No. 4 Fairfield Prep's defense, special teams put West Haven's playoff hopes in jeopardy

WEST HAVEN — The postseason may not start until next week, but for all intents and purposes, it began Wednesday evening for both the Fairfield Prep and West Haven football teams. While Prep was already in, the Jesuits were playing for seeding and a home game.

West Haven was playing for its postseason life as a win assured the Westies a playoff spot and a loss forced West Haven into becoming fans of three teams on Thursday.

Capitalizing on special teams and its stellar defense, Fairfield Prep topped the Westies 28-7 in a Southern Connecticut Conference contest before 1,185 fans at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven Wednesday evening.

With the victory, the Jesuits, ranked fourth in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, will play at home in the quarterfinals.

“It means a lot,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said after his team improved to 9-1. “I think it is a great culmination of the regular season. The boys worked real hard and they have earned everything they got. It is something we are proud of, especially in a big rivalry game like this. We knew West Haven was going to throw us their best and they did. We persevered and played hard. It tastes a little sweeter when you can do that.”

The Westies now turn into fans of Notre Dame-West Haven, Cheshire and St. Joseph, with two of the three needing to win for West Haven to play on Tuesday.

“We still have hope and for the first time in my life, I am rooting for Notre Dame,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said after his team fell to 8-2 and was forced to turn to his cross-town rivals for help.

The final score was not indicative of the game as the two teams battled back and forth for a majority of the first half. Special teams turned the game around as a brilliant punt by the Jesuits pinned the Westies at the 1, before a blocked punt was recovered for a score by Jack Mullen with 26 seconds left in the opening half for a 14-0 lead.

“That was huge for us at the end of the first half,” Hellstern said. “They had, to their credit, controlled the clock which is what their offense is designed to do. It was a big swing for us momentum wise. To their credit, they ended up scoring on the first drive of the second half, which is not what I wanted. But, we just kept grinding it out and special teams is a third of what you need to do to win the game.”

West Haven opened the second half with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped with a 1-yard score on fourth down by Amir Nakome to get the Blue Devils within 14-7.

Any momentum the Westies had quickly disappeared. The Jesuits needed just six plays to regain a 14-point lead as Daniel Barnick scored from 6 yards out to cap a 54-yard drive and give Fairfield Prep a 21-7 lead.

With the season possibly on the line, West Haven was forced to go on fourth down in the fourth quarter, but was denied. Prep quarterback Connor Smith ran in from 29 yards out for a 28-7 lead with 8:13 remaining.

The Jesuits defense set the tone right from the start in the opening half due to their own miscue. After West Haven recovered a Prep fumble at the Jesuits’ 45, but the Blue Devils stalled at the Prep 30.

Fairfield Prep responded with a 9-play, 70-yard drive, which saw the combination of Smith and receiver Timothy Pearson hook up three times for 49 yards. All three were clutch connections, with the final hook up a beautifully tossed 29-yard pass over the middle for a score with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter.

“We really executed,” Smith said. “We had a lot of run today and a little bit of pass too. I was glad we could get all these points up. I really need to shout out to West Haven. They did pretty good. It was a great game. It was great to come out here and execute.”

The Westies appeared to have an answer on the ensuing drive, using 15 plays to get inside the Prep 10. Three consecutive runs produced one yard, before West Haven’s 27-yard field goal attempt by Raul Sanchez fell short.

“I think we were inside the 10 three times and didn’t score,” Boshea said.

West Haven held the Jesuits on the next drive of a quick moving first half, forcing Prep to punt. That punt proved to work beautifully as it was downed at the West Haven 1.

The Westies failed to move the ball and the Jesuits blocked the punt, which was recovered by Jack Mullen in the endzone for a 14-0 Fairfield Prep lead with 26 seconds to go in the opening half.

“We were one roll of the ball away from getting out of that half,” Boshea said. “That was what we were looking to do, and that ball didn’t roll our way there. Prep played great and I thought we played very hard.”

Smith ran for 65 yards and a score, while also completing seven passes for 79 yards. Jasir Massey ran for 124 yards on 21 carries in the loss for West Haven.


Fairfield Prep special teams: The unit led Fairfield Prep to the victory as a punt at the end of the half pinned West Haven at its own 1-yard line. Three plays later, the Jesuits blocked a West Haven punt, which was recovered by Jack Mullen for a 14-0 lead with 26 seconds left in the opening half. The Jesuits won their ninth game in the series.


“I just have to give a special mention to Deven Robinson and the courage he showed tonight. He left his mother’s funeral and came here to this game. He showed how much this game meant to him.” — West Haven coach Rich Boshea, on running back Deven Robinson who ran for 66 yards.


FAIRFIELD PREP7 7 7 7 — 28

WEST HAVEN0 7 0 0 — 7

FP — Connor Smith to Timothy Pearson 29 pass (Aidan Graham kick) 2:53

FP — Jack Mullen punt block recovery in endzone (Aidan Graham kick) 0:26

WH — Amir Nakome 1 run (Raul Sanchez kick) 5:43

FP — Daniel Barnick 6 run (Aidan Graham kick) 3:15

FP — Connor Smith 29 run (Aidan Graham kick) 8:17

Records: Fairfield Prep 9-1; West Haven 8-2