BRANFORD — After last week’s fourth-quarter collapse, Branford was determined to come out strong against Stratford at home on Friday night.
Consider that mission accomplished for the Hornets.
The Hornets dominated the first half from start to finish, defeating Stratford 39-22 at the McVeigh Complex in one of many Connecticut Football Alliance games scheduled for this week.
“We came out firing today,” senior quarterback Sean Kelly said. “I feel like we could have scored some more, but that was a great effort by everyone on the team.”
Kelly rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries, all in the first half, as the Hornets (1-1) built a 33-0 halftime lead. He also threw an 80-yard touchdown pass in the second half and punted twice in the second half, subbing for injured starter Aiden MacNeil.
“Sean is a veteran dual-threat kid made a lot of plays with is legs tonight,” Branford coach John Limone said. “This was a little bit of a wakeup call for us. I think our kids responded pretty well.”
Last week, Branford blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter to Guilford and lost by a point in its home opener. Stratford (0-2) was on its heels from the start.
Kamryn Holmes returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for the touchdown. On its fifth play from scrimmage, Stratford went for it on a 4th-down-and-3 play, but the pitch was fumbled and Branford recovered it.
Stratford never threatened again until the second half.
“In the first half, we had some new personnel in there and they weren’t comprehending some of the game plan,” Stratford coach Jack Petion said. “It took awhile for them to get into the flow of the game.”
Kelly scored eight plays later on a 1-yard run. He scored later in the first quarter on a 37-yard run, then again in the second quarter on a 12-yard run.
“Our line was absolutely exceptional today. All the credit goes to them for this win today,” Kelly said.
The Red Devils picked up just three first downs in the first half — one via penalty.
Cameron Mills caught the 80-yard touchdown pass from Kelly. Sy’air James (6 yards), Kaleb Lafontant (18) and Jah’kai Rogers (5-yard TD pass) all scored in the second half for Stratford. Rogers scored on the game’s final play.
“The guys played with a lot more intensity in the second half,” Petion said. “Honestly, we didn’t change anything, we didn’t change any personnel, it was a different team, a Jekyll-Hyde thing.”
Said Limone: “We didn’t match their intensity in the second half. That’s where finishing comes in. I think that’s something we need to do a better job of. … We have a lot to get better at before next week.”
Sean Kelly, Branford: Senior quarterback rushed for three first-half touchdowns and 133 yards overall and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass.
“It’s definitely difficult form a win-loss perspective. I’m in this to develop high school kids, develop them into men. With 22, 23 guys dressed today for varsity, there will be some pain, but there will also be some growth. That’s the most important part. I know what I signed up for.”