Football wins Bentley rematch, advances to second round


Photo courtesy of Lismarie Pabon

The New Haven defense lines up against Bentley University, West Haven, Nov. 20.

“We’ll be back,” a player from the Bentley University football team said to the crowd as New Haven celebrated their Northeast-10 (NE-10) Championship on Nov. 7; they got their wish. In a surprising NCAA first round matchup, Bentley made the trip back to West Haven to face the Chargers, this time as the underdogs.

In a rematch of the top teams in the NE-10, No. 18 New Haven walked away with a win over No. 20 Bentley, 38-13. The Chargers were in control for the entire game, playing at their pace and outplaying the Falcons. This culminated in arguably their most impressive win of the season and a date with the top team in the region.

Bentley received the ball first looking to jump out to an early lead and put New Haven on their heels. Instead, the Chargers defense showed why they were the conference’s best, forcing Bentley to a quick three-and-out. A short punt placed the New Haven offense just past midfield, giving the offense an opportunity to put early points on the board.

New Haven’s Connor Degenhardt prepares to receive the snap against Bentley, West Haven, Nov. 20. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

Quarterback Connor Degenhardt started the drive with a pass to wide receiver Dev Holmes for 11 yards, and later connected with WR Kasi Hazzard for a 19-yard gain to enter the red zone. The drive stalled there, as the Bentley defense kept New Haven to a field goal from kicker Briant DeFelice.

Trailing 3-0, Bentley entered their second drive needing a score to settle into the game. They put together an extended, 75-yard drive that lasted through the end of the first quarter, chipping away from New Haven’s standout defense. This was capped by a four-yard touchdown run from Bentley running back Nathaniel Larkins. Bentley missed the extra point attempt and took a 6-3 lead in the second quarter.

After a pair of short drives for each side, New Haven lined up at midfield looking to retake the lead. Degenhardt led the drive, starting by connecting with WR Javon Turner for a nine-yard catch. He then found Holmes once again, this time for a 16-yard gain to put the ball at the 19-yard line.

Degenhardt and running back Zach Mauro combined to rush for 18 yards over the next four plays to place the Chargers on the goal-line. With the Bentley defense jamming the middle of the line, Degenhardt pushed his way through on a QB sneak, giving New Haven the 10-3 lead.

With just 4:31 left in the first half, Bentley had the ball for under a minute before being forced to punt again. This gave New Haven a chance to extend their lead again before the break and really put the pressure on.

The Chargers eventually found themselves on the 12-yard line with just 25 seconds left; Degenhardt took the snap and kept it on a read option, looking for the end zone. He ran to his left and cut back, making his way through the Bentley line with a lane for a touchdown. He dove into the end zone and rose with an emphatic yell, punctuating a first half that gave New Haven a two-score lead over Bentley.

New Haven received out of half with a chance to effectively bury the Falcons. They did just that, as Degenhardt connected with Holmes over the middle of the field, breaking past the corner and shaking off a tackle from the safety. Holmes was able to walk the remaining 30 yards into the endzone and give New Haven a 24-6 lead.

On the ensuing Bentley drive, linebacker Khalim Cisse forced a fumble that the Chargers recovered at their own 41-yard line. In the blink of an eye, New Haven’s offense was on the field again.

The Chargers turned to the run game to start taking time off the clock, as Mauro ran for 34 yards in the drive to help set New Haven up for a field goal attempt. This attempt was no good, but the third quarter was now nearly over.

Bentley’s offense took their next drive deep into New Haven territory before being faced with a fourth and four at the nine-yard line. Rather than taking the points and cutting the lead to 15, they elected to go for it. The New Haven defense came up with the stop and effectively ended the game.

New Haven’s Christian Ais and Shawn Tafe break up a Bentley pass, West Haven, Nov. 20. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

After taking time off the clock and eventually punting, Bentley’s offense took over. However, defensive lineman Addison Hunter forced and recovered a fumble on Bentley’s 19-yard line as the Falcons failed to hold onto the ball again.

After 18 rushing yards from Mauro, Degenhardt punched in his third rushing touchdown of the game to make the lead 31-6. On the very next Bentley play, defensive back Khyon Fitzpatrick picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown, turning the game into a complete 38-6 blowout.

Bentley went on to score a meaningless touchdown before not recovering an onside kick and giving New Haven the ball with just over two minutes left. Three Mauro rushes later and the game clock hit zero, with the Chargers advancing in the playoffs.

Degenhardt finished with 144 passing yards, 38 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. Mauro led all rushers with 123 yards on the ground, while Holmes added 104 receiving yards and a touchdown. Defensively, New Haven was led by LBs Jermell Brandon and Ryan Hodgins, who had seven and six tackles respectively. Fitzpatrick also had five tackles to go alongside his interception.

“All week Bentley has been saying that two weekends ago was a fluke,” Mauro said. “That kind of fired us up all week and we came back with a purpose today.”

With the win, New Haven moves onto the second round of the NCAA playoffs and will face the top-ranked team in the region Kutztown University. The Golden Bears are 10-1 this season, with the only common opponent being Assumption University whom they beat 19-0 earlier this year.

“Work starts tomorrow,” New Haven head coach Chris Pincince said after the game. “Learn as much as we can about Kutztown [before] heading out to Pennsylvania and see what we can do.”

Kickoff at Andre Reed Stadium in Kutztown is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. this Saturday. More information can be found at

Members of the New Haven football team celebrate after beating Bentley, West Haven, Nov. 20. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)


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