NEW BRITAIN - It took 10 games and a bye week in between, but the New Britain football team finally turned in a performance showing what it was capable of.
In what had been another season filled with more downs than ups and plenty of what-if moments that left the Hurricanes on the outside of the playoff picture once again, they made sure to go out with a statement. It couldn’t have worked out any better, especially against rival Berlin in the Wishbone Bowl Friday night.
New Britain forced three turnovers and ran for seven touchdowns as it routed the Redcoats 51-6 to secure its first win over Berlin since 2014 to finish out the season 5-5. It was the most points a team had scored in the Wishbone Bowl since the two started playing one another regularly again in 2009.
The Hurricanes also sent Berlin (8-2) to the playoffs with two consecutive losses in the process.
“The last couple of games we’ve been ballin’ and once we’ve been dialed in, this is the outcome,” said running back and linebacker Shawn Robinson, who ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and also came away with an interception. “Our season should have been way better than what it was, but I’ll take this. It’s a bitter-sweet moment. Next year, we have to come out and show how New Britain High School should play.”
Afterwards, it was hard not to notice the joy coming from the Hurricanes’ sideline afterwards, which had come so close to beating the Redcoats in the last two meetings. A last-second field goal had cost them a win in 2015, while a Berlin touchdown in overtime ended their season with another loss last year.
In a season that had not gone like New Britain wanted or expected it to, Friday night’s win was an important one. Not in terms of record, even though the victory gave the Hurricanes back-to-back wins for the first time since last year, but just for the players. The other four wins mattered, this one just mattered the most.
“It feels good,” Hurricanes offensive and defensive lineman Jacob Clark said. “My first three years as a player we weren’t able to beat them and it feels really good to beat them my senior year even though we’re not making the playoffs. But 5-5, I’ll live with it. I love ballin’ out with my brothers.”
In many ways, this wasn’t a typical New Britain game, especially from this season. The Hurricanes never did anything to sabotage their own success, whether it be penalties or turnovers. They took control of the game early and as it moved into the second half never let up.
New Britain scored three touchdowns and record a safety in the second quarter alone to take a 23-6 lead into halftime. The Hurricanes then scored three more times in the third and added another touchdown in the fourth for good measure, outscoring Berlin 28-0 over the final 24 minutes.
Berlin’s lone touchdown came with just nine seconds left in the first half when Kevin Dunn tossed a 3-yard pass to Giancarlo Tufano.
It certainly helped New Britain was able to dictate the terms of the night with its running game. Senior tailback Muhammed Codjoe, who tallied a career-high 198 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries. Codjoe scored the game’s second touchdown on a 71-yard run down the right sideline in the second quarter. He later outdid himself with an 81-yard run on the second play of the second half for the other score.
Tahje Yopp added another 107 yards on the ground, including a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter that started the running clock. Robinson, the team’s leading rusher, had a quiet night by his standards with 65 yards and a score.
“As running backs, once we get the ball we’re just looking to score,” Codjoe said. “The offensive line was great as always. This means a lot. Every time we play [Berlin], we’re never able to execute and this time we were able to execute.”
In total, the Hurricanes rushed for 474 yards to go along with those seven touchdowns as they outgained Berlin 544 yards of total offense to 230. They also had 10 plays to 10-plus yards, while the Redcoats had just two in each half.
But it also helped that New Britain’s defense, which has had its own issues this season, particularly with assignments, played well. The six points Berlin scored was the fewest the Hurricanes had given up this year. Before that, it was 17 in a loss to Simsbury in Week 5.
It started on the Redcoats’ first drive when New Britain intercepted Redcoats quarterback Kevin Dunn. The defense would later force a safety after running back James Mazzarella couldn’t escape the end zone and picked off Dunn after in the third quarter.
Dunn finished the game 9-for-12 for just 96 yards, while Berlin managed a mere 54 yards on the ground.
“I thought the defense played well,” Hurricanes head coach Tebucky Jones said. “They swarmed to the ball, came down and laid the wood. And when you start laying the wood, things tend to work out pretty good.”
It did indeed. And as the New Britain underclassmen carried the seniors from sideline-to-sideline after the game to celebrate the win, there might not have been any playoff games looming, but there was certainly plenty of excitement.
“It’s the second most points we scored this season,” Clark said. “We should have done that from the beginning of the season, but we made the most of it [Friday] and that’s all you can ask for.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach