In a season of highlights, the West Haven football team just keeps adding to them. Pushed to the brink, the Westies continue to respond.
Trailing by three points and with the hopes of an undefeated season quickly slipping away, the Westies responded.
Converting on a pair of fourth downs on the final drive, including the game-winner with 38 seconds to go, West Haven defeated Hamden 27-23 in a classic at Ken Strong Stadium.
The win helped the Westies improve to 9-0 on the year and gave the team the Southern Connecticut Conference Tier 2 title.
Hamden’s Kodjo Gassese connected on a 23-yard field goal with just over three minutes to go to cap a run of 23 straight point by the Green Dragons, before West Haven took over at its own 40 with 2:55 remaining in the game.
After Conlan was sacked twice, the Westies were facing a fourth-and-12 where Conlan hit a sliding Reid for a 13-yard gain. A 27-yard connection to Evans followed before the Westies faced another game-changing situation.
“Being 9-0 feels real good,” Reid said. “The game-winning drive was just calm down and get our emotions together. They were getting sacks, but that is football. You are going to have them. We just knew we had to calm down. We know we have special playmakers in the backfield and on the outside. We did what we had to do.
“Honestly, this is what we do. It was a challenge. We got a challenge, and we defeated the challenge.”
Again, on fourth down, the Westies delivered. Conlan hit Reid in the far corner of the endzone for the go-ahead score and a West Haven victory.
“I knew Mani (Reid) was going to be out there,” Conlan said. “I trusted him. I knew I was going to throw it up to him and I hoped for the best.”
The game-winning drive was necessary as the Westies failed to hold on to a 20-0 lead and allowed Hamden back in the contest with missed opportunities.
West Haven set the tone of the game early as Demarco Eady returned the opening kick 80 yards for a 7-0 lead.
The Westies then drove to the Hamden 1-yard line on their opening offensive possession, but a fumble prevented the Westies from adding to the margin.
West Haven held and a short punt gave the Westies possession at the Hamden 15, where Robinson ran in for a 14-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
The Westies needed just four plays to score on their next possession, going 62 yards in four plays. Conlan hit Aedan Coe for 24 yards, then capped the drive with a 17-yard scoring strike to Eady for a 20-0 advantage with 41 seconds gone by in the second quarter.
That was it for the Westies until the final drive of the game. Hamden held West Haven to just 13 yards of offense the remainder of the quarter and just 60 yards of offense in the third quarter.
While the Hamden defense was doing its part, the offense took over and used a 21-yard connection from Jerard Gibson to Travion Singleton to get within 20-7 at the half.
The Green Dragons made it 20-14 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Tyshaun Davender, before tying the contest on their next possession when Gibson lofted a 72-yard scoring strike to Singleton with just over eight minutes to play to even the game at 20.
The Westies continued to stall on offense, setting up Hamden’s go-ahead field goal, before Conlan and company rallied.
The Blue Devils improved to 8-0 with a 48-6 victory over Harding in Bridgeport the week before.
The Westies took control of the game from the start and never looked back. Nick Conlan was 11-of-14 for 138 yards and two touchdown passes, Deven Robinson ran for 55 yards on five carries, Armani Reid scored three times, catching five passes for 50 yards, while Teriq Mallory had four receptions for 74 yards.
Defensively, West Haven had four interceptions, one apiece from Savien Daniley, Javar Smith, Avian Evans, and Terrance Sherard. West Haven outgained Harding 402-79.
West Haven took a 13-0 lead after one quarter on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Conlan to Reid, and a 6-yard touchdown run by Robinson.
The lead increased to 21-0 to start the second quarter when Trevor Tompkins scored from three yards out, and Conlan hit Avyon Graham with the two-point conversion. A 58-yard run by Reid made it 27-0, before Jeremiah Christie-Francis scored from 18 yards out.
The Westies increased the lead and capped the West Haven scoring in the third quarter when Conlan hit Reid with a two-yard score, and Terrance Sherard returned an interception 32 yards for a score and 48-0 lead.
The run for the West Haven volleyball team in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament came to a quick end. Facing a tough top-seeded Cheshire squad, the Westies were defeated, 3-0.
The 25-6, 25-15, 25-15 loss to the Rams dropped West Haven’s overall record to 13-9 on the year.
Asia Ford led the Westies in defeat with seven digs, three blocks and three kills. Jenna Johnson had five assists and four digs, Astrid Portugal Morales chipped in five digs and three aces, while Olivia McDonnell added four kills and three blocks, and Bianka Portugal Morales had four digs.
The season came to a close for the West Haven volleyball team. Traveling to play 14th-seeded Trumbull, the 19th-seeded Westies dropped a 3-0 decision in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL state tournament Tuesday evening in Trumbull.
With the 25-13, 25-15, 23-10 loss, the Westies finished the season with a 13-10 record.
Dulcemaria Castillo led the Westies with 11 digs and two kills, while Jenna Johnson had 11 assists and two digs. Astrid Portugal Morales added seven digs and three aces, Ford had four digs and two kills, Tanasia Fidalgo chipped in three kills and three digs, and McDonnell had three kills, two aces, and two digs.
Jordyn Johnson (two aces), Alison Frazer (two digs), and Mya Flemming (two kills) all played well in the loss.
The West Haven girls soccer team was hoping to return to its late season magic, which propelled the team to the postseason. After falling to Mercy in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament, West Haven entered the Class LL state tournament on the road against No. 16 Darien.
Facing a tough Blue Wave team, No. 17 West Haven could not get anything going and fell 2-0 in the opening round of state playoff action. With the loss, West Haven closed the year at 8-8-2.
Kassidy Carrano made eight saves in the loss for the Westies.
For all your West Haven sporting news throughout the year, including game articles by Mike Madera, highlights, photos and more, visit www.westieblue.com.