NORTH HAVEN — Aready losing 35-0, Platt ran the ball into the red zone only to see a wall of North Haven defenders and zeros on the clock. A simple tackle would have ended the half right there.
Instead, the ball carrier fumbled and North Haven's Nick Harkins ran the ball 80 yards the other direction for the defensive touchdown.
The half ended 42-0 and not much changed after that in this CT High School Football Alliance game between the visiting Panthers of the CCC and the Nighthawks of the SCC. North Haven finished off a 49-0 victory that puts the Nighthawks at 2-1 and Platt at 1-2.
It was about as lopsided as it could get from the start. Platt started with the ball and went 3-and-out, punted and the Nighthawks drove down the field to reach the end zone, as they would on each of their first six drives, plus the one score just before half on defense.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” said North Haven head coach Tony Sagnella. “It really was a little touch-and-go in the beginning. They were winning some snaps; we were winning some snaps. But as the half went on, we started to gain a little bit of momentum.”
North Haven's offense featured all rushing plays until its 16th play of the game, when Sagnella’s squad finally unleashed the passing game with a 27-yard strike by quarterback Jeffrey Karavas. Brian Lastomirsky was uncovered and ran past the zone defense along the right sideline to catch the ball in the end zone to make the score 14-0.
The second pass came eight offensive plays later: a 22-yard floating pass to Salvatore DeMaio which put the offense at the Platt 20.
The very next play saw Karavas roll right looking to pass again, but instead he decided to scramble. Karavas made a few jukes on the right side of the line, ran nearly backward on his way to the left sideline before finally gaining progress and out-running the entire defense to the end zone.
“We're not a spread team, but that doesn't mean we don't work on the passing game,” Sagnella said. “We're committed to the run, but we look for our opportunities to throw the football.”
Those two passes were the only two thrown by North Haven for the entire game. It was all about the traditional North Haven single-wing run game.
North Haven featured direct-snap rushes on nearly every play. The first drive featured eight of them, capped off by a 5-yard touchdown run by Karavas. Karavas ended the game with one passing TD and three rushing TDs.
Meanwhile, North Haven's defense and special teams did their job. As a result, North Haven's offense never started a drive behind its own 38.
“We didn’t make a lot of errors; we were able to get them in a hole early,” Sagnella said. “One factor was that we got the wind to our backs in the first half and pinned them down a bit. I think that probably affected their start.”
The Nighthawis started their fifth drive at the opposing 32 thanks to a blocked punt following a 3-and-out that was concluded by their third sack of the game.
The second half opened with a kickoff return by Jake McCreve that he ran all the way inside the Platt 10 to set up yet another touchdown and promptly stifle the chances of a miraculous second-half comeback by Platt.
The Panthers went 3-and-out on three of their five first-half drives. Once, they got off six plays before punting. They used 11 on their bid just before halftime only to see it end with the fumble return.
“They worked their butts off,” Platt head coach Jason Bruenn said of North Haven’s performance. “They’re a no-nonsense, get-after-it type program. We have a lot to learn. Our kids have to learn from the experience today.”
The Panthers simply never got going. Their defense struggled to even force third downs and their offense struggled to get first downs. Each big throw by quarterback Avery Robinson fell incomplete.
Platt’s star running back from last season, Amari Robinson, still had a noticeable cast on his right hand and did not carry the ball. He won’t be at full strength for at least a few more weeks, according to Bruenn.
“He’s a great running back, but it didn’t affect us,” Bruenn said of missing Amari Robinson from the offense. “Their defense is well-coached. They take a second fiddle to their offense, but they really shouldn’t.”
North Haven plays host to Shelton next Friday night, the second of four straight home games for the Nighthawks. Platt will look to rebound in Plainville.