TRUMBULL — Week three could be too early to tag a game as a must-win, but when Notre Dame-West Haven and St. Joseph met Saturday in a Connecticut High School Football Alliance matchup there was as much desperation in the air as there was rain falling from the sky.
With difficult schedules ahead, any CIAC playoff aspirations either team had hinged on winning this game.
On a rainy afternoon where offense was hard to come by, St. Joseph came out on top 13-0.
For St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia a win is a win at this point, no matter how it happens.
“We need anything we can get,” DellaVecchia said. “We blew the first game of the year and put ourselves in a hole. Every week is going to be like this I think.”
The game was a back-and-forth of punts with nether team reaching the red zone until St. Joseph’s final possession where they took over on a turnover on downs inside the 10-yard line.
The game’s first score came via the Cadets defense when Austin Leifer picked off a pass at the 12-yard line and returned it for a touchdown with 3:38 to play in the third quarter.
“Somebody had to make a play, somebody had to catch a football,” DellaVecchia said. “I knew if we caught it and scored, that would be the game. One score was going to win it the way it was going for both teams.”
Notre Dame went for it on fourth and long from inside its own 10 with under two minutes to play but did not get it.
Three plays later, St Joseph running back Jesse Covino dove in for the game’s only offensive touchdown.
Notre Dame had trouble all game moving the ball, in part due to St. Joseph’s ability to stop the run.
“They did a really good job on our run game. We thought we’d be able to push them around a little bit more,” Notre Dame-West Haven coach Joe DeCaprio said. “They had eight guys in the box at times. We have a sophomore at quarterback who is going to be outstanding. When he threw good balls we dropped them and he had a couple of poor reads. On the interception he got hit and that’s not his fault.”
NDWH is now 1-2 and will have a hard time qualifying for the CIAC Class LL playoffs with a challenging schedule remaining.
NDWH travels to North Haven next week and hosts Shelton the week after that. Later in the season games with West Haven, Cheshire, Fairfield Prep and Hamden loom.
St. Joseph is in a better spot at 2-1 and playing in Class M, but still has a difficult road ahead.
The Cadets will play next week at a Stamford team which took No. 1 Greenwich to the wire, then hosts a key matchup at home October 7 against New Canaan. Upcoming games follow against Ridgefield, Greenwich, Staples, Danbury and Trumbull.
Player of the Game
Austin Leifer, St. Joseph: Leifer’s first pick-six of his career was all the points St. Joseph would need.
“It was third and long and I knew they would be passing, I took my normal drop, the quarterback was under pressure and kind of threw it right at me, I caught it and all I could see was green.” - Leifer.