Football stumbles, still wins Elm City matchup

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Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells

New Haven’s Kevin Foelsch (left) and Chris Carlyle (right) celebrate a touchdown, West Haven, Sept. 10, 2022.

Tyler Wells, Editor-In-Chief

It was not pretty, but when the final buzzer sounded on Saturday, the New Haven football team walked away with a 31-26 win over crosstown rival Southern Connecticut State University in an out-of-conference game.

Coming out of a late loss last week at No. 8 Bowie State, the Chargers welcomed fans into Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium for the first time in the 2022 season. It wasn’t just any game either, as the first installment of this year’s Elm City Rivalry brought its usual chippy play and energy from both sides.

The New Haven offense got off to a sluggish start. After their first drive stalled, they got another chance when the Owls punted the ball back following a three-and-out. However, New Haven running back Chris Ais fumbled on the first play, giving the ball right back. In under five minutes, it was already the fourth possession of the game.

Southern Connecticut took advantage of the fumble, finding the end zone after a roughing the passer penalty placed the ball on the 25-yard line. After a short five-yard completion, Owls’ quarterback Marc Reali connected with Tylon Papallo for a 20-yard touchdown. The Chargers’ defense saved some momentum though as they blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the score at 6-0.

New Haven receiver and return man Terrell Ford built on this, returning the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to get the offense on the other side of the field. Returning QB Connor Degenhardt, coming off an All-Conference Second Team nod last year, connected with receiver Chris Carlyle for a 24-yard completion to set the Chargers up deep in Southern Connecticut territory.

Two rushes from Ais and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put the ball on the eight-yardline, where the New Haven drive stalled out. This forced them to settle for a 32-yard field goal, which kicker Briant DeFelice drilled to cut the lead in half.

After New Haven forced a punt on the next drive, it looked as though all the momentum shifted towards the home team. However, Southern Connecticut responded in a big way as Degenhardt’s pass was tipped, intercepted and returned for the touchdown by Owls linebacker Joe DiGello. The shocked crowd was stunned and silent as Southern Connecticut made the extra point and opened a 13-3 lead.

Looking to swing the game back in their favor, Degenhardt set out firing in the next drive. He found WR Dev Holmes, a First Team honoree last season, for a 40-yard jump ball, which Holmes hung onto as he came crashing down out of bounds. The ball was then handed off to RB Shamar Logan who found the whole and accelerated past the Owls’ defense, taking the ball 22 yards to the end zone to make the score 13-10.

Shamar Logan cradles the ball after scoring a TD, West Haven, Sept. 10, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

It was a special moment for Logan, who has seen an evolving role since being named the Northeast-10’s (NE-10) Rookie of the Year in 2019. The now-senior welcomed his son early in training camp this August, and this was the first game he was able to be at. After scoring, he took a second to rock the football as if it were his baby.

“It felt good… having my son come to his first college football game just is very emotional,” Logan said after taking pictures with his newborn on the field following the game. “It was a fun experience.”

Southern Connecticut didn’t back down though, as they began putting together an extended drive into New Haven territory. The stout defense, which the Chargers were well known for last season, came alive though, with Damon Burton Jr, an Albany transfer, picking off the pass from Reali.

The next drives stalled for each team, as the two sides traded punts until less than five minutes remained in the half when Degenhardt found a wide open Carlyle who evaded the defense and scored the 22-yard touchdown. This was another emotional score as Carlyle, a graduate student, scored his first touchdown since 2019 after missing all of last season with an injury.

“It feels good, especially the first home game,” Carlyle said. “It honestly just feels good to get a win, in the first home game back in three years. Felt good to go out there and do what I could, and obviously feels good to score.”

Carlyle (2), Holmes (0) and Kasi Hazzard (14) after a touchdown, West Haven, Sept. 10. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

Just before halftime, the Owls’ drive placed the ball on the New Haven two-yard line with a few seconds remaining. That’s when LB David Onyemem forced the QB to fumble, not allowing the Owls to get any points before the break.

The offenses for both sides were at a stalemate in the third quarter, as neither team was able to put points on the board.

The fourth quarter quickly proved to be a different story. Just two minutes into the period, Degenhardt found tight end Kevin Foelsch in the seam for a one-handed catch in the end zone, putting New Haven up 24-13.

As time continued ticking off the clock, Southern Connecticut was able to score to climb back to within five. However, with just five minutes remaining, the Owls were unsuccessful in recovering the onside kick. In the next drive, as New Haven tried to take time off the clock, Ais made his presence in the running game known.

The sophomore split through the defense for a quick 15-yard gain, before he exploded for an even bigger run. Ais took the handoff through the middle of Southern Connecticut’s defense, bounced off a tackle, shed two more, then outran every other defender to bring the 37-yard rush into the end zone. This gave New Haven a 31-19 lead with under two minutes left, all but securing the win.

Southern Connecticut wenton to score another touchdown, but that was it as the Chargers walked away with a 31-26 victory.

On offense, New Haven was led by Degenhardt who threw for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Ais and Logan served as a two-headed attack in the backfield, each scoring a touchdown and charting 104 and 46 yards respectively. Carlyle led the receiving core with 92 yards on four catches, with Holmes adding 51 yards and Foelsch 33 yards.

With the win, the Chargers improve to 1-1 on the season with conference play beginning next week. Meanwhile, Southern Connecticut falls to 0-2.

New Haven returns to DellaCamera Stadium next week as they host American International College on Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. More information on the upcoming schedule, along with a live stream for next week’s game, can be found at NewHavenChargers.com.