Pictured: Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton wideout Evan Faiella turns upfield after catching a short pass from his twin brother, Aaron, in Friday night’s win over Morgan. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
DURHAM — Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton coach Erik Becker probably had to give out 11 game balls Friday night following the Blue Devils’ 32-14 Pequot Conference win over Morgan.
That would be one ball for every member of his defensive unit.
All the Blue Devil defense did on a frigid, windy Friday night at the Wally Camp Athletic Complex was limit the Huskies to minus 8 yards rushing on eight attempts, forcing the visitors to put the ball in the air a grand total of 53 times.
“We’ve been struggling running the ball all year long and tonight we ran into a team that never let us get our ground game going,” Morgan coach Peter Nye said. “They never let us get into any kind of rhythm.
“They were very strong, very physical up front and they forced us to throw the ball a little more than we wanted to.”
Coginchaug, meanwhile, rushed for 167 yards, which enabled quarterback Aaron Faiella to throw from a reasonably clean pocket and enjoy a relatively pressure-free evening.
Faiella responded by hitting 15 of his 23 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
The win improves Coginchaug’s record to 4-3 while Morgan drops to 1-6.
“I thought our guys on defense did an outstanding job tonight and I think our defensive coordinator, Matt Garretson, deserves a lot of the credit for that,” Becker said.
Becker singled out the play of a number of his defensive stalwarts, including nose tackle Nevin Moore, linemen Eli Ripper, Zak Cunningham and Tyler Garretson, defensive backs Evan Faiella, Terence
Murphy and Jackson Moore and linebackers Dean Fontano and Jeremy Mangiameli, a sophomore who serves as the defensive signal caller.
“I could probably have named another half-dozen kids who played important roles tonight,” he said. “I’m proud of all of them.”
Coginchaug started with a bang, taking the opening kickoff and marching 89 yards in seven plays to the game’s first touchdown. Running back Alex Case picked up 37 yards on four carries during the drive, which ended when Jackson Moore took a short screen pass from Faiella and sprinted 19 yards into the end zone to give Coginchaug a 6-0 lead with the game less than three minutes old.
The Blue Devils put the Huskies into a deeper hole four minutes later when Fontano intercepted a pass from Morgan quarterback Andrew Nye deep in the Morgan end of the field and returned the ball to the Huskies’ 9. Two plays later, following a clipping penalty that moved the Blue Devils back to the 22, Faiella hit A.J. DeFilio on an out pass. DeFilio caught the ball at the 5, pivoted to avoid two Morgan defenders, and sliced his way into the end zone. Jaden Morehead, the holder on extra point attempts, then fielded an errant snap and raced into the end zone for an additional two points that upped the lead to 14-0 with less than five minutes to go in the opening quarter.
Led by Nye, Morgan launched two serious threats over the next 10 minutes of play, but failed to score in both instances. After stopping the Blue Devils on fourth-and-1 near midfield, the Huskies drove to the Coginchaug 10 early in the second quarter, but were turned away when Nye’s pass bounced off of his intended receiver’s hands and into the arms of Coginchaug’s Chris Carafeno.
The Huskies stormed right back on their next possession, marching to the Blue Devil 29 from where Nye hit Liam Whelan with a 28-yard strike that gave Morgan a first-and-goal at the 1. But the Huskies turned the ball over on downs following two running plays that lost a combined nine yards and two incomplete passes, leaving the score 14-0 at the half.
After forcing a three-and-out on Morgan’s first possession of the second half, Coginchaug marched 48 yards in seven plays to widen the gap to 20-0, with Case scoring on a 1-yard run.
Case concluded a 56-yard drive with another 1-yard run late in the third quarter to increase the Blue Devils’ lead to 26-0. The scoring drive was set up by an Evan Faiella interception and 31-yard return that gave the Devil offense the ball at their 44.
Nye engineered a 60-yard scoring drive early in the fourth quarter by hitting Garret Garbinski with three straight passes that covered the final 49 yards of the march. The touchdown came on a pretty 36-yard spiral from Nye that Garbinski caught over his left shoulder after running a perfect hitch-and-go route.
Nye then hit Alex Fratamico for the 2-point conversion that made the score 26-8.
Coginchaug marched 70 yards in four plays off the ensuing kickoff with Morehead rumbling 49 yards after catching a short screen from Aaron Faiella to make it 32-8, while the Nye-to-Garbinski combination connected again as Garbinski concluded an 18-yard scoring play by making a tumbling catch in the end zone, setting the final score at 32-14.
Case finished with 14 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns, while Evan Faiella caught seven passes for 53 yards and Morehead had eight carries for 41 yards and caught one pass for 49 additional yards and a touchdown.
Garbinski finished the game for Morgan with eight catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns while Whelan caught five balls for 62 yards and Fratamico had five catches for 48 yards.
Despite the lack of a supportive running game, Nye, who faced a fierce Blue Devils pass rush all night long, completed 23 of his 52 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Becker said of Nye, a sophomore. “He’s accurate, he’s poised, he’s got a great demeanor … He’s pretty much everything you’d ever want in a quarterback.”
The Blue Devils will host Cromwell/Portland next Saturday in their final home game of the season. They close their schedule with road games against Ellington and North Branford.
Morgan will host North Branford next Friday before traveling to Rockville and Old Saybrook/Westbrook to finish out the season.