Fitch is its own worst enemy in season-opening loss

Hamden — Mike Ellis Jr., the perpetually cheerful head coach of the Fitch football team, joked moments before Friday’s season opener that he didn’t know what to expect from his team.

What unfolded had Ellis seething afterwards.

Fitch was penalized 13 times, the last three which it committed after managing to get a first-and-goal at the Hamden 4 late in the game.

All of the Falcons' carelessness culminated with a fourth-down interception and an ugly 6-0 loss at Joseph Bruno Field.

“The discipline that we should have, we did not have, and that’s what cost us the game,” Ellis said. “We made so many mistakes and executed poorly in so many ways that we didn’t deserve to win this ball game.”

Fitch had 62 yards in penalties and just 102 yards of offense.

The Falcons, who used their option offense to run to an unbeaten regular season last year, were held to 90 yards on 37 carries. They also turned it over four times.

This was not what one thought they’d see from a team that has more than enough talent and experience to defend their Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title.

“Our offense looked pretty good in the scrimmages,” Ellis said. “I did not expect our offense to sputter the way that they did tonight.”

The Falcons had first-and-10 at the Hamden 28 midway through the third quarter. It became second-and-23 after a sack and delay of game, and Fitch inevitably had to punt.

Fitch had a second-and-2 at the Green Dragons’ 8 on its next drive. It lost 10 yards on its next two plays to squash the drive.

The Falcons got the ball back at the Hamden 47 with over seven minutes left in the game. It finally sustained a drive and had first-and-goal at the Green Dragons’ 4-yard line.

And then Fitch committed a false start.

A delay of game came one play later.

Another false start followed shortly thereafter.

Tyler Nelli was intercepted by Chris Wallace on fourth-and-goal at the 18 with less than a minute left.

“The offense, when the ball is at the four, they have got to be able to stick it into the end zone,” Ellis said. “I don’t know how many times we lost field position (to penalties). You’re not going to win close football games that way.”

Fitch did more than enough defensively to keep its team in the game, allowing just five first downs and 116 yards. The Falcons also forced three turnovers. Steve Cantres had two interceptions, and Noah Charron recovered a fumble.

The first of the Falcons' four turnovers came back to haunt them, however.

Fitch forced Hamden to go three-and-out and punt to start the game, but it fumbled the return and gave the Green Dragons the ball back at the Fitch 39.

The Falcons got Hamden into a fourth-and-16 hole, only for Wallace to throw a 37-yard pass to Chris Pigatt down to the Fitch 6.

Edwin Figeruoa ran 3 yards on first down.

Fitch was called for encroachment on second down to move the ball to the 1.

Jeremy Jupiter ran for a touchdown on the next play to give Hamden a 6-0 lead with 7 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first quarter.

“I’m not happy because we’ve got a better team than what we showed,” Ellis said. “We should be playing better than we are, but, like I said before the game, ‘I’m unsure what we’re going to see.’ And I’m not happy with what I saw.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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