By Dave Phillips
Special to CIACsports.com
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Four years ago, Reggie Lytle was coaching the wide receivers and defensive backs for the Hillhouse football team, which beat Berlin, 34-12, for the CIAC Class M football title.
After Tom Dyer left to become the athletic director at Hamden, Lytle took over as the head coach of the Academics. Three years of building the program back to that level came and went. Now fast forward to Monday night and Lytle and Hillhouse are back to where they were in 2012 – in the Class M championship game.
The Academics used their speed and senior running back Matthew Brehon led the way with 246 yards rushing and three touchdowns as Hillhouse beat Killingly, 49-28, at Bowen Field in the Class M semifinals.
“It’s exciting, but it’s the same group of coaches that were here before,” Lytle said. “We all learned and got better each year. “The first couple years we didn’t have a weight room, but we got one and it was a large difference.”
Hillhouse (11-1) will play St. Joseph (9-2) in the Class M final Saturday morning at 10:30 at Strong Field in West Haven. St. Joseph defeated Valley/Old Lyme, 28-7, in the other Class M semifinal.
The difference in the game was Hillhouse’s speed.
“They have a lot of speed and weapons and they are a well-coached team,” Killingly coach Chad Neal said. “At times, they needed a big play and they got it.”
Hillhouse scored on its first four possessions of the game, taking a quick 15-0 lead on a Shawn Ogarro 10-yard run and a Damian Henderson Jr. to Chase Linzly 13-yard touchdown pass.
But Killingly’s star running back Spencer Lockwood, who carried the ball 38 times for 209 yards, started heating up in the second quarter. He scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, with them coming from three, two and a one yard out Meanwhile, Brehon scored from 15 yards out and Corey Pollard added a one-yard scamper to give Hillhouse a 28-21 edge at halftime.
Killingly had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter, but the Redmen were stopped by the Hillhouse defense at the Academics’ 11-yard line on three straight incomplete passes by Kyle Derosier.
Brehon raced 89 yards on Hillhouse’s first snap after that to make it 35-21 with 3:11 to play in the third quarter.
Hillhouse put the game away when Ogarro stripped the ball from Kelsey Rhines at the Killingly 34-yard line and scooted 66 yards for a TD to give Hillhouse a 42-21 lead a minute into the fourth quarter.
Killingly was able to close it to 42-28 when Jake Gauther caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Derosier three minutes later.
However, Brehon scored his third touchdown of the night on a 57-yard run with 5:37 remaining.
“It feels great to go to a state championship game Saturday,” Brehon said.
Lockwood was kept out of the end zone in the second half.
“He’s a good running back, but he had a great fullback (Jake Gauthier) blocking for him,” Lytle said. “We went strong to his side and shut him down.”
Killingly finished its season at 10-2.
“We’re happy at 10-2, but we’re not satisfied.” Neal said. “We wanted to get to the next step which is a state championship game.”
Killingly 0 21 0 7—28
Hillhouse 15 13 7 14—49
H – Shawn Ogarro 10 run (John Gardner pass from Damian Henderson Jr.)
H – Chase Linzly 13 pass from Damian Henderson Jr. (Byron Breland kick)
K – Spencer Lockwood 3 run (Luke Desaulnier kick)
H – Matthew Brehon 15 run (kick failed)
K – Spencer Lockwood 2 run (Luke Desaulnier kick)
H – Corey Pollard 1 run (Byron Breland kick)
K – Spencer Lockwood 1 run (Luke Desaulnier kick)
H – Matthew Brehon 89 run (Byron Breland kick)
H – Shawn Ogarro 66 fumble recovery (Byron Breland kick)
K – Jake Gauthier 52 pass from Kyle Derosier (Luke Desaulnier kick)
H – Matthew Brehon 57 run (Byron Breland kick)
RUSHING — Killingly, Spencer Lockwood 38-209, Kelsey Rhines 4-8, Kyle Derosier, 5-minus 17, Tyler Cournoyer, 3-minus 7. Hillhouse, Matthew Brehon 13-246, David Harris 14-88, Shawn Ogarro 5-60, Corey Pollard 2-3.
PASSING – Killingly, Kyle Derosier 7-16-1-168. Hillhouse, Damian Henderson Jr. 4-10-0-78.
RECEIVING – Killingly, Jake Gauthier 3-102, Spencer Lockwood 1-minus 5, Zack Burgess 3-71. Hillhouse, John Gardner 2-24, Chase Linzly 2-56.