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The North Haven football team notched one of the biggest victories in program history on Sept. 20 by defeating Xavier 42-28 in its home opener at Vanacore Field. The Class LL Falcons entered the game as the No. 2 ranked team in the state, but couldn’t contain the Indians’ offense, which received three touchdown passes and one rushing TD from quarterback Mike Halloran, plus two rushing scores by senior captain Ethan Suraci that iced the game in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, North Haven’s defense intercepted Xavier QB Joe Carbone three times with Freddy Sanchez picking off a pair and Evan Manemeit snagging one. Following the contest, North Haven students rushed the field in jubilation.
“It was a big win for our team and I hope our community enjoys it, from our youth team to our freshmen to our JV team right up to varsity. It’s a program effort to get a victory like that. Everyone had a hand in it,” Coach Anthony Sagnella said. “Xavier is a good program that’s well-coached and been successful, but our kids weren’t intimidated. They just wanted to play the game to the best of their ability and they did that. We took control of the line of scrimmage early, then started losing the battle at the line, but regained it at the most important time in the fourth quarter.”
Halloran recorded the game’s first score on a 24-yard scamper in the opening quarter and the Indians led 7-0 after one.
Xavier scored early in the second, yet missed the extra point, and Halloran followed by finding Zach Kastenhuber for a 71-yard TD strike that saw the junior tight end catch the ball 12 yards down the field and then break a few tackles on his way to the house. Carbone came back with a touchdown pass for the Falcons, although North Haven took momentum into halftime when Halloran found senior Manemeit on a 13-yard TD. Sophomore Sabrina Fronte booted one of her six extra points and Sagnella’s squad took a 21-13 lead to the break.
The second half began with a Xavier TD pass and two-point conversion that made it 21-21 entering the final frame, but the Indians again had an answer as Halloran connected with Kastenhuber for a 50-yard touchdown. Halloran found Kastenhuber in stride behind the Xavier secondary about 35 yards down the field and North Haven now had the lead for good. The Indians’ winning touchdown was set up by what Sagnella called “a tremendous interception” by Manemeit.
Suraci later broke loose for a 45-yard TD run, the Falcons used a touchdown pass to make it a one-score game, but Suraci’s 39-yard scoring rush put a cap on the Indians’ 21-point fourth quarter and second win of the season.
Suraci rushed 12 times for 142 yards and the two TDs behind North Haven’s offensive line of tackles Mike Siwek and John Tondalo, center Mike Milliard, and guards Austin Mahon and Patrick Vanacore; along with Mike Biehl, plus tight ends Kastenhuber, Alex Baglioni, and Joe Corniello.
Also paving the path to glory for the Indians was senior captain blocking back Patrick Mikos.
“We knew that whoever tackled better would win the game and we just beat them up physically. We also want to be more diverse on offense this year it definitely helped that Halloran threw three touchdown passes,” Mikos said. “The seniors stepped up, the juniors stepped up, and the sophomores who played showed they can play at a high level.”
Halloran, who passed for 143 yards, was equally elated about the huge victory.
“We’re really excited. We’ve worked hard as a team ever since the last game of last year and this win is a big stepping stone for us,” Halloran said. “I’m proud of our line, I’m proud of our defense, and I’m happy to be a member of this team.”
The Indians next play at East Haven at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27. The Yellowjackets have a record of 1-1 and are coming off a 45-0 defeat at Hamden.