Harrison’s return helps spark Prep past ND-West Haven
FAIRFIELD — The Beast has returned.
Senior running back Doug Harrison, who missed the final nine games of last season after undergoing ACL surgery on his left knee, started for the first time in almost a year and looked much like the player that rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore as Fairfield Prep opened its 2018 season with a convincing 41-20 victory over Notre Dame-West Haven Friday night at Rafferty Stadium.
“It was great to be back out there, the team played great,” Harrison said. “I thought I did all right.”
Harrison rushed 12 times for 59 yards, most of that coming in the first half, but it was his two first quarter touchdowns that gave the Jesuits the initial momentum that they never let go.
“The theme for the year to keep improving as a group,” Prep head coach Keith Hellstern said. “It’s going to take a team effort. We have some very talented kids that we can get the ball to and I think defensively, we can play pretty solid with almost anyone.”
That ‘team’ effort was evident throughout the game. Prep had seven different players run the football while another six had receptions. In the middle of all that was senior quarterback JP Iaropoli, who completed 13 of 24 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were pretty solid,” Iaropoli said. “But we left some points on the field. I think we can do a lot better than that. Solid first week, though.”
On the game’s third play, Prep’s Nick Morris intercepted ND-West Haven quarterback Jackson Zalinsky at the Green Knights 19-yard line and it took the Jesuits just four plays to cash in as Harrison accounted for all 19 yards, scoring from four yards out just three minutes in. The first of five Murray McCarthy extra points made it 7-0.
A 10-play, 55-yard drive on Prep’s next possession, topped with Harrison’s second TD - a one-yard run - made it 14-0, a lead that grew to 20-0 when Iaropoli connected with Finn Duran on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 5:08 left in the second quarter.
“We had a lot of guys step up tonight … Finn was great, he got banged up a little, but he’ll be back next week,” Iaropoli said. “Owen Cirilli stepped up and had a big touchdown catch.”
That touchdown, a 28-yard reception on the first play of the fourth quarter, made it 27-0 Prep.
Ballgame, right? Wrong.
To its credit, ND-West Haven kept battling — albeit against Prep’s second and third team defenses —but the Green Knights got a 76-yard TD catch from Zackary Hochman, a 5-yard scoring run from Zalinsky and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Zalinsky (who was 15 of 30 for 205 yards) to Thomas Candelora — all coming in the fourth quarter.
“We have to realize that it was against their second defense, their first-string defense overwhelmed us at points in time,” Green Knights head coach Joe DeCaprio said. “This was our quarterback’s first start, he was a little shaky at times, but he showed me some guts. I love that.”
Sandwiched in-between those three ND-West Haven fourth quarter scores was a 53-yard touchdown run from Prep’s Sean Nelson (nine carries, 82 yards) and another 28-yard TD scamper from Dean Tsiranides. Unofficially, Prep had 195 yards rushing and 190 passing.
“It was a good start, especially after a tough week of practice,” Hellstern said, referring to the heat wave this past week. “Spreading the ball around … that’s got to be one of the things we hang our hat on.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Prep quarterback JP Iaropoli. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns as the Jesuits jumped out to a 27-0 lead and never looked back.
Prep held a moment of silence for former head coach Earl Lavery, who coached the Jesuits for 27 years from 1965 to 1992, amassing a record of 230-53-8. He passed away on August 25 at the age of 86.