‘Canes Face Defensive Struggle
The torrential rains that pelted the practice fields during the previous week took their toll on offensive preparation so the CCC Division I West clash between New Britain and Hall evolved into a defensive struggle.
The outcome rested on which team could generate offense from its defense, and the Warriors enjoyed a substantial edge thanks to D.J. Byers and Andrew Monos.
Byers scored a touchdown on a fumble return and Monos cashed in on a game-clinching interception return Saturday as the Warriors stormed to a 23-8 win at wind-blown Chalmers Stadium.
The Warriors (3-1) generated 15 points directly off their defense.
“The defense played great,” Hall coach Frank Robinson III said. “There were so many plays that were available but the defense just didn’t allow it to happen. It’s a credit to New Britain’s defense that we couldn’t do a whole lot today.”
Both teams were out of synch on offense, particularly in the first half when neither amassed 100 yards from scrimmage and 13 penalties accounted for 100 negative yards.
“I don’t know how New Britain’s practice week went but when you have rain it’s really hard to get a real practice done,” Robinson said. “I really credit the weather.”
Hall took a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter when a high fourth-down snap soared over the head of punter/quarterback Malique Jones. Jones adroitly recovered the ball and tried to punt it away but it struck an onrushing Hall player and caromed through the end zone.
Moments after a holding penalty negated Jones’ apparent 87-yard touchdown run, Byers scooped up a fumble at the New Britain 15 and dashed into the end zone in the final minute of the first half. Tom Honyotski booted the extra point and Hall held a 9-0 lead at the break.
“I was outside when [lineman Zach Duzan hit Jones] and I saw the football,” Byers said. “It was everybody, not just me. It was a team effort. Without them, I wouldn’t have scored that touchdown.”
Monos ascended the hero’s mantle in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of New Britain’s top receiver Daequone Clark on a slant pattern and covered the final 12 yards to secure the victory.
“We knew it was coming,” Hall offensive assistant coach Craig Bowman said. “[Monos] read it and jumped it.”
The play convinced New Britain coach Tebucky Jones to consider adjustments on an offense that is still evolving after the departure of offensive coordinator and former Jack Cochran protégé Arnie Delio two weeks ago for personal reasons.
“That slant route? I don’t care if we ever run it again,” he said. “Every team we ran it against picked it. You’ll never see it again.”
The offenses continued to slog at the outset of the second half until Hall quarterback Zach Dobbins began getting in rhythm with his receivers.
After a pass deflected by tackle Matt Houpert forced New Britain’s second three-and-out series of the third quarter, Dobbins engineered a 16-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes.
Javone Bellamy began the productive voyage with a seven-yard gain. Dobbins connected with Tovi Thomas for five, Neil Kelley for 27, Monos for 17 and Thomas again for 16 to escort the Warriors into the red zone.
From there, they used the tight double-wing set to methodically push to goal with L.T. Nembhard scoring on a dive from the 1. Dobbins lofted a perfectly thrown pass to Monos on the conversion try to give Hall a three-possession advantage at 17-0.
New Britain answered by driving 71 yards in eight plays for its lone touchdown.
A 39-yard pass play from Malique Jones to Clark was the key play. Lamar Bowsky bulled over from the 2 and Malique Jones notched the conversion on a quarterback keeper.
The defensive posture of the first half resumed in the fourth quarter. Linebackers Isaac Smith, Geovanni Medina and promising sophomore Alex Swaby were active for the Hurricanes (1-3). Houpert, linebacker Chris Davis and cornerback Tre’Von Smallwood turned in big plays for the Warriors.
Hall enjoyed a considerable advantage in size and experience along the lines.
“We’re always counting on them,” Robinson said. “They’ll have to do it again. It’s not going to be the only time we’ll ask them to step up. We need it from them and we still need to make more plays. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Hall 23, New Britain 8
New Britain (1-3) 0 0 8 0 – 8
Hall (3-1) 2 7 8 6 – 23
H – Safety, blocked punt went through end zone, 7:20
H – D.J. Byers 16 fumble return (Tom Honyotski kick), :45
H – L.T. Nembhard 1 run (Andrew Monos pass from Zach Dobbins), 3:09
NB – Lamar Bowsky 2 run (Malique Jones run), 0:00
H – Monos 12 interception return (kick failed), 5:27
RUSHING – New Britain: Jones 13-25, Bowsky 8-36, Bryan Gray 2-2, Stephen Lamonde 1-1. Hall: Jordon Bell 15-41, Javone Bellamy 10-43, Chris Davis 5-9, Nembhard 4-9, Dobbins 4-(-2).
PASSING – New Britain: Jones 11-29-3, 130 yds.; Hall: Dobbins 12-28-1, 130 yds.
RECEIVING – New Britain: Daequone Clark 7-103, Tito Riley 1-15, Fitz Ingram 2-12, Isaac Smith 1-0; Hall: Byers 4-32, Tovi Thomas 3-28, Neil Kelley 2-33, Monos 1-17, Bell 1-12, Nembhard 1-8.