EAST HAVEN — Perhaps a lesser team might have folded when its senior starting quarterback was lost for the year in just the second quarter of the season.
But, as East Haven coach Scott Benoit told his team after the Yellowjackets’ thorough 34-28 victory over rival Guilford at Crisafi Field Saturday, winning is the expectation now.
Indeed, East Haven hasn’t skipped a beat since losing veteran quarterback Tanner DeVito to a thumb injury in the season-opener. Junior Trey Garea has proven to be a more-than capable replacement.
Garea and the Yellowjackets answered every haymaker Charles Walcott and Guilford threw at them, and upped the ante every time.
He ran nine times for 164 yards and threw for another 80 yards as East Haven swept up and down the field.
“It was rough. I felt bad for the kid,” Garea said of losing DeVito. “This was his season. So we’ve had to step up for him. And that’s what we’re doing.”
It helped that Benoit, despite watching DeVito have an outstanding preseason, opted to give Garea plenty of work at quarterback.
“I gave Trey more work in the preseason than I’ve ever given a backup before,” Benoit said. “He was well-prepared. He got a lot of reps. And he was playing wide receiver, so it wasn’t like he was just coming off the bench.”
“He’s done a great job. He’s a really good athlete.”
All told, East Haven rushed for 403 yards. Eric Araujo added 86 yards on eight carries and scored two touchdowns. Alex Duarte ran six times for 50 yards and a touchdown. David Amaturda scored on a 65-yard option run on East Haven’s first series.
East Haven is 4-0 for the second time in Benoit’s two seasons as head coach.
“They did a fantastic job,” Garea said of his offensive line. “(Guilford) had some really big guys over there and they played the option well, better than we expected. But we did what we had to do. We have six great backs everybody can play any position and it’s just great.”
Garea only threw three passes, but the biggest moment of the game for East Haven came courtesy of one.
With Guilford within 28-21 midway through the third quarter, East Haven’s defense — which had come up clutch all day — stopped the Indians on downs at their own 29.
On the next play, Garea uncorked a bomb to East Haven senior Kaymond Quattlebaum, who caught it in traffic and went 71 yards to put East Haven back up two scores, 34-21.
It was more salt in Guilford’s wounds. Just before turning the ball over, the Indians had what looked like a sure third-down catch ruled out of bounds.
“We were in position to make plays and we didn’t make the right plays, and that’s the name of the game,” said Guilford’s Anthony Salvati, who suffered his first loss as head coach. “They executed in certain spots and we didn’t.
“It was a backbreaker. You get some momentum going and they take your legs out from under you. That’s coach Benoit, for you. He’s one of the best coaches in the state for a reason.”
Guilford got within six points on a short run by quarterback Aedan McDermott with five minutes remaining. But Garea, as he’d done for most of the afternoon, ripped off a 30-yard run down to the Guilford 24.
East Haven eventually turned the ball over on downs, but by then Guilford was backed up inside its own 10 and couldn’t mount a drive in the final minute.
McDermott finished with two touchdown passes, to Shane Burns and Aidan Chaia, respectively. Walcott ran for more than 100 yards, but only had one score.
“It feels fantastic,” Garea said. “We’ve worked really hard for this. We’ve worked our butts off all season.”