North Haven finishes the job, roars past Killingly in Class MM final to win 1st state championship

Photo of Joe Morelli

EAST HARTFORD —The last time North Haven played in a state football final, Dave Mikos was a standout middle linebacker for the program.

North Haven fell short in the 2015 CIAC Class L final to New Canaan. Seven years later, the Nighthawks had another team trying to reach a state final.

As current running back Adam Pandolfi tells the story, Mikos came to a team pasta dinner before the Nighthawks’ semifinal-round game against Wilton.

“He told us to finish what his team couldn’t,” Pandolfi said.

North Haven heeded Mikos’ message. The fifth-seeded Nighthawks finished it off this time, capped by defeating No. 3 Killingly 51-34 Saturday at Rentschler Field.

It was North Haven’s first state championship.

“Those 4 minutes were the longest 4 minutes I’ve ever felt, but when the clock hit zero, it was an awesome feeling,” said North Haven’s Jeffrey Karavas, who had a game-high 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

Pandolfi added 99 yards and two crucial touchdowns in the second half, on North Haven’s first two possessions. That turned a tie game at halftime (21-all) into a two-touchdown lead for the Nighthawks (11-2).

“Going into halftime when they score that late touchdown (18 seconds before halftime) and it was tied up, I think we just came out firing (in the second half),” Pandolfi said. “That was a big moment. We had to get the offense rolling. We just needed a couple of stops on defense and that’s how we started the second half.”

North Haven’s defense did rise to the occasion in the second half. Not only did the Nighthawks try to prevent receiver Noah Colangelo from seeing single coverage, they also sent more pressure at quarterback Thomas Dreibholz (18 of 31, 303 yards, four touchdowns).

North Haven forced a punt on the first possession of the second half for Killingly (11-2), then brought pressure up the middle to force an incompletion on 4th down and 6 from the North Haven 40-yard line. Camren Thompson hit Dreibholz as he threw on fourth down.

“Coach (Alex) Velardi and I spoke about it,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “We were not getting to him (Dreibholz) and not defending him, so we might as well go try and get him a little bit more without getting crazy. … It’s a game of momentum without a doubt. That momentum did switch in our favor and I think our offense capitalized on it.”

After Pandolfi’s 19-yard touchdown run put the Nighthawks up 35-21, Killingly was hit with a holding penalty on first down. Then a high snap was recovered by Soren Rief at his own 1. 

Dreibholz was nearly sacked on the next play by Chayse Mangino. Intentional grounding was called, resulting in a safety because it occurred in the end zone.

“They made some great adjustments and we couldn’t really get much going in the second half,” Killingly coach Chad Neal said. “I thought the start of the second half, we had a decent drive, got a first down, then we had the penalty, then we had to punt it. Then a bad snap, a bad toss, a safety was too much to overcome at that point.”

North Haven took over possession on Killingly’s 45. Karavas scored six plays later from 8 yards out.

That made it 44-21 North Haven with 7:45 left. Killingly, which had a 17-game winning streak snapped by Windham earlier this season, had won the Class M state championship last season.

Dreibholz's third and fourth touchdown passes, around North Haven's Trysten Dos' short touchdown run, finished it off. 

North Haven took leads of 14-0 and 21-14, but Killingly tied the game twice before halftime. With 18 seconds left in the first half, Keith Perry caught a short touchdown pass from Dreibholz.

For Sagnella, who completed his 26th season as head coach, it would take some time before he could truly enjoy the accomplishment.

“I’m the biggest idiot because I suppress my emotions to the point where it’s now like a dysfunction. It (the emotions) will come out.”

Player of the Game

Adam Pandolfi, North Haven: Could have gone in several different directions, but Pandolfi scored the first two touchdowns of the second half for North Haven, which took control from there.


"They wear on you a lot, especially on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line is tremendous. You have to face a lot of double-, sometimes triple-teams and  run what they run to almost perfection. Hats off to them, they are a great football program.” -- Killingly coach Chad Neal; @nhrJoeMorelli

North Haven 51, Killingly 34

NORTH HAVEN   14  7   7  23—51
KILLINGLY           0  21  0  13—34
N—Brian Lastomirsky 14 run (Declan Finkle kick)
N—Jeff Karavas 6 run (Finkle kick)
K—Noah Colangelo 31 pass Thomas Dreibholz (kick failed)
K—Keith Perry 5 run (Perry pass Ben Jax)
N—Lastomirsky 29 run (Finkle kick)
K—Perry 6 pass Dreibholz (Dreibholz kick)
N—Adam Pandolfi 5 run (Finkle kick)
N—Pandolfi 19 run (Finkle kick)
N—Safety (intentional grounding in end zone)
N—Karavas 8 run (Finkle kick)
K—Braden Pedersen 45 pass Dreibholz (Dreibholz kick)
N—Trysten Dos 1 run (Finkle kick)
K—Colangelo 38 pass Dreibholz (kick failed)
Records: North Haven 11-2; Killingly 11-2.


RUSHING — North Haven, Jeff Karavas 17-156, Adam Pandolfi 13-107, Brian Lastomirsky 6-84, Trysten Dos 6-22, Camren Thompson 5-43, Daniel-Mark Thomas 3-65. Killingly, Soren Rief 14-56, Keith Perry 8-14, Thomas Dreibholz 5-12, Ben Jax 3-6, Noah Colangelo 1-9, Team 1-(-14).

PASSING — North Haven, Karavas 0-1-0-0. Killingly, Dreibholz 20-33-0-293

RECEIVING — North Haven, None. Killingly, Colangelo 9-148, Braden Pedersen 5-83, Jax 2-53, Perry 4-6, Rief 1-3.