New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Special teams lift Prep past Hillhouse
FAIRFIELD — Last week Fairfield Prep’s victory over Hand put the Jesuits football team on the map in 2021.
Friday night saw nowranked Prep dealt a reality check in the form of an upsetmind Hillhouse.
Jesuits — thanks to a pair of second-half blocked punts for touchdowns — managed to eke out a 20-13 victory over the Academics at Rafferty Stadium.
“It’s a lesson,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “Any day you’re going to get somebody’s best and you have to bring it yourself.”
Tim Pearson’s 47-yard catchand-run from quarterback Connor Smith with 2:25 remaining in the fourth proved to be the difference for Prep (2-0), which came in ranked
No. 7 in the GameTimeCT weekly poll.
“The kids fought today,” Academics coach Reggie Lytle said. “We have a good team and we’ll continue to fight.”
For the second straight week Prep trailed at halftime.
“Struggling tonight was a little combination of, maybe, a little hangover from the last game, and honestly it shouldn’t have been,” Hellstern said. “It’s not something that we haven’t been preaching against literally five minutes after the last one.”
The Academics wasted little time taking a 7-0 lead when Keyandre Smith found Ralph Hawkins in stride over the middle on the first Hillhouse play from scrimmage. Hawkins raced untouched up the right sideline for a 81-yard touchdown.
Hawkins later scored on a 65-yard touchdown from Smith that tied the game at 13-13 in the fourth. The senior finished with four catches for 158 yards.
“I’m very thankful for the win, and hey, you know what, I’m thankful for the reality check that we have to get better.”
— Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern
“Ralph is an excellent receiver, he’s one of the fastest in track and field in the state,” Lytle said. “He’s a small kid but we try to get him the ball as much as we can out in the open.”
The game changed in the third quarter when Prep blocked back-to-back Hillhouse punts — both leading to touchdowns.
First sophomore JaVere Cannonier came through with a block, which Joe D’Elia fell on in the end zone making it 7-6.
Two minutes later the Jesuits repeated the block-and-score, this time with Ryan O’Connell blocking the punt and Karsten Kaminski recovering in the end zone to give Prep its first lead and their third blocked punt of the night.
“(The) defense had to step up and we did that,” O’Connell said. “It was 7-6 and I knew I had to make a play.”
Hillhouse (0-2) didn’t go away and drove down the field after Pearson’s go-ahead score and brought the ball into Prep territory before turning the ball over on downs with less than minute to go.
Senior Frank Danily rushed 23 times for 107 yards for the Academics.
“It was a rough night in a lot of ways,” Hellstern said. “I’m very thankful for the win, and hey, you know what, I’m thankful for the reality check that we have to get better.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ralph Hawkins, Hillhouse. Th senior speedster finished with four catches good for 158 receiving yards, including touchdowns of 81 and 65 yards.
“We’re not going to underestimate any team for the rest of the year. Hillhouse played a great game, they’re a really good team. We came out flat. It’s not going to happen again. We’ll be back Monday ready to work.” Fairfield Prep senior receiver Tim Pearson, who scored the game-winning touchdown Friday night.
FAIRFIELD PREP 20, HILLHOUSE 13 HILLHOUSE ............................................................... 7 0 0 6—13 FAIRFIELD PREP .................................................... 0 0 13 7—20
H—Ralph Hawkins 81 pass Keyandre Smith (Devonte Boone kick) FP—Joe D’Elia punt block recovery (kick blocked)
FP—Karsten Kaminski punt block recovery (Aidan Graham kick) H—Ralph Hawkins 65 pass Keyandre Smith (pass failed)
FP—Tim Pearson 47 catch Connor Smith (Graham kick)
Records: Hillhouse 0-2; Fairfield Prep 2-0