MANCHESTER - As the New Britain football team had made its way onto the buses Friday night, on the opposite side of the field sat the Manchester coaches, all in a row on their sideline benches, with a look on their faces that asked ‘what happened?’
It paralleled a similar response to what the Hurricanes had gone through the week before. But Friday night was different. New Britain made sure of it and the 62-38 score in favor of the Hurricanes showed it.
New Britain (1-1) started fast on offense, coming up with big plays in the passing and running game, and never took its foot off the pedal, distributing the ball to its playmakers in quick succession, while the defense came away with several critical takeaways.
What helped the most was the team was consistent from the start through the final whistle.
“It was fast-paced, high-intensity,” said Hurricanes quarterback Jahfari Newman of what he liked most of the win. “Everybody was flying around the field. There were big plays. I think everyone enjoyed it. I think the crowd liked watching it. I think that was my favorite part about [Friday]. It was an automatic click from the beginning.”
And if anything, Friday night provided an indication of what could be and provided a sense of promising potential, especially for the offense. Its 62 points tied for the most the program scored over the last 12 seasons (62 against Enfield last year).
While most of the blame was placed on the defense for New Britain’s Week 1 loss to Conard, the offensive unit had its own struggles, failing to take advantage of three trips into the Chieftains’ red zone in the first half, and was shut out in the first 24 minutes of the game.
There was none of that in Week 2.
After the Indians’ Jevin Frett returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, the Hurricanes offense came out and looked poised, using three plays to drive 56 yards, capped off by a 34-yard catch and run from Newman to Jayshawn Alexandre. New Britain went on to score 20 unanswered points and 36 in the first half.
The Hurricanes finished with 653 yards of total offense.
Newman ended his night with one of his best games as a starting quarterback, completing 15 of 20 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. Five different receivers caught at least one pass, three caught at least one touchdown. Most importantly, there were no dropped passes, which was an issue against Conard.
On the ground, New Britain ran for another 312 yards and five touchdowns, with Shawn Robinson and Tahje Yopp each eclipsing the century mark and Kaiyon Gunn adding another 72. Robinson’s 108 yards gave him his second 100-yard game in as many weeks.
“They played well,” head coach Tebucky Jones said of the offense. “The tempo just wasn’t where we wanted it. We wanted them to get on the ball and be faster. They got in the huddle when they shouldn’t have gotten in the huddle because it seemed like [Manchester] was getting gassed a little bit and we wanted to keep putting the pressure on them.
“But besides that, we threw the ball well, ran the ball well, the offensive line held up and our quarterback did a good job.”
But perhaps the most dynamic playmaker for the Hurricanes was Yopp. The junior finished with 111 rushing yards, 110 receiving yards and four total touchdowns. He also provided the highlight of the game when he ran a fake punt back for 100 yards.
“I feel like wherever the coaches put me, I’m just going to do my best and they know I give all my effort,” Yopp said. “I always like to say, whatever the team gives me, I’m going to give back.”
Despite the offensive output, there are still areas that need to be cleaned up.
Jones was not particularly pleased with his team’s defensive and special teams effort. In spite of coming away with three interceptions, New Britain gave up 38 points while allowing Frett to return two kickoffs for touchdowns, the second of which was a 90-yarder to start the second quarter.
Manchester running back Eli Ford finished with 143 yards - 108 in the first half - on 21 carries. Frett, meanwhile, caught eight passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. The Hurricanes were also flagged eight times, which more often than not extended the Indians’ drives.
“We have a lot of things to fix on defense and on kickoffs,” Jones said. “We have to get in and watch film, see all the mistakes we made and go from there.”
But those things should be correctable and at the end of the night, New Britain made a statement to earn its first win of the season. Now, it will just be a matter of if the Hurricanes can build off Friday night.
The players believe they will.
“Yes, we feel good about [Friday], but there’s always things we can work on, always things we can improve on” Newman said. “[This week] is a whole new mindset and then we’ll go at it again.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @DavidGlovach