Football: Another look at Lions vs Westies

If Foran High football coach Jeff Bevino and his players had one option to make in the aftermath of the Lions’ 39-19 Southern Connecticut Conference intra-divisional foray against West Haven on Oct. 23 at the Vito DeVito Sports Complex, it would no doubt be a chance to play the first half all over again.

Specialty-team breakdowns and unfortunate errors at key times gave the Blue Devils and their high-power running game featuring Kyle and Anthony Godfrey and Chris Chance, along with the throwing arm of quarterback Tim McCarthy, to take what turned out to be an insurmountable 32-12 lead in the game’s first 24 minutes.

After that, the Lions, behind the rifle-armed Lance DiNatale (26 of 37 throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns), were able to match play with their Division I neighboring rival.

West Haven’s defense, just a step or two behind its offense, bent some but never broke and a big interception by defensive back Adrian Jaynes and a subsequent 59-yard run-back, finally sealed the Lions’ fate.

Foran came into the game averaging 40 points per contest and had limited their opponents to 66 points in five wins without a loss.

“Eighty per cent of the time in our conference when a Division I teams meets a Division II team, the D! team comes out the winner,” Bevino said. “We killed ourselves tonight. You can’t give an opponent, one as good as West Haven, field position like we did.

“I think our kids are a little down right now. But, they’ll lift their heads up high and be ready for East Haven on Friday night.”

The Lions will return to its DII slate and meet over the next three Friday nights, East Haven, Hillhouse from New Haven and an undefeated North Haven squad which already has a win (over Notre Dame-West Haven) against a Division I opponent this year.

After deferring on the coin toss and choosing to receive the second-half kick-off, Foran put the ball in play using a short kick. West Haven’s Drew Highsmith recovered on his own 47. It took nine plays, but the Westies got on the board when McCarthy threw his first of two touchdown passes, hitting Kyle Godfrey over the middle. Jose Conde kicked the conversion and West Haven had a 7-0 lead.

R.J. Balado fielded the West Haven kick on his own six-yard line, paused briefly to look for running room, before heading upfield. He was hit hard around the 20 and fumbled the ball which was recovered by West Haven on the 24.

Three plays later, Chance ran it in from eight yards out. Only 40 seconds had elapsed between the first score and the second.

Once Foran was able to get its offensive unit on the field, the Lions went to work. They drove 80 yards in 16 plays, riding the strong arm of DiNatale, who completed six straight strikes including a touchdown pass covering 14 yards to Brett Huber (12 catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns).

The score came with 1:50 left in quarter one. The teams then traded scores. Kyle Godfrey’s 20-yard carry with 10:35 left put West Haven up, 19-6, but DiNatale closed out an eight-play, 70-yard march by hooking up with Huber again, this time for 12 yards, bringing Foran back to within 19-12, with 7:49 still to play in the half.

Once again, however, the Blue Devils’ offense, bolstered by its running game, was able to control the ball. And they got great field position following another short punt by the Lions.

Starting at its 47, West Haven covered the necessary distance in eight tries using alternating carries by the Godfreys before McCarthy ran the final nine yards. With exactly five minutes left in the half, the Westies led 25-12.

On its next series, Foran was able to pick up a first down, bringing the ball to its own 34. But two running plays (one by DiNatale and the other by Balado) got the team only seven yards. Faced with a third-and-three, DiNatale threw a rare incompletion, leaving Foran with a fourth down. Huber dropped back to punt, ran to his left and decided to keep the ball. He was brought down on his own 29.

Seeing a good opportunity, West Haven scored on one play, a 29-yard hook-up between McCarthy and Anthony Godfrey. Now, Foran trailed 32-12.

“That play killed us,” Bevino said. “It wasn’t planned to be a fake. Huber was supposed to attempt a Rugby kick, but one of our up players missed the assignment.”

Foran didn’t back down. The Lions took the second-half kickoff and went down the field to score, going 73 yards on 14 plays. It was a DiNatale to Huber pass play which created the touchdown at 7:47. Zach Cleary added the kick and Foran moved to within 32-19.

After giving up a first down, Foran’s defense provided the stop and the Lions got the ball back in great field position when Colin Firmender blocked a punt, giving Foran the ball on the Westies’ 48-yard line.

DiNatale completed two passes to Huber, as Foran got the ball to the Blue Devils’ 10. The game-breaker then came on a third-and-goal. DiNatale looked over the middle trying to find a receiver. His pass was picked off by Jaynes at the four and returned 59 yards.

With the ball on Foran’s 37, West Haven ran seven straight running plays before getting the score from Anthony Godfrey on a 13-yard gain. West Haven had pushed its lead back to 20 points at 11:45 of the third quarter.

“Jaynes interception and the fumble recovery gave us a great chance to win this game,” said West Haven head coach Rich Boshea. “We’re a ball-control team and we needed to keep them off the field as much as we could.

“The DiNatale is a top-flight quarterback, probably one of the best in the state. He has great footwork and a wonderful arm. He did some damage to our secondary tonight.”

West Haven limited Foran to 55 yards rushing as Balado collected 45 of them on 21 carries. Meanwhile, West Haven had 193 yards on the ground. The Godfrey’s combined for 182 of it.

Balado had 103 yards on kickoff returns on six tries.

Foran, which ran 74 plays, held a 21-12 edge in first downs.

The win gives West Haven a 4-2 record.