NEW HAVEN – There was no doubt this time.
A week after losing its undefeated record and its first chance at an outright NHC championship with a 30-6 loss to East Noble, New Haven routed Homestead 45-20 to claim its first NHC title.
New Haven coach Jim Rowland told his players to let that loss to East Noble be a motivator this week.
“These kids deserved it,” Rowland said. “I think the way we showed up tonight, I think they took that message to heart.”
Senior running back Ariest Vasquez ran for two touchdowns and had a 40-yard return on a fumble recovery for a score in the first half to help New Haven (8-1, 6-1) to a 32-13 halftime lead.
“It means a lot,” Vasquez said. “This is going to be a memory for the rest of my life. Our coaches told us they still think about Senior Night. They talked about Senior Night at practice all the time.”
For 21 other New Haven seniors, this also became a night to remember.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Hogue had touchdown catches of 33 and 15 yards, and junior quarterback Vance Shearer went 12 for 19 for 107 yards against the Spartans (5-4, 3-4).
The Spartans put together long drives for their first two scores, but junior quarterback Logan Ormsby struggled after a 5-for-5 start. He closed the half 5 for 15, and without a running game, Homestead stalled and gave New Haven’s potent offense too many chances.
The Spartans were also careless with the ball in their spoiler bid Friday.
Homestead had two turnovers in the first half and lost a fumble after making it to the New Haven 30 on the first drive of the second half.
The timely takeaways, coupled with a strong offensive showing, left the Bulldogs alone atop the NHC.
“At the beginning of the year, our coaches were like, ‘We can make history,’ ” said Hogue, who finished the season with 751 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. “We could be the first team in New Haven history to win a NHC title. We came out and did what we had to do.
“We did it.”
A 66-yard touchdown run from Vasquez with less than 20 seconds left in the third quarter put the Bulldogs ahead 38-13 and iced the historic win.
Fellow senior tailback D’Andre Smith also ran one in, his from the 1-yard line, as New Haven milked the clock early in the fourth quarter.
With 6:20 left in the game, Homestead gave its lone response to the New Haven scoring onslaught with a 28-yard pass from Ormsby to junior slot receiver John Lark.
The Bulldogs will open postseason play against South Side next Friday.
“This group’s relentless,” Rowland said.
“They know South Side is talented. I don’t think it’s going to be a hard sell for them.”