Football beats Assumption 16-10 in the rain


Photo courtesy of Jenelle Johnson

Shawne Tafe, Ryan Dolce and other players celebrate after a play, Oct. 30, West Haven.

“Just one more stop,” New Haven defensive coordinator Matt Scott said to his players on the sideline as the defense prepared to line-up with a chance to win the game. With bone-soaking rainfall and the Assumption College offense pinned at their own seven-yard line, the Chargers’ defense came through.

The Greyhounds were in a two-minute drill, with no timeouts and 93-yards to go. On the first play of the drive, Assumption quarterback (QB) Jordan McAfee dropped back to pass but found no receivers open. New Haven linebacker Khalim Cisse broke past the offensive line and came rushing from the edge into McAfee’s back, forcing him to spike a throw to avoid the sack.

After some review, it was ruled an intentional grounding penalty in the endzone, giving the Chargers two points and the ball. This sealed the game for New Haven, taking home a 16-10 win in the rain.

The New Haven defense lines up on the goal-line against Assumption. Oct. 30, West Haven. (Photo courtesy of Jenelle Johnson)

It was a poetic end to the most important game of the season for the Chargers so far.

When New Haven welcomed the Greyhounds, there was little doubt about the importance of the game: two of the top three teams in the Northeast-10 conference slugging it out during the final stretch of the season.

The weather was another factor, as Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium was at the center of a rainstorm the entire day. This limited each offense, forcing them to keep the ball on the ground and make each defense work. On paper, this favored the Greyhounds and their star running back Khaleed Exum-Strong more than the pass-reliant Chargers. However, New Haven’s defense stepped up as they have done all year.

In the first three Greyhound possessions, New Haven forced consecutive turnovers; cornerback (CB) Khyon Fitzpatrick intercepted a pass on only the third play of the game. CB Isaac Etienne added another interception after snatching away the ball from the Greyhounds’ wide receiver Tighe Beck. In the third drive, the Chargers forced a fumble that was recovered by CB Ryan Dolce at the five-yard line.

This set New Haven up for the first touchdown of the game, giving them a 7-0 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter.

Assumption quickly responded, returning the ensuing kick 86-yards to set themselves up in the red zone. The drive ended with a Greyhounds field goal that cut the lead to 7-3. The score remained the same until half as neither team was able to string any offense together.

In the second half, New Haven was boosted by the emergence of running back Zach Mauro. He has progressively become a bigger part of their offense and had a career day in the rain.

In their first drive out of the half, Mauro strung together four big rushes, with the last ending with a touchdown. With a 14-3 lead, it looked as though the Chargers had a comfortable lead in the rain. However, Exum-Strong would quickly prove why he is one of the best runners in the Northeast-10 (NE-10).

He ran for 62 yards in their next drive and helped get the Greyhounds into good field position before a defensive miscue left an Assumption receiver open in the endzone. At 14-10, there was an uneasy feeling in the slim lead, especially on a day where the New Haven offense, known for their passing, were forced to run more.

It appeared Assumption was poised to take the lead at the start of the fourth quarter when they pieced together their first sustained drive of the day. On second and goal, a pass to the right side of the endzone went wide and into the hands of Fitzpatrick for his second interception of the game.

After five more scoreless drives, Assumption found themselves with a final chance to take the lead. The defense handled the rest.

Players on the New Haven football team celebrate after their win. Oct. 30, West Haven. (Photo courtesy of Jenelle Johnson)

“Defense certainly stepped up and created some turnovers,” New Haven head coach Chris Pincince said after the game. “We didn’t take advantage [of them enough] on the offensive side of the ball, but fortunately for us the defense stepped up.”

For New Haven, QB Connor Degenhardt was held to just 17 passing yards with 40 rushing yards. Mauro finished with 133 rushing yards and a touchdown, being the team’s biggest source of production. Defensively, Fitzpatrick led the team with two interceptions and added five tackles, while Etienne intercepted a pass and had six tackles. CB Shawn Tafe had nine tackles, while LB Ryan Hodgins had eight tackles and one for a loss.

With the win, New Haven moves to 7-1 (6-0 NE-10) while Assumption falls to 4-4 (4-2 NE-10). It also makes head coach Chris Pincince the winningest coach in New Haven football history.

“It just means that I’ve surrounded myself with really good football players and great assistant coaches,” Pincince said.

The win now sets up a marquee matchup next week as nationally ranked No. 11 Bentley University travels to West Haven in a match of the NE-10’s unbeaten teams; the game is scheduled to begin next Saturday at 1 p.m. at DellaCamera Stadium.

Coverage for the game, including a live stream and live stats, can be found at