GUILFORD — It didn’t take very long for Hand to show why it will go into next week’s CIAC state playoffs as the No. 1 team in the state.
The Tigers scored early and often as they dominated Guilford 61-6 Wednesday night at Kavanaugh Field in the annual Thanksgiving rivalry between the neighboring schools.
Hand now leads the all-time series 41-5-1.
It was also the 34th consecutive win for Hand overall as the Tigers completed their second consecutive perfect regular season at 10-0.
“It’s a great thing to do and it’s very impressive,” Hand running back Colin McCabe said.
“I’m so proud of the guys for us to come out for a second year in a row and go 10-0,” Hand quarterback Phoenix Billings said. “Our offense was very efficient tonight and I was happy with it.”
It was the most points Hand has scored since Oct. 25, 2018 when the Tigers blanked Law, 68-0.
The Tigers scored 34 points in the first quarter to break the game open right away.
It all started with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Billings to McCabe (4 carries for 99 yards rushing) down the right sideline in front of the Guilford bench.
That was followed by runs of 38 and 48 yards by McCabe for touchdowns and less than four minutes into the game, it was 20-0.
“We wanted to come out with the two-minute drill and get points on the board fast,” McCabe said. “We did a good job of doing that.”
Billings then added touchdown passes of 11 and 39 yards to Ethan Haberman and Jesse Lutz, respectively, to make it 34-0 after the first eight minutes.
Lutz added touchdown runs of 23 yards and 1 yard in the second quarter, while Billings connected with Haberman for an eight-yard touchdown pass as the Tigers pushed their lead to 55-0 at the break.
Ethan O’Brien finished out the scoring for Hand with a 37-yard run in the third quarter as the Tigers pulled their starters out of the game at halftime.
“The outcome says we probably executed better than we have in the last few weeks,” Hand coach Dave Mastroianni said. “Hopefully, this is a momentum thing and gives us confidence going into the postseason.”
Hand will await the results of the Thanksgiving Day games to see who it will host in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals on Tuesday night at the Surf Club. Depending on the final point totals, the Tigers will either be the top seed or No. 2 seed in the bracket, with St. Joseph-Trumbull holding the other seed. Hand is the two-time defending Class L champion.
“It’s something I never would have imagined,” Billings said. “It’s something a lot of seniors would never have imagined back when we were sophomores. We’re doing everything we can to push and get that third one.”
Guilford, which began the season with three straight wins, finished at 4-6.
“They are a juggernaut and are the No. 1 team in the state for a reason,” Guilford coach Anthony Salvati said. “They are as advertised.”
Salvati added that the Indians were missing three big linemen and that didn’t help.
“We were down several guys and we knew even if we had everyone, it was going to be an uphill battle. It’s hard when you’re missing guys.”
Hand quarterback Phoenix Billings threw for 178 yards and four touchdowns. Colin McCabe rushed for 99 yards and scored three touchdowns. Jesse Lutz rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass.
‘It was more about our execution. We said we wanted to treat it like a business trip and get better at our execution. We wanted to get confidence heading into the playoffs in who we are and what we do. I think we accomplished that.” — Hand coach Dave Mastroianni.