WALLINGFORD — Lyman Hall football began its season with a 26-21 loss on the road against Branford. The loss featured several encouraging signs for the Trojans going forward. There were also many discouraging moments.
“Effort-wise, I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” said Lyman Hall head coach Bill Weyrauch. “One of the captains of our team, Zach Kizer, just addressed them and said he had never saw a better effort in the second half on the defensive side of the ball, and I have to say the same thing. The effort was outstanding. We had four or five guys cramping up and they just stayed out there. They were warriors out there, so that was great.
“What was I disappointed in? I think we had over 150 yards in penalties. It’s hard to win a close football game when you have over 150 yards in penalties. Our offense could’ve been a lot better on the offensive side of the football and the defensive side in the first hal,l too.”
The game was very sloppy. Lyman Hall was called for five personal fouls and three holding calls among the various penalties handed down throughout the game. All of the penalty calls put Lyman Hall out of several plays and set up Branford with more opportunities on the offensive side of the football.
Many of the penalties were avoidable. A lot of them came after plays in which the Trojans had gotten a stop.
Just one example of this was in the wake of Branford’s final scoring drive. The Hornets had initially failed to convert on a two-point conversion, but were given a second chance that they did convert. They got that second chance because of a late hit on Branford QB Sean Kelly.
One thing that can’t be criticized was the Trojans’ effort. On every play, Lyman Hall players laid it all out on the line. Evidence of this was game stoppage due to several Trojans cramping up.
Branford’s offense was very patient throughout the night. The Hornets opened the game with an eight-minute scoring drive that kept Lyman Hall’s defense on the field for longer than any coach would want. Part of the reason the drive went for so long is that the defense made Branford work for every first down.
Lyman Hall’s special teams play also deserves some praise. On Branford’s four scoring drives, extra points were converted only oncem and the one successful conversion came following a penalty. Branford also failed to get anything off of punt or kick returns as LH coverage was stifling.
In the second half, Lyman Hall seniors Austin Ruiz and Shakespeare Rodriguez, stepped up. Trailing 18-7 to begin the third quarter, Rodriguez picked off Kelly and ran the ball back for a pick-six, bringing the Trojans back within striking distance.
Ruiz, at running back, consistently barreled through Branford’s defensive line in the second half to give the Trojans every chance they could to win the game.
As hard as they fought, it just wasn’t enough. Penalties and other mistakes throughout the game came back to haunt them and, in the end. Lyman Hall’s final chance died on a final turnover.
What’s encouraging is the lack of discipline exhibited by Lyman Hall is fixable. Weyrauch can address those types of things in practice. He doesn’t have to address his team’s heart, though.
“I think it’s a lack of discipline and that comes from the head coach, so I’ll take responsibility for that,” said Weyrauch. “Some of them were aggressive, but you know what? We had five personal fouls. I thought one should’ve been against Branford, but it was not. I have to take responsibility for that though and tell my kids that I love the aggressiveness, but you have to know when to pull back.”