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Senior Mike Castellano ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns as the East Haven football team kept its playoff hopes going with a 28-14 victory at Lyman Hall on Nov. 15. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Jacob Araujo and the Yellowjackets’ defense are playing great this season and continued that trend in last week’s win over Lyman Hall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior quarterback Trey Garea and the East Haven football team improved to 6-2 by earning a 28-14 road win against Lyman Hall in an SCC Tier 3 matchup. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The East Haven football team is still alive in the playoff chase. On Nov. 15, the Yellowjackets went on the road and earned a pivotal 28-14 victory versus Lyman Hall in an SCC Tier 3 matchup. East Haven improved to 6-2 overall and is now 3-0 in the SCC Tier 3 standings, keeping the Yellowjackets in first place in the division.
After playing several non-conference games in recent weeks, Head Coach Scott Benoit was happy to face a local opponent in a must-win scenario for his club.
“These are the games we should be playing,” Benoit said. “It was a hard-fought game, a nice crowd, and everybody was excited. It was nice.”
The win over Lyman Hall guaranteed the Easties their first consecutive winning seasons in several decades after the team went 7-3 last year. Coach Benoit said that his squad was amped up for a game that had major playoff implications. East Haven is currently in 12th place in the Class M State Playoff rankings, in which the top eight teams qualify.
“My main point to them was we have a chance to have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 25 years at East Haven,” said Benoit. “With six [wins], we guaranteed ourselves a winning season, and we keep our hopes of extending the season on by winning.”
A big key to the victory was that several prominent seniors returned from injury for the Yellowjackets, including Tanner DiVito, a captain. DiVito was East Haven’s quarterback before suffering a thumb injury early in the season. While he won’t be taking any snaps at quarterback, DiVito is back in action and saw some time at running back and on special teams in the Lyman Hall game.
“It was good to see him out there. He felt good being out there, and the team is excited to have him back,” Coach Benoit said. “We had Jack Izzo back, Shea Carasone back, Nate Santos back. We were at full strength.”
East Haven and Lyman Hall played a scoreless first quarter before the Yellowjackets got on the board in the second quarter. Senior Mike Castellano broke off a 74-yard touchdown run, and junior Eric Araujo kicked the extra point to give the Yellowjackets a 7-0 lead.
After Lyman Hall evened the score, junior quarterback Trey Garea connected with senior receiver Kaymond Quattlebaum on a 50-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 advantage at halftime.
In the third quarter, Castellano scored his second touchdown of the game when he muscled through the line for a 1-yard score. Lyman Hall scored a TD to make it 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, but East Haven responded on a 46-yard touchdown rush from Araujo that gave the Yellowjackets some insurance in a 28-14 victory.
East Haven gained 284 yards of offense with most of it coming on big plays. It worked out in this game, but Coach Benoit knows that the Yellowjackets need to be more efficient moving the sticks heading into their final two contests of the campaign.
“It’s all or nothing. We’re not sustaining long drives, but we’re hitting big plays,” said Benoit. “Mike’s run was untouched up the middle, Eric was untouched, and Kaymond got behind the secondary. Our run game will set up the big plays, but we have to do a better job of getting the ball on the perimeter.”
Garea finished the game 8-of-10 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown for East Haven. Araujo had 113 yards rushing with a TD, while Castellano gained 89 yards and scored two TDs on the ground. Quattlebaum hauled in three receptions for 68 yards and a score.
East Haven played an excellent game on defense and special teams against Lyman Hall. Senior Calvin Nelson blocked a punt and had a fumble recovery on a goal-line stand in the game. Senior Jacob Araujo also recovered a fumble for Coach Benoit’s squad.
“I think all year we’ve been solid on defense,” Benoit said. “Izzo being back at linebacker was great for us, and we played very well. We play good team defense.”
The Yellowjackets will be back on the field on Thursday, Nov. 21, when they are hosting SCC Tier 3 opponent Law at East Haven High School at 7 p.m. Law has an overall record of 2-6 and is 2-1 in SCC Tier 3.
“Law is 2-6, but it’s deceiving. They have excellent skill players, so we’re going to have some matchup issues,” said Benoit said. “But we have a lot to play for right now. That’s what I’m trying to drive home.”
After playing Law, the Easties will conclude the 2019 regular season by visiting divisional rival Branford (4-4, 2-1) for the 78th annual Beehive Bowl. The game takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 28.
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