Fitch puts a scare in North Haven, but falls short
Groton — Before the game, Mike Ellis told more than one observer he believed his team “had to score 60” to win Tuesday’s Class MM quarterfinal. There’s good reason for that: Last time Fitch played North Haven, two months ago in the regular season, the Falcons lost 58-28.
All of which made the first half so intriguing. The team that allowed 58 last time went rampaging into the fieldhouse at halftime, owners of a 10-7 lead.
“We had the momentum,” Ellis said.
But then North Haven illustrated why it is the defending Class MM state champion. The NIghthawks blitzed Fitch early and often in the third period, eventually earning a 41-22 win and a trip to the state semifinals.
“Coach (Tony Sagnella) told us at halftime we were playing a little soft,” North Haven senior Adam Pandolfi said. “Fitch came to play. They played a heck of a game. We were a little sloppy for a while.”
It was Pandolfi who led his team, scoring on a 44-yard touchdown run early in the third period to give the Nighthawks the lead for good. Pandolfi, who also scored on runs of 1, 25 and 13 yards, led North Haven with 147 yards rushing.
“We talked about how North Haven is the defending champion and that they’d come out of the locker room throwing their best punch,” Ellis said. “We needed to withstand it. We didn’t.”
Fitch, which finished 9-2, trailed 7-0 for most of the first half. In the final three minutes, Fitch capitalized on an errant snap that resulted in a safety, making it 7-2. On the ensuing possession, quarterback Ben Perry threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Miller, giving Fitch the lead. Adonis Fine’s two-point conversion run made it 10-7.
Perry threw for 92 yards and ran for 75, 68 of which came on a long touchdown run early in the fourth period that cut North Haven’s lead at the time to 28-16.
But the Nighthawks responded quickly, ending Fitch’s night and season. The Falcons had a productive 2023 nonetheless, winning the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title for the third straight season and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
“The same team that gave up 58 points two months ago played a great first half and stood right there with them,” Ellis said. “We just weren’t able to sustain it. But it showed how much improvement the kids made over the course of the season. That says a lot for them.”
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