OLD SAYBROOK — Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton committed two turnovers in the first six minutes of its season opener, and in the closing minutes Saturday the Blue Devils’ second unit got careless and allowed two scores.
In between, the Devils were the team they want to be: sharp, efficient and opportunistic. They scored six unanswered touchdowns after the rough start en route to a 41-20 Pequot Conference win over Old Saybrook/Westbrook.
Junior quarterback Aaron Faiella threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score as Coginchaug beat OSW for the first time since 2014.
For that reason, the matchup was enough motivation for the Blue Devils, who had lost three straight to the Rams. They were shut out in 2018 and 2017 and outscored by a combined 99-16 in the teams’ last three meetings. Faiella mentioned this after the final whistle and so did senior lineman Eli Ripper.
“I think we made a little statement today,” Faiella said.
“On the bus coming down here,” Ripper said, “this being a team we hadn’t beaten in a while, our morale was low, but sitting there thinking about it, we took some time and realized they were no better a team than us. We had to be in a different mental state today.”
Faiella’s offensive line gave him ample time to find his receivers, and juniors Jackson Moore and Tyler Garretson were the main beneficiaries. Moore had three touchdown catches and six receptions in all for 108 yards, while Garretson had four catches for 94 yards and a score.
“We had a good offensive gameplan going in,” Faiella said. “I was comfortable throwing to all my wide receivers and my running back. The line gave me time in the pocket to get my reads. I think we all did really well.”
Alex Case, one of only a handful of seniors on Coginchaug’s roster, rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“OSW has been one of the best programs in the Pequot for the last five years,” Coginchaug coach Erik Becker said. “I teach in Westbrook, so those are my kids and I love them. I always tell them, they’re my second favorite team in Connecticut. To beat a quality team is a huge step for us. We’re learning how to be a good team and we took a big step forward today with the way we handled ourselves on the sideline and on the field.”
The Rams got ahead early after Moore fumbled away a punt midway through the first quarter and Jack McDowell recovered it at the 9-yard-line. McDowell, their crafty quarterback, scored on a 2-yard keeper on fourth down and Cooper Pavlovich’s PAT made it 7-0.
After holding the Devils to three and out, the Rams gave away their next possession, fumbling the snap on a punt and Coginchaug recovering it at the Rams’ 27. Three incomplete passes later, Faiella connected with Moore across the middle. The 20-yard play and Colin Murphy’s PAT tied it at 7.
The game turned in Coginchaug’s favor when McDowell was hit on a third-down run on the far sideline late in the second quarter. Old Saybrook punted, and on the first play from scrimmage Faiella found Garretson from 53 yards out for a 13-7 lead.
McDowell did not return for his team’s next possession — he sat out the final 6:49 of the half with an undetermined injury — and the Rams complicated matters by fumbling the first snap without him. Chris Carafeno recovered it, and what followed next was a 30-yard strike to Moore from Faiella. Despite the missed PAT, the Devils had a 19-7 lead that they took into halftime.
“We are largely a team of first-year starters and I think we came out like that,” Becker said. “But once we settled down we did the things we are capable of doing, and I think we can become a pretty good football team.”
McDowell re-entered the game to start the second half, but Coginchaug had the ball first and covered 43 yards in four plays, with Case scoring on a 33-yard scamper down the right side for a 25-7 advantage.
“When (McDowell) went down the whole complexion of the game changed,” OSW coach Mike Marone said. “That was the key. Our quarterback went down and everything went out the window.”
Coginchaug pulled away with scores on its next two possessions — a 20-yard pass from Faiella to Moore and a Faiella 6-yard run with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
“We have a saying here at OSW, that high school football games are full of mistakes,” Marone said. “We made a lot more than the other team. We started out fine, then we dropped an interception, we fumbled the ball, we got called for offsides, we had penalties all over the place. We did everything we could do to hand them that game.
“That being said, that’s a pretty good football team. They’ve got some good size, they beat us up up front. Our line could not handle their line.”
McDowell scored on a 5-yard keeper in the fourth quarter and later threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Glorioso.
Next Saturday, OSW hosts Rockville (1-0) at 11 a.m., while the Devils play their home opener against SMSA/University/Classical (1-0). SMSA opened its season with a 27-21 win over North Branford.