NORTH HAVEN — Outside of one play, it was a first half that Cheshire football coach Don Drust and his Rams wish they could do over again.
Lucky for Drust and his boys, there are two halves in football.
The Rams (2-0) put up 14 points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter en route to a 28-0 shutout win over SCC Tier I rival North Haven. Christian Russo, the Rams’ workhorse running back, scored twice on well over 100 yards.
Cheshire, which also got passing touchdowns thrown by Matt Jeffery to E.J. Quint and Mike Simeone to Danny Zawalich, is now 2-0. North Haven dropped to 0-2 and has yet to score a touchdown this season.
Russo extended Cheshire’s 7-0 halftime lead with his pair of scores.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior sniffed out the end zone for the first time in the later stages of the third quarter. The Rams started the drive at their own 22-yard line. They handed it to Russo four straight times. The first three runs totalled 14 yards.
The fourth? A casual 63-yard touchdown run along his own sideline to put Cheshire up 14-0.
Cheshire used the long gain on its next possession, too, but not to score. Jeffery hit wide receiver Jack Watson on a screen and he racked up 52 yards on the run.
North Haven stood tall at the goal line and stuffed the Rams before Russo caught a pitch going to his right. With blockers in front and a man to beat, Russo dove for the pylon in front of Cheshire’s traveling student section for a 21-0 lead with on the first play of the fourth quarter.
After failing to force a turnover in the first 24 minutes, Cheshire forced a fumble on North Haven’s lone big gainer in the second half — a pass caught by Jeffery Karavas at midfield — to end any sort of comeback.
Two plays later, Simeone rolled to his right and found a crossing Zawalich, who took care of the rest. The fourth touchdown made it a 28-0 contest.
North Haven would later intercept Simeone, but with just 90 seconds left to play. Besides, the home team gave it right back on a interception that put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Cheshire’s first score was one for the circus.
Following a sack on first down late in the second quarter, Jeffery dropped back and found Quint streaking down the near sideline. Quint caught the ball, then bobbled it, then secured it en route to a 58-yard touchdown in what would be the lone scoring play in the opening half.
The rest of the half was marred by miscues and penalties.
After North Haven won the toss and elected to defer in classic head coach Anthony Sagnella fashion, Cheshire started the game from its own 44-yard line. Jeffery dropped back on a third-and-8, only to have his pass undercut and intercepted by North Haven’s Jeffery Karvas.
The Rams forced North Haven, which converted only two first downs in the first half, to punt seven times throughout the night, including a quick kick on a third-and-long.
Among its first five possessions, Cheshire turned the ball over twice and punted twice. The Rams scored on their other.
Drust leaned on his senior running back as Russo gashed through the middle of North Haven’s defense for a 39-yard run. After Jeffery got the Rams to third and manageable, Russo went right back up the middle for the first down.
North Haven met Russo at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield on consecutive snaps. Sebastian DeRubeis stopped Cheshire’s Tim Nugent short of the first down on the next play to set up a fourth-and-3 from North Haven’s 7-yard line. The fullback run was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs.
The Rams nearly got the ball right back. North Haven was doing what it does best: run the ball. Jake Langer got his squad out to the 34-yard line. On a second-and-12, Langer tossed one deep down the far sideline and, at the moment, was intercepted by Quint on a one-handed snag.
It didn’t stand. Cheshire was called for roughing the passer while North Haven was flagged for a penalty after the whistle to negate the play.
The Rams were called for five penalties in the first half. They lost the Quint interception. A pair of holds stalled their third drive and forced them to punt. A block in the back nearly ruined Cheshire’s fifth drive, but Jeffery and Quint had other plans.