazy,” McCarthy said. “We responded well defensively in the second half.”
The halftime speech must have been something as Little gave West Haven great field possession on the kickoff at the Guilford 37. Just three plays later, Gary scored the first of his three touchdowns with a nifty cut from inside the tackles to the outside for 27 yards and the score. West Haven’s pass for the 2-point conversion failed and the Indians still led 14-13.
That didn’t last long as less than 3 minutes later, Gary supplied the dagger for West Haven. He fumbled the snap in the backfield, picked the ball up and worked his way through traffic down the sideline in front of the West Haven bench for a 59-yard touchdown run that gave the Blue Devils the lead for good.
“The one big play was the broken play,” McCarthy said. “That’s our best play when he winds up in his hands.”
That play was the killer in Guilford coach Tommy Unger’s mind.
“That was kind of the nail,” Unger said. “He scrambles out and that’s the best thing they could do.”
Gary tacked on a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter to make it 28-14 and noted the adjustments West Haven made at the half were huge.
“Every time he (Philips) went in motion, they rotated their defense,” Gary said. “I saw that and took the ball to the other side.”
West Haven tacked on fourth-quarter touchdowns from Jesse Ridgway, who had a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown, and a 10-yard run from Philips.
“I think they tinkered with some of our reads,” Unger said. “We read them well in the first half, but giving the ball to Philips and Gary is a pretty good strategy. If I were them, I would keep feeding them the ball.”
Unger still smiled afterward and said he was proud of the way Guilford played.
“That’s a talented LL playoff team,” Unger said. “They made a couple stops in the second half and just wore us down.”
As for McCarthy, he now has 319 career wins and needs just two more to tie Bill Mignault of Ledyard for the most coaching wins in Connecticut high school football history.
West Haven 42, Guilford 14
West Haven 0 7 14 21 — 42
Guilford 7 7 0 0 — 14
G—Tony Pensa 13 pass from Joe Nault (Joe Nault kick)Second quarter
W—Marshont Little 18 run (Jason Wilkerson kick)
G—Joe Nault 20 run (Joe Nault kick)Third quarter
W—Duane Gary 27 run (pass failed)
W—Duane Gary 59 run (Ervin Philips run)Fourth quarter
W—Duane Gary 28 run (Tayvon Gibbs kick)
W—Jesse Ridgway 62 int ret (kick failed)
W—Ervin Philips 10 run (Duane Gary run)
Team records: Guilford 1-3; West Haven 3-1