Hall hosted Wethersfield Friday night in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
For the first three quarters Friday night’s Wethersfield at Hall football game was a classic back-and-forth affair. Tied at the half, tied after three, the Eagles broke it open with 14 unanswered fourth quarter points for the 35-21 win.
Hall showed moments of solid football on both sides of the ball and on special teams, but three offensive turnovers would allow Wethersfield to run their rushing offense, taking time off the clock and scoring points.
The Eagles won the coin toss but deferred, giving the Titans the games first possession.
Junior quarterback Bode Smith connected with Cooper Griffin, and Ryan Zydanowicz had a pair of big runs that put the ball at the Wethersfield 23. Smith dropped back and let fly a ball to the back corner of the end zone and Angelo Culmo out-jumped a defender for the TD catch to give Hall the 7-0 lead just 2:13 into the game.
The visitors came right back with a drive of their own. Using only running plays that featured Jova’n Hill, Dhallas Morgan, and quarterback Camden Righi, the Eagles marched down the field in about six minutes and Righi capped it off with a short TD run to tie things. “They are a really good team over there that did some good things tonight,” said Hall head coach Frank Robinson of his opponent.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hall fumbled the ball and Wethersfield’s Christian Morales recovered it and advanced it to the Hall 20. Righi went to the air on second down but missed a wide-open Mikel Lieshi over the middle. He redeemed himself later in the drive by going in for the score from five yards out to give Wethersfield the lead again.
“They did a great job with that kickoff,” said Robinson. “That was a turning point.”
In the second quarter, Hall again put together an impressive scoring drive that resulted in a Smith to Griffin catch and run TD pass over the middle with just 2:31 gone in the second quarter. Hall would force Wethersfield to punt on the next drive when Dan Moleti sacked Righi. Hall could not get things in gear on offensive, however, seeing one penalty and a pair of bad snaps that left them with a third-and-32 from their own 10 yard line before they punted the ball back to Wethersfield.
The Eagles had a promising late drive going, but a critical penalty wiped put a pass completion to the Hall 7 and pushed the ball back to the 47. Hall would get a final sack on the last play of the half and things were tied at 14 at intermission.
Wethersfield was looking to put together another long scoring drive to open the second half, but on fourth down Hall’s Jordan Brice stepped in front of an Eagles receiver in the endzone and intercepted Righi’s pass, returning it to the Hall 15 and seemingly giving his team the momentum. But the Hall offense sputtered and went three-and-out with a punt.
Wethersfield had the ball at its own 35 with 4:35 to play in the third quarter and the score still tied at 14. Once again it was the running of Righi and Hill leading the way, but Hall forced a fumble on its own 18 and Taylor Burke recovered for Hall.
After a loss of one on first down, Smith’s second down pass was incomplete. On third down, Smith rolled out to his left, and Wethersfield’s Justin Ocasio hit Smith from his blindside, stripping the ball from the quarterback, and the Eagles recovered at the Hall 8 yard line. With 2:10 to play, Hill – who the Titans had no answer for – rushed for the score on the first play from scrimmage to make it 21-14 Eagles.
Once again it was Hall’s Brice producing a huge play, this time on the ensuing kickoff. He fielded it deep in his own territory, cut in, then back out to the sideline and was tackled deep in Wethersfield territory. A tripping call on Wethersfield on the tackle of Brice moved the ball to the Wethersfield 2. On second down Smith called his own number and followed a strong push by his offensive line to go right up the middle to tie the game.
When the fourth quarter began, the score was tied at 21, Wethersfield had the ball at the 45 and there were 12 minutes on the clock. On first down, Hill again slashed through the Titan defense, this time taking it all the way for the 45-yard score and giving his team a quick lead 28-21.
Trailing by 7, Hall went to the air and Smith was intercepted at the Eagles’ 38 by Morgan. Wethersfield’s next drive was helped by a pass interference call against Hall. On second and goal from the 7, Righi was stopped by Carter Morton on a run but on the next play, Righi kept the ball again, went off the left side and in for the score to make it 35-21.
Trailing by two scores, Hall put Smith in the shotgun on the next possession. He connected with Culmo to move the ball to the Wethersfield 44. But on the next play it was Morales getting his second interception of the game and returning it to the Wethersfield 34. “At the end we were trying to force it and move the ball down the field,” Hall’s Robinson said.
The Eagles ground game would do the rest as Righi and Hill delivered critical first downs for Wethersfield (4-1) and the visitors went into victory formation to run out the clock and take the 35-21 win.
Hall had come into the game off its first win of the season two weeks prior when they knocked off previously unbeaten Glastonbury. Friday’s loss drops their record to 1-5 but Robinson sees his team making good progress while playing a very tough schedule. “It helps our confidence that we stayed right there with Wethersfield,” the coach said. “We just couldn’t hold on. But the best thing is they [Hall] don’t give up.”
Hall travels to Simsbury next week, and remaining foes include East Hartford, Newington, and crosstown rival Conard.
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