Pictured: Matt Minasian will be under center for H-K on Friday night. (Contributed Photo)
By Paul Augeri
For Haddam-Killingworth, its season-opening victory over Old Saybrook/Westbrook was no ordinary start fast-and-rally late scenario.
The Cougars jumped out to a three-touchdown lead. And they did so with 19 available players.
Nineteen. (Note: It doesn’t take a Fauci or a Gupta to understand why).
The Cougars were gassed at the start of the second half. And starting quarterback Tate Callender was unavailable – he broke his left (non-throwing) wrist in the second quarter. These were factors in the Rams scoring 22 unanswered points to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
But H-K found a way to overcome some serious adversity. The Cougars scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard run by Matt Minasian – Callender’s replacement – and the defense took over on downs at midfield on OSW’s final possession of the night for a 27-22 home win.
“It was brutal,” H-K coach Tyler Wilcox said. “Kids were cramping in the third quarter and I had young guys in there that had never played before. They willed themselves to come back and pull it off. They faced adversity square in the face in Week 1 and pulled themselves out of it. It was a big win for us to start the season, for sure.”
Minasian, a senior transfer from Naugatuck, will get the start Friday night when the Cougars host Route 81 rival Morgan (0-1) at 6:30pm. H-K also will have, minus Callender, its full complement of players back in the fray.
Friday offers an encouraging outlook for H-K knowing there was a chance its opener might not have been played.
“All week we told them we knew we were going to be shorthanded,” Wilcox said. “The kids wanted to play, the coaches wanted to play, so we played for all of those guys who were out.”
Orion Inkel took the opening kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown and set a tone that Wilcox could not have imagined. The coach also knew that at some point, his players would hit a wall.
“OSW was fired up and ready to go after halftime,” he said, “and we knew we would run out of gas a little bit. We played a good fourth and we played great defensively.”
Against the primarily running attack of the Rams, H-K made “seven or eight” fourth-down stops (“I think they punted only once,” Wilcox said) and snuffed OSW at the goal line on its first drive of the game.
On Friday, H-K will look to extend its winning streak to four over Morgan without perhaps their best player in Callender. The junior was rolling out to his right when he was spun around early in the second quarter. When he tried to brace his landing with his left arm, the wrist took the weight of the impact.
Callender might be able to return this season if the injury does not require surgery.
“As long as the doctor clears him,” Wilcox said. “And we wouldn’t rush him back by any means. We’re lucky that we have four quarterbacks on the roster and I’m confident with the remaining three.
Junior Alex Phipps will back up Minasian on Friday night.
“Matt can do it all,” his coach said. “He’s a very athletic kid with a good strong arm. I’m excited to see what he puts out. It’s his time to shine now. It’s a next-man mentality for us.”
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