Already in the postseason for the second straight year, the Fairfield Prep football team wanted to make sure its seed was also in place. More importantly, the Jesuits wanted to get off to a quick start and remain healthy as the postseason approached.
The Jesuits can check all off the list.
Scoring 49 first half points, and taking advantage of several West Haven miscues, the Jesuits cruised to a 63-12 victory over the Westies in a Southern Connecticut Conference Tier I contest at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Thursday morning.
“I thought the boys played very well today,” Fairfield Prep Keith Hellstern said. “We were able to play different guys and get them in and out. We have several kids we can run in and out of there which is big for us to keep moving the right direction.”
Very well would be an understatement for how Hellstern described the play of his team. The Jesuits, who look to have finished fifth in Class LL with a 9-1 record and will travel to fourth-seeded Southington Tuesday evening in the Class LL quarterfinals, scored on their first four possessions of the game and never looked back.
Senior Thomas Walton not only scored twice in the opening quarter on runs of six and 26 yards, but also busted loose for a 78-yard kickoff return for a score after West Haven got within 28-6 late in the second quarter.
“I thought the kickoff was a great answer,” Hellstern said. “We are very lucky to have several players who can go in and out. We were not trying to run up the score. We were just trying to execute. It is a credit to the kids.”
For the Westies (5-5), the season ended with one of the most-lopsided losses in recent memory for the team. West Haven had a drive stalled after reaching the Prep 5, a pass intercepted, a punt blocked, and a pair of fumbles in the first 24 minutes of play.
“You have to give Prep credit,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “They are a very good team. They played a great game. They did everything right.”
Prep, which gained 160 yards in the opening quarter and 245 in the first half, started quickly and never slowed down.
After a short West Haven punt, the Jesuits needed just two plays to go 53 yards, capped when quarterback John Iaropoli hit Finn Duran with a 44-yard scoring strike and a 7-0 lead after Murray McCarthy hit the first of his nine extra points with 2 minutes, 55 seconds gone by in the game.
Walton then took over. After Prep pushed West Haven back and the Westies turned the ball over on downs even after Jordan Berrios raced 75 yards to the Prep 5-yard line, Prep marched 81 yards on 10 plays, including a running into the kicker on fourth down.
Three plays after the penalty, Walton followed his 35-yard run with a 6-yard scoring run and a 14-0 lead with 3:33 to go in the opening quarter. The Jesuits then needed just two plays to go 36 yards for a score on their next possession, again capped with a 26-yard score by Walton down the right sideline with 1:12 left in the opening quarter.
“Our line did a great job today,” Walton said. “We were able to run the ball very well. Our coaches called great plays all game.”
After a solid West Haven drive stalled again, Charles Wilcox came off the right edge and blocked a West Haven punt to the West Haven 19. Douglas Harrison raced in on the next play, giving Fairfield Prep a 28-0 advantage.
“It was important to get off to the quick start,” Walton said. “We set the tempo right from the start. I thought we did a good job with that.”
The Westies finally got on the scoreboard 3:06 later. Tylen Jennette, who finished with 99 yards rushing, led a four-play drive in which he also had a 36-yard burst, with a 4-yard score.
The Westies never had time to celebrate as Walton was at it again. Fielding the kickoff at his own 22-yard line, Walton cut through traffic and out ran the Westies for a score and a 35-6 lead with 4:54 left in the first half.
“We were able to get everyone in the game,” Walton said. “Everyone did their job. This is a great win for us.”
The Jesuits secured the fifth seed and also a running clock in the second half when they capitalized on a pair of West Haven fumbles to take a 49-6 lead at the half.
Connor Boyle scored the first of the two touchdowns in the final 2:57 with an 18-yard run, before lineman turned running back James Brown scored from 1-yard out in the final 46 seconds of the half.
“It feels great to get back there,” Hellstern said of the postseason. “We want to be productive in what we do and do it with a winning attitude. We are trying to prepare these guys to be great young men. It is about the process. If you don’t follow the process and do the right things, the wins and losses don’t matter.”
John Scholl (1 yard) and Dean Tsiranides (18 yards) scored for the Jesuits in the second half, while Jaden Grant added a 65-yard run for a touchdown with 2:39 to go for the Westies.