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Senior captain Mike Caruso returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to give East Haven an early lead when the Yellowjackets faced crosstown rival Branford in the 78th annual Beehive Bowl game on Thanksgiving morning. Branford went on to get a 35-7 victory to defeat East Haven for the third year in a row. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Eric Araujo (left) takes the handoff from fellow junior Trey Garea during the East Haven football team’s annual Thanksgiving matchup against Branford. The Hornets defeated the Yellowjackets by a 35-7 final at Branford High School on Nov. 28. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Mike Castellano and the East Haven football squad finished with a record of 7-3 for the second-straight year this fall. In their last home game of the season, the Yellowjackets notched a 21-7 victory versus Law on Senior Night. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The East Haven football team took its third-straight loss against Branford in the Beehive Bowl to finish with a record of 7-3 for the second season in a row. The Yellowjackets lost to the Hornets by the final score of 35-7 in the 78th annual edition of the game on Thanksgiving morning at Branford High School. Branford now leads its all-time series with East Haven 41-33-4.
The Yellowjackets had already been eliminated from contention for the Class M State Football Playoffs prior to playing Branford in the Beehive Bowl on Nov. 28. Still, Head Coach Scott Benoit said that his squad was amped up to take the field for its annual Turkey Day game.
“This is a big game, and we have to be better,” said Benoit, who finished his second season at East Haven. “We’re now 0-2 against Branford, and they’ve outscored us 55-10, so there’s a long way to go.”
East Haven scored the first touchdown of the game when senior captain Mike Caruso picked off a pass by Branford quarterback Sean Kelly and returned it 55 yards to the house. Junior Eric Araujo kicked the extra point to put East Haven up 7-0 just 1:02 into the game.
However, Branford (6-4) dominated the contest from that point on by scoring 35 unanswered points and holding East Haven to less than 50 yards of total offense for the day. With the win, the Hornets finished in a tie with the Yellowjackets for first place in the SCC Tier 3 standings with their respective records of 4-1.
“I’ve said it all year—they’re a really good, well-coached team,” Coach Benoit said of Branford. “It’s not that we came out flat. They’re just bigger, faster, and stronger than us at every position. We were outmanned.”
After East Haven’s opening touchdown, the Hornets came right back by going on a drive that culminated with a 45-yard TD run from Kamryn Holmes. Jake Bodner’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 7:01 to play in the first quarter.
A few minutes later, Kelly was intercepted by East Haven junior Alex Duarte, setting up the Yellowjackets with good field position inside the Branford red zone. East Haven made it to the 1-yard line, but was unable to get into the end zone after botching snaps on back-to-back plays. The game went to the second quarter still tied at 7.
On Branford’s next drive, Kelly threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mekhi Barnette to give the Hornets the lead for good. The extra point try was missed, but Branford had a 13-7 lead with 9:03 remaining in the first half.
Holmes finished off another drive by rushing for an 8-yard touchdown with 2:42 left in the half. Kelly ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Hornets a 21-7 advantage at halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Branford put the game away with pair of touchdowns in the fourth. First, Kelly threw 36-yard touchdown to Barnette at the 8:22 mark of the quarter. Bodner kicked the extra point and the Hornets were up 28-7.
Later in the frame, Kelly scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to increase Branford’s lead to 34-7 with 2:49 to go in the contest. Bodner hit the extra point to finish off the Hornets’ 35-7 victory.
Senior Night Triumph
One week before the Beehive Bowl, East Haven hosted Law for its Senior Night game and earned a 21-7 victory in an SCC Tier 3 matchup on Nov. 21. Law took the lead in the first quarter, but East Haven came back with 21-straight points to get the win.
“It was Senior Night, so our guys were excited to get out there. It’s always an emotional game,” Coach Benoit said. “Law’s record [2-8] is deceptive. They have a really good group of kids over there.”
With East Haven down 7-0, Duarte scored on a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Araujo booted home the extra point to make it 7-7, which held up as the score at halftime.
East Haven’s defense kept Law off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. Benoit said that his defensive unit turned in a phenomenal effort.
“Our defense has been outstanding all year,” he said. “They came up with the big plays. That’s a good team over there.”
In the third quarter, senior Mike Castellano ran for a 3-yard touchdown to put the Yellowjackets up 13-7.
Araujo punched home a 7-yard touchdown rush in the fourth quarter. Castellano’s 2-point run was successful, giving East Haven a 21-7 advantage.
Arajuo gained 135 yards on the ground for the Yellowjackets, who had more than 200 yards rushing for the game.
In the end, Coach Benoit was proud of the way East Haven played while going 7-3 for the second-straight campaign this year.
“To have back-to-back seven-win seasons, we haven’t seen that in East Haven in decades,” said Benoit. “These seniors did a phenomenal job and have set the standard.”
From the Sidelines
The athletes in East Haven's senior class are captains Tanner DiVito (quarterback/running back), Mike Caruso (wide receiver/defensive back), Jake Marquardt (tight end/linebacker), and Calvin Nelson (offensive line/defensive line), along with fellow seniors Nathan Santos (wide receiver/defensive back), Alec DiVito (wide receiver/linebacker), Mike Castellano (running back/defensive back), Kaymond Quattlebaum (wide receiver/linebacker), Jacob Araujo (running back/safety), Vincent Maida (wide receiver/defensive back), Jack Izzo (offensive line/linebacker), Joseph Consiglio (offensive line/defensive line), Shawn Nugent (offensive line/defensive line), and Ethan Kowlaczik (offensive line/defensive line).
During the regular season, East Haven notched wins versus Foran (14-7), Brookfield (56-6), Rocky Hill (44-6), Guilford (34-28), Stratford (20-0), Lyman Hall (28-14), and Law (21-7). The Yellowjackets took losses against New Fairfield (26-0), Cheshire (48-14), and Branford (35-7).
East Haven finished with a record of 4-1 in SCC Tier 3 play this season. The Easties posted victories over Foran, Guilford, Lyman Hall, and Law, while losing to Branford in their divisional games.
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