Football wins Elm City Trophy, beats Southern 14th consecutive time

In their regular season finale on Saturday, the New Haven football team traveled across the city to Southern Connecticut State University in this year’s installment of the Elm City Bowl. The matchup, like it has been for over a decade, was largely lopsided, with the Chargers walking away with a 54-14 victory.

After a 31-26 win over Southern Connecticut earlier in the season, there was hope from the Owls that the game may swing in their favor this time around. Receiving the ball first, the Chargers wasted no time. On the third play of the game, running back Christopher Ais broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run to give New Haven the early 7-0 lead.

It would be the start of a career day for Ais, setting a career-high for rushing yards in a game and capping off his conference-leading season.

After a three-and-out from the Southern Connecticut offense and a 36-yard punt return for wide receiver Paul Cooper, quarterback Connor Degenhardt decided to use his own speed. Degenhardt rattled off a 28-yard run on the first play of the drive, finding the end zone and giving New Haven a 14-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.

While the Chargers seemed poised to run away with the game early, Southern Connecticut was able to find the end zone on their ensuing drive. A break in the coverage gave the Owls their first score of the game, making it 14-7.

On New Haven’s next possession, Degenhardt found WR Dev Holmes cutting across the middle of the field, hitting him with the pass in stride. Holmes did the rest with his legs, outrunning the Southern Connecticut defense and taking the 65-yard reception for a touchdown to give New Haven the 21-7 lead.

The first quarter ended this way, with Southern Connecticut driving deep in the red zone. However, early in the second quarter, a pass from the Owls’ QB Marc Reali was picked off by linebacker Damon Burton Jr., his conference-leading sixth of the season, to give the ball back to New Haven’s offense. The interception also puts Burton Jr. in a tie for third most in the country.

On offense, a pair of passes gained large chunks of yardage, with the first going to WR Zhyaire Fernandes for 16 yards then to Holmes again for 35. After a number of short gains to get New Haven to the 3-yard line, Degenhardt found a wide open Ais in the flat. With the throw to his left, Ais snagged the ball with one hand and turned to find nobody around him, as he walked into the end zone for the touchdown.

Southern Connecticut would go on to score once more before the end of the half, making the game 28-14 heading into the break.

While the second half started slowly for New Haven, with Degenhardt throwing an interception, it quickly turned around. With 37 rushing yards from Ais on their following drive, Degenhardt was able to punch in a sneak to extend the lead to 20. This would be the only scoring of the quarter, as New Haven went into the fourth quarter with a commanding lead.

This lead only grew, as RB Hunter Cobb got the ball in their next drive. On the second play, he hit the edge and took off for a 76-yard touchdown as New Haven’s rushing attack couldn’t be stopped.

After the defense forced another punt by Southern Connecticut, Degenhardt found Holmes in one play again, as he carried two defenders into the end zone to give the Chargers a 47-14 lead. They would get one more touchdown in the afternoon, as RB Jake Conlan punched in a 5-yard rush to make it 54-14.

The New Haven defense prepares to go onto the field, New Haven, Nov. 12, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Tyler Wells. )

The game would finish there, with the celebration ensuing on the New Haven sideline. “Our City” shirts were handed out, along with others donning the number “14” on them to signify how many years it has been since Southern Connecticut beat New Haven.

Offensively, the team was led by the performance from Ais, who totaled 191 yards on the ground with a touchdown, along with a receiving touchdown as well. Cobb finished with 82 rushing yards and Conlan with 52, while each also added a touchdown of their own. Degenhardt had a solid game in the pocket, throwing for 184 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also had 45 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground of his own. Holmes led all receivers with 150 yards on just three catches and two touchdowns, extending his conference with nine receiving touchdowns on the season.

On defense, defensive back Khyon Fitzpatrick and LB David Onyemem led the team with seven tackles each. Onyemem added a sack, forced fumble and an interception on top of that to round out his day. Burton Jr. finished with six tackles and an interception, while DB Devonte Myles also tallied five tackles. LB Joseph Vitale also tallied a sack and forced fumble of his own, on top of his four total tackles.

With the win, New Haven improves to 8-2 (6-1 NE-10) and concludes their regular season. Their fate hung in the balance during the NCAA Selection Show, which aired on Sunday at 5:30 P.M. There, it was announced that New Haven will be traveling to Shepherdstown, W.V. for a matchup against Shepherd University, the second-ranked team in the region. More information on the game can be found at