North Haven Football Heads Into MM Title Defense After Wallop on Thanksgiving
Domination, especially in the running game from an offensive standpoint, has been at the forefront of the proficient regular-season run of the North Haven football team in 2023. So it came as little surprise that the Nighthawks finished off the first portion of the campaign in the same fashion as it now preps for the postseason.
The Nighthawks traveled to Amity for the schools’ annual Thanksgiving Day morning clash on Nov. 23, and North Haven capped off its 8-2 regular season emphatically with a 41-6 shellacking of the Spartans. The Nighthawks built a 41-0 edge at halftime behind six rushing touchdowns, including a trio from senior Trysten Dos, and coasted to the victory.
North Haven now gets a chance to defend its Class MM state crown as the Class MM State Playoffs begin on Tuesday, Nov. 28 when it travels to No. 4 Fitch as the fifth seed for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. The victor moves onto the semifinals on Sunday, Dec. 3 against either top-seeded Windsor or No. 8 Bunnell.
Head Coach Anthony Sagnella detailed that the squad already secured a postseason berth and an historic SCC crown, and so he wanted to make sure his boys did not take any opponent lightly and invite any thought of an upset.
“Going into the game, we clinched a playoff spot the week before, and we also won SCC Tier 1 for the first time in the program’s history,” said Sagnella. “So when the stakes rise like that and you accomplish all this before the regular season is over, you worry about a let down. All year, our theme has been, ‘push the rock’, which means do what you have to do–whether it be improving on fundamentals, or your schoolwork, etc. They did just that, and we controlled the line of scrimmage and ran the ball.”
Dos finished his day against Amity on the ground with 87 yards on 13 carries, while senior Adam Pandolfi added 33 rushing yards on five attempts, plus fellow senior Camren Thompson notched 68 yards for the five touches he earned. North Haven amassed 331 rushing yards on the day to finish with a final tally of 2,834 ground yards for the regular season.
Defensively, Thompson helped lead the way with six total tackles, with two going for a loss of yardage, and two sacks. Pandolfi also shined on the defensive front, with six tackles on the day. Juniors Brandon Stevens, Joe Mastroianni, and senior Nick Harkins secured four tackles apiece. Senior Eric Vetrano was 5-for-6 on point-after kicks.
North Haven notched its first score with 8:56 remaining in the opening quarter, when junior Chris Cretella (four rushes, 47 yards) ran it in from six yards away to lead 7-0. Just over four minutes later when 4:11 was left on the clock, Dos dove to paydirt with a four-yard scoring scamper. The Nighthawks then capped the quarter with a 21-point command, after Thompson made a three-yard dash past the goal line with 31 ticks left.
The brief reprieve between the first and second stanzas did little to slow down the North Haven attack. At the 9:03 juncture, Pandalofi ran from 18 yards away to go up by 27 after a missed extra-point kick attempt. Six and a half minutes following that with 3:42 left before the intermission, Dos had an eight-yard TD push, before completing a touchdown hat trick with a short one-yard spurt as 41 seconds remained in the opening half.
After a scoreless third period, Amity denied North Haven the shutout bid in the fourth via a rush from three yards away, though it was certainly not enough to overcome the massive cushion North Haven built up.
Sagnella noted that the Nighthawks had plenty of adversity to deal with when it came to injuries and forfeitures, notwithstanding the additional pressure of being a reigning state title holder. Yet it just made the young men band together that much more, as the temperature dropped and the impact of each contest rose.
“Coming into the year, we returned about seven guys who had significant time on both sides of the ball, plus we had the expectations of being a defending state champion,” Sagnella said. “I did not know at first if we had enough grit and purpose, but they had a good attitude and work ethic. The forfeit at the beginning of the year was an emotional blow. We didn't get to restart things until Wednesday, and had three days to prepare to face Sheehan, which is a playoff team this year. So the first half of the year was like pushing a piano up a hill, but I think it all gave the team a purpose and fired us up. We had two big games in the second half I feel, at home against West Haven and at Cheshire. There was no identity crisis on this team; they embraced their roles and played well together.”
For the All-SCC Tier 1 Team offense, North Haven had representation with Harkins at tight end, senior Brendan Ryan on offensive line, and Dos at running back. Defensively, Thompson (at linebacker) and Pandolfi (defensive back) made the squad.
The Nighthawks will take light to Fitch and face the Falcons in a return matchup from September. If North Haven is to hoist another crown, it will have to do it as a road warrior, though the Nighthawks would not have it any other way—marking another obstacle that will only further reveal the true character of this 2023 club.
“We are prepared for Fitch and to face them in a rematch,” said Sagnella. “We will probably be on the road for the entire playoffs, which is fine because nothing has been easy for us all year long. We will take it one game at a time. You honestly start to get melancholy around this time of the year, because the seniors are nearing the end and the same team will never be assembled again once it ends. We want to just savor it all and take it as far as we can.”
The 2023 North Haven football team roster is comprised of seniors Ryan Bernardo, Yaseen Mahmoud, Thompson, Miles Chester, Vetrano, Connor Rapuano, Dos, Jake McCreven, Harkins, Pandolfi, Daniel Malone, James Studley, Albert Rotondo, Ryan, Dillon Songhurst, Michael Pettola, Nicholas Piscitelli, Cameron Carrano; juniors of Stevens, Mastroianni, Beckett Fuller, Benjamin Pizzano, Michael Moran, Christopher Kottage, Tyler Dimauro, Cretella, Brian Moran, Christian Mongillo, Adrian Joaquin Santos, Luke Asbury, Nick Romano, Elijah Ellis, Joseph Carbone Jr, Cooper Connolly, Russell Kieslich IV, Alessio Fraschilla, Aiden McGuire, Jeffrey Davis, Steven Piccirillo, Ty Ellis; sophomores with Nathan Eggerling, Cameron Samperi, Christian DeMaio, Anthony Parillo, Rayan Mahmoud, Emeka Dimkpa, Domenico Carbone, Jeremy Morales, Chase McDade, Colton Kennealy, Noah Vitali, Jeremy Guertin, Kevenay Santiago, Donovan Dasilva, Jesse Sigmon, Gennaro Violano, Mehkei Archibald, Shane Ros, Nathan Ori; plus freshmen Giovanni Bimonte, Preston Bonner, Brady Bychowsky, Cristopher Carcamo, Joshua Crouch, Evan DiMauro, James Ferraro, John Messina, Sean Millman, Brody Quaranta, Edward Ray, Joseph Rotondo, Jaden Takach-Thibodeau, Anthony Tseperkas, and John Williston.
Sagnella is in his 27th year at North Haven. His assistant coaching staff is comprised of Alex Velardi, Mike Ricciardelli, Kevin Mozealous, Nick D’Angelo, Matt Manemeit, and Ralph Inorio. Sagnella also wanted to acknowledge the efforts of peripheral staff members in Team/Equipment Manager Tom Grillo, Vanacore Field Public Address Announcer Drew Patola, and Fundraiser and Team Stats Manager Mark Russo.
2023 North Haven Football Regular Season Results
Sept. 16: North Haven 31, Sheehan 21
Sept. 22: North Haven 58, Fitch 28
Sept. 29: North Haven 56, Notre Dame-West Haven 0
Oct. 6: North Haven 28, Fairfield Prep 6
Oct. 19: North Haven 21, West haven 13
Oct. 27: Shelton 14, North Haven 7
Nov. 3: North Haven 24, Cheshire 7
Nov. 16: North Haven 28, Hamden 7
Nov. 23: North Haven 41, Amity 6