If you want to know how New Haven survived a battle of Northeast Hoosier Conference football superpowers at Carroll on Friday, you simply need to drive along Rose Ave. and look at the working-class homes from a generation ago.
As you cruise past St. John's Cemetery and turn on Broadway Street, just before you cross the railroad tracks, it becomes pretty clear what type of community that New Haven is. There is no glitz or glamour to this place; it simply is home to a populace that values family, loyalty, and most of all, work.
That mentality is captured in its high school football team.
There was nothing sexy about the Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 NHC) beating of Carroll 41-35 to ascend to the top of the league (along with unbeaten Homestead). It was a game that met all of the hype leading up to it, and in the end, New Haven simply worked hard enough to prevail.
“It's real simple in football,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said. “If you turn the ball over and you give up big plays on special teams, then you don't deserve to win. We didn't deserve to win. Tonight, New Haven was the better team.”
After trading offensive punches with the Chargers (3-1, 1-1) all night long, the Bulldogs got tough defensively and made a couple of stands in the final minutes that secured the victory.
“We got some timely 3-and-outs on defense,” New Haven coach Jim Rowland said. “Our defense stepped it up in the second half.”
The Bulldog offense wasn't too shabby either.
It wasn't just the 41 points that left Dinan shaking his head afterward; it was how the Bulldogs got those points.
New Haven executed 64 offensive plays, and on 52 of those they ran the ball right at the heart of the Charger defense. Rowland's team finished with 281 yards rushing against a defense that had allowed 21 points in three games this entire season.
“It just fits who we are,” Rowland said of the physical style of play. “We are who we are. We don't try to pretend to be anything else.”
The Bulldogs are a squad that the patrons sharing a beer at Rack & Helen's after a long day can be proud of.
Rowland rides the running trio of Ariest Vasquez (146 yards), D'Andre Smith (87) and a bowling ball of a fullback in Hayden Graham (37 on six carries) to pound defenses – as they did Friday. And he has an efficient enough of a quarterback (Vance Shearer) that can make a defense pay when they drop too many into the box.
New Haven averaged over five yards per carry and they did it even when the Chargers knew exactly what was coming at them.
It was very blue collar-like. It was New Haven football.
“I love this group of kids,” Rowland said. “I wouldn't trade them for the world. I've just enjoyed coaching them.
And their town has loved watching them.