Armani Reid loves his teammates. The feeling is mutual for the first-year Westie.
Behind his long returns on special teams, Reid set the tone of the game early as West Haven rolled to a 25-8 victory over cross-town rival Notre Dame in a Southern Connecticut Conference contest at Veteran’s Field in the season opener.
West Haven’s victory secured the Soderman Bowl title for the second straight season, and it was also West Haven’s fourth in five years played as COVID took away the 2020 season.
While all eyes were on the West Haven offense to set the tone, it was the special teams and defense of the Westies which rose to the occasion early on. The play of the two groups set up Nick Conlan and company for 25 first half points.
After West Haven held on downs to start the contest, Reid ‘s long punt return gave the Westies possession at the Notre Dame 20. Six plays later, Deven Robinson ran in off the right edge from 10 yards out for a 6-0 West Haven lead with 6 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
The Westies then held Notre Dame again on its next possession and limited the Green Knights to just 38 yards of offense in the opening quarter.
West Haven mixed its offense in the backfield and took a 12-0 lead on its third possession of the game when a 51-yard drive was capped when Jah’zire Massey scored from one yard out with 8:27 left in the opening half.
While the Green Knights were down a pair of scores, they had ample opportunities to get back in the game. A golden opportunity was missed on fourth down when Piechota hit an open receiver for an apparent first down, but the pass could not be handled.
West Haven needed 10 plays to go 77 yards, capped by a Conlan to Aeden Coe 46-yard scoring strike with 1:12 remaining in the half for a 18-0 advantage.
With the Westies dominating the half, the Green Knights had another opportunity, but Piechota was intercepted by Avian Evans with 1:06 remaining in the half.
Just 22 seconds later, Conlan, who completed four passes for 89 yards and two scores in the opening half, hit Teriq Mallory for a 13-yard scoring strike and a 25-0 lead following the extra point by Raul Sanchez.
Notre Dame was a different team in the second half as it used a safety and a 23-yard scoring strike from Piechota to Matteao Petruzziello to get within 25-8 with 8:09 remaining in the game.
The Green Knights, who out gained West Haven 154 to -1 in yards up to the touchdown, recovered the onside kick and were in striking distance once again. The next score never came to fruition as West Haven held on downs, then ran out the clock.
Conlan finished with 105 yards passing and two touchdowns in the win for West Haven. Piechota finished 18-of-32 for 214 yards. He had an interception and also a touchdown pass in the loss.
West Haven improved to 2-0 with a dominant 59-14 victory over Amity in the home opener Friday evening at Ken Strong Stadium. The Westies used a balanced attack to cruise to the 45-point victory.
Conlan was 7-of-8 in the air for 111 yards and three touchdowns, while Robinson ran for 107 yards on four carries, Rui DaSilva ran for 70 yards, Jeremiah Francis ran for 59 yards, and Massey ran for 55.
The Westies got going on offense quickly in the contest, taking a 20-7 lead after one quarter. Francis gave the Westies a 7-0 lead with a 35-yard score, before Amity evened the game at seven.
That would be as close as the Spartans would get as West Haven scored the next 19 points to pull away. Robinson scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 38- yard run for a 14-7 lead, and Conlan hit Mallory for a 31-yard scoring strike and 20-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
When Conlan connected with Demarco Eady for a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the second, the lead was 26-7. Amity’s second touchdown pass of the game brought the Spartans within 26-14, but it was all West Haven after that.
Robinson scored on a 36-yard run, Massey ran in in from 11 yards out, and Conlan threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 3-yard pass to Robinson right before the half for a 46-14 advantage.
Massey ran in from 10 yards out in the third quarter, and DaSilva ran in from 72 yards out in the fourth for the final points of the game.
Senior Jenna Johnson made sure the West Haven volleyball team started the season with a victory. Serving four straight aces, Johnson led West Haven to a 23-13 fourth game lead and West Haven never looked in defeating Sacred Heart Academy 25-13, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18 in the season opener for both teams at West Haven High Thursday evening.
After winning the first game, West Haven was in a battle in the second game, trailing 23-22, before scoring the last three points on a kill by Tanasia Fidalgo, and a pair of aces by Asia Ford for a 25-23 victory.
The Westies led 18-17 in the third game on a kill by Johnson, but the Sharks closed the game on an 8-3 run to force a fourth game.
With Ford on the service line, West Haven jumped out to a 10-5 lead on a block by Fidalgo, an ace by Ford, and a kill by Dulcemaria Castillo. A block by Ford increased the lead to 16-12, before Ford’s kill increased the margin to 19-13.
Johnson then took over as four aces increased the lead to 23-13. The Sharks rolled off four straight points, before West Haven pulled off the victory.
West Haven fell to 1-1 with a hard-fought 3-2 loss at Hamden. Trailing 2-0, the Westies rallied back, but came up just short in the loss by scores of 20-25, 23-25, 27-25, 25-15, 11-15.
Sarah Davey ran the offense with 15 assists, while also playing solid on defense with 17 digs. Ford had 13 digs, Alison Frazer and Taylor Alfano each had 12 digs, and Jordyn Johnson and Madison Scillia each had seven digs. Ford led the offense with seven kills and four aces, while Olivia McDonnell added six kills and five aces.
The squad needed just one day to bounce back from a nail-biting loss to Hamden. The Westies got back on track and rebounded to defeat Wilbur Cross 24-26, 25-16, 25-14, 25-15 in New Haven.
Jenna Johnson ran the offense with 18 assists, while Ford had 10 kills, eight digs, four aces, and three blocks, and McDonnell had six aces, six kills, and four digs.
Frazer added seven digs and four aces, while Castillo chipped in five digs and four kills.
West Haven won its second straight contest and improved to 3-1 on the year with a 3-1 home victory over Career. With the 25-6, 24-26 25-16, 25-18 victory, West Haven improved to 3-1 on the year.
Jenna Johnson ran the offense with 13 assists and four aces, Ford had seven aces and six kills, Frazer had nine aces, and McDonnell had eight kills and four aces.
Dulcemaria Castillo, Frazer, and Astrid Portugal Morales had six digs, while Shannon Hoey added four digs.
The West Haven girls soccer team opened the year against a tough Mercy team and fell 3-0 in Middletown.
The young Westies battled, but it was not enough as Mercy took a 2-0 lead in the first 25 minutes of the game and never looked back.
The Westies received a strong performance in goal from Kassidy Carrano, who made 14 saves, including three on breakaways.
West Haven picked up its first victory of the year with a 3-0 victory over North Haven. Julia Tsakonas scored twice for the Westies, Maya Bermudez added another tally, and Carrano made two saves in the shutout victory.
The Westies also received a solid defensive effort from Celia Williams, Chloe Whelan, Ilyana Griffith Waite, and Niamh Chesson.
Tsakonas scored twice off corner kicks from Arianna Izzo for a 2-0 advantage, and Bermudez buried a rebound for the 3-0 victory.
After a season-opening loss against Guilford in which Rafael Gazcon scored the lone goal, the West Haven boys soccer team returned to action with a home contest against Fairfield Prep.
Behind three goals from Gazcon and eight saves from Yahzeel Beyley, West Haven picked up its first win of the season with a 3-2 decision at Ken Strong Stadium.
Gazcon gave West Haven a 2-0 first half lead, then gave the Westies insurance when he scored off an assist from Sebastian Navarro with 25 minutes left in regulation.
The Jesuits held a 14-8 shot advantage in the contest.
Looking to get over the .500 mark early in the season, the West Haven team found itself in a battle with Wilbur Cross. That battle proved defensive as neither team could find the back of the goal on a 0-0 draw at Ken Strong Stadium.
Beyley played a key part in the victory for the Westies as he made five saves in goal. The Governors held an 11-5 shot advantage in the contest for the shutout. Dustin Gibbon made three saves for Wilbur Cross.
The West Haven cross-country team ran against Sheehan, Law and Career Thursday afternoon in Wallingford.
The boys defeated Career, 15-50, but lost to Law, 41-47, and Sheehan, 32-41. The top runners for the Westies were junior Matt Pagan with a time of 20 minutes, 27 seconds for a fifth-place overall finish. Sophomore Kiitikom Tighe finished in sixth place overall at 20:36 for a personal best. Senior Khai Outhavong finished in 21:39.
On the girls side, senior Maryangel Cruz was West Haven’s only female runner and finished in a time of 28:10.