WEST HARTFORD - Kaiyon Gunn had said it leading up to Friday night’s season opener - the New Britain football team had to head into Conard confident.
By the time the Hurricanes left the field, there was plenty of self-assurance to go around with Gunn a main reason why. The senior running back rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns and provided another on defense with a pick-6 as New Britain shut out the Chieftains 35-0.
“It feels real good [to get the win], I can tell you that” Gunn said. “There was a lot of doubt on our shoulders after going 5-5 [last season]. We said it’s about changing our culture, but tonight started with our defense. They played aggressively and didn’t give up anything.”
That’s probably how Conard (0-1) felt most of the night.
The Hurricanes (1-0) gave up just 98 total yards, sacked Chieftain quarterback Matt Langevin four times and allowed Conard to collected seven first downs. The closest the Chieftains came to scoring was at the five-minute mark of the first quarter before an illegal man downfield penalty took that away.
Gunn picked off the signal caller with 2:33 left in the first half, after Langevin lofted a pass up the right sideline, and returned it 33 yards for the touchdown.
Langevin completed 13-of-20 passes for 82 yards and the interception and also ran for a team-high 22 yards on 14 carries.
“We had something to prove,” senior tailback and linebacker Shawn Robinson said. “We hustled, swarmed to the ball. Everyone has to be there to help everyone out. A lot of people came out and balled out. I mean, we have to pick up and work on a little bit of stuff, but if we do that, we should be good."
The defensive effort was needed, especially early on.
After New Britain went 91 yards in 12 plays, capped on by a 3-yard run from Gunn, on its opening drive, the offense couldn’t get into much a rhythm. The unit didn’t find the end zone again until 31 seconds into the start of the fourth quarter when Robinson ran untouched 12 yards through the middle of Conard’s defense.
Robinson, who ran through more than 1,000 yards last year, carried the ball five times for 57 yards to make it 21-0. Three minutes later, Gunn added to the score with a 22-yard run.
Some of the early struggled had to do with the Hurricanes breaking in a new quarterback for the game. With two-year starter Jahfari Newman having graduated in the spring, head coach Tebucky Jones turned to senior Tahje Yopp to fill to role - at least for Week 1 with junior Monte Williams injured.
Yopp completed only 2-of-7 passes for 62 yards, his longest pass a 34-yarder to Gunn. He also rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries. But as the game wore on, Yopp began to look more comfortable and settled in, hence the offense’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“The defense held it down for us while we were struggling,” Yopp said. “It was a little bit of a struggle making the switch from wide receiver. But a big key was the line. They told me, “Tahje we got your back. No matter what, we got you.’ They motivated us to win this game.”
Jaden Felix capped off New Britain’s scoring by recovering a bad snap on a punt attempt by Conard with 7:18 left.
Now, the Hurricanes will get ready for its Week-2 matchup against Manchester next Friday, which will also be the team’s home opener. But first, it has 24 hours to enjoy its first win of the season.
“All together, offense, defense and special teams played pretty well [tonight],” Jones said. “There are some little things to clean up, but the kids came out and played hard for all four quarters which is what we need. One [win] down, nine to go.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW BRITAIN 35, CONARD 0
New Britain (1-0) 6 8 0 21 - 35
Conard (0-1) 0 0 0 0 - 0
NB-Kaiyon Gunn 3 run (kick failed), 8:04
NB-Gunn 33 INT return (Gunn run), 2:33
NB-Shawn Robinson 12 run (Tyree Pinnock kick), 11:29
NB-Gunn 22 run (Pinnock kick), 8:29
NB-Jaden Felix fumble recovery (Pinnock kick), 7:18
Rushing-New Britain: Kaiyon Gunn 12-113-2TD, Tahje Yopp 15-73, Shawn Robinson 5-57-TD, Tarik Hetmeyer 4-11. Conard: Matt Langevin 14-22, Sean Guevera 10-(-2), Silas Bridges 1-(-4).
Rushing-New Britain: Yopp 2-7-62. Langevin 13-20-82-INT.
Receiving-New BritainL Gunn 1-34, Hetmeyer 1-28. Conard: Justin Furze 3-43, Guevera 6-23, Zack Cohen 1-11, Jack Tousignant 3-7.