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By NED GRIFFEN
Day Sports Writer
Bacon Academy coach Duane Maranda was strongly considering giving up on last Saturday's game against Windham.
Bacon trailed the Whippets by 28 points midway through the third quarter. It couldn't get its offense going. Or stop Windham's.
"I almost pulled (quarterback) Brennden Cullen out," Maranda said. "It was really early in the third quarter, so maybe midway in the quarter I would.
"(Then) I said, 'You know what, let's just keep trying to build some positives,' and (Windham) still had their starters in. So I'll keep Brennden in for maybe one more series. He had gotten dinged up the other week against Fitch and we kept him out of practice. He didn't look right in the first half. He wasn't in the zone he usually is."
Maranda changed his mind after Cullen scored on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter. He scored again on a 4-yard run to start the fourth.
The Bobcats scored again and again in the final period, rallying for a 48-47 win that was as wild as it was improbable. And they made history in the process.
Bacon's 28-point comeback win ties the state record, according to Bob Barton, editor of the Connecticut High School Football State Record Book.
St. Joseph of Trumbull set the record when it rallied to beat Bassick of Bridgeport, 37-30, on Oct. 19, 1974. Bassick led that game 20-0 in the first quarter and 28-0 during the second.
The Cadets scored 29 second-half points for the win.
Bacon scored that many in the fourth quarter.
"The kids were just elated (after the win)," Maranda said. "At first, it was shock. Brennden was quoted as saying, 'I can't believe we just won that game.'
"To be honest with you, it seemed like the past few years we made runs like that, but it always seemed like we'd come out on the short end. The week before versus Fitch, we led 21-20 and felt like we had the momentum. We were physically outplaying them, and they were down to their third-string quarterback. At halftime, we felt like we were in control of this game. We were going to win it. Then we came up short (a 30-20 loss). We made some mistakes and just couldn't get going. It seems like that's been the way its gone for us the last couple of years versus those more established programs."
Cullen ran 27 times for 95 yards and five touchdowns and was 25 of 44 for 301 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Alex Couture had 15 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. His 15 catches put him in a three-way tie for seventh all-time in a game, according to the record book.
Steven Barreto added six catches for 102 yards.
Cullen's 3-yard run and a two-point conversion pass to Couture cut Bacon's deficit to 41-27.
Christian Clarke, who earlier in the game scored on a 99-yard interception return, scored on the ensuing kickoff. He went 75 yards as Windham went ahead, 47-27.
The Bobcats scored in under 90 seconds with Cullen taking it in for a 5-yard touchdown. Sophomore Trey Geisman's extra point got Bacon to within 13 points.
Maranda opted to have Geisman kick onside, and teammate Peter Blackman recovered.
Cullen threw a 22-yard touchdown to Couture, cutting Windham's lead to 47-40 with three minutes, 46 seconds left. The extra point failed.
Geisman kicked onside again, and teammate Deshuan Stonick recovered it.
Cullen scored on an 8-yard run with 2:23 remaining to get within a point of the Whippets.
"My feeling at that point was we had scored too fast," Maranda said. "We had done well in those last couple of (defensive) series stopping what they were doing, but I thought, 'Man, we just gave them two minutes to drive on us.'"
Maranda also decided to have his team go for the two-point conversion.
"No question, I wanted to go for two," he said. "Everything was going for us at the time."
It worked — Cullen found Couture again for the go-ahead points.
Nate Kozlowski followed with an interception, sealing Bacon's wild win.
"It's funny," Maranda said. "Some coaches who were scouting the game, they all left at halftime.
"We watched it again on film as a team (Monday)," Maranda laughed. "(Windham) had one touchdown shorter than a 50-yard run, and it was 22 yards.
"They scored from 50, 50, 65 and 51 yards, and they had a kickoff return of 75 yards. So when you look at it, it's crazy. You take away six plays, our defense played great. You look at it and it drives you absolutely nuts.
"It was all or nothing."
Memorable moment for Warriors
■ There are high school moments you'll never forget no matter how old you get.
The Valley Regional/Old Lyme co-op had one of those moments Saturday.
The Warriors, like most teams in the Pequot Football Conference, haven't been able to beat Cromwell since they joined the league in 2003.
Saturday, Valley/Old Lyme was locked in a scoreless tie with Cromwell at halftime, and coach Tim King gave his Warriors a passionate speech.
"One of the things I said was, 'You're going to play the second half and it's going to be a half of football that you're going to remember the rest of your life,'' King said. "'You seniors have got a chance. It's 0-0 with Cromwell and right now we need a leap of faith.'"
The Warriors scored on their opening drive of the second half and held off Cromwell for a 6-0 road win. They improved to 3-0 and are in a three-way tie atop the Sassacus Division with perennial power Hyde of New Haven and North Branford.
"We had some kids with tears (after the game)," King said. "That half, they're always going to remember that."
Quarterback Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn led Valley/Old Lyme on an 11-yard drive to start the second half and scored on a 1-yard run. He finished with 158 yards on 15 carries.
It was up to the Warriors' defense to preserve the lead.
"Defensively, we just played a great game to shut them out," King said. "(Senior) Mitchell King had a great game. We just moved him to defensive end the first game of the season. He had two or three tackles for a loss and a couple of big first-down stops. He just had a huge game.
"(Assistant) Paul Ginter came up with a great game plan to keep an eye on their quarterback (Anthony Morales) because they run a system comparable to what we do. All week long we just talked about formations and tendencies and all of that, and (the defense) just played a great game with some emotion. We have some pretty good senior leaders between Mitchell and Kyle Connor (receiver/defensive back), Justin Zabilansky (center/middle linebacker) and John Finkeldey (running back/defensive end-outside linebacker). Finkeldey ran for 115 yards and is just a tough, tough kid. So they all got after it."
New London homesick
■ Stephan Dance backtracked a little when asked what New London misses about not playing its home games at Cannamela Field, which is still being upgraded.
"It's not our home; we're not at our school grounds," New London's all-state fullback/linebacker said. "It doesn't affect us. Football is football, no matter where you play."
Jeff Larson, the Whalers' coach and the school's athletic director, was a little more diplomatic.
"Of course you miss it, when you can come out of your locker room and walk on to your own field and not get on a bus," Larson said. "But you have to give credit to the kids for that. They overcome adversity on a daily basis."
New London opened its season with a home loss to Montville at Coast Guard Academy.
New London plays at Waterford on Friday night before playing at East Lyme the following week. They hope to be back at Cannamela to host Fitch the following week.
"As frustrating as it is now, you keep in the back of your mind that at some point, you're going to have a great facility," Larson said. "You just have to stay positive and try not to think about it."
Dance, defense lead Whalers
■ The first thing that Wilton coach Bruce Cunningham talked about after his team's 16-9 loss to New London was the Whalers' defense.
"They came out in a defense that we hadn't seen," he said. "They played more of a 4-3 and we had problems blocking Stephan Dance."
Dance helped the Whalers hold Wilton, coming off a win over St. Joseph of Trumbull, to just two first downs in the first half. Wilton's longest play from scrimmage in the first half was 8 yards and they had only five plays of double-digit yardage the entire game.
Dance, along with fellow linebackers Kyle McKinnon and Josh Zurita, were helped by the physical play of defensive backs Carlos Lozada, Jevon Elmore, Khaleed Fields and Paul Craig.
While New London's defense was stout, its offense turned the ball over three times and had trouble getting much of a running game going.
"When you have opportunities and you don't take advantage of those opportunities, it's frustrating," New London coach Jeff Larson said. "Every drive it was just one or two little things — a penalty, a bad snap. It's all timing and it just gets thrown off. I'm not worried. I have guys on offense that have the ability to break on every play."
Wilton made some adjustments to make it a more entertaining second half, with both teams giving everything they had.
"I didn't know if anybody was wearing anybody out today," Cunningham said. "I think both teams were into it. Nobody was going to quit today."
Games of the week
■ No. 10 Darien (3-0) at Wilton (1-2), Friday, 6 p.m.; Trumbull (3-0) at No. 6 Bridgeport Central (3-0), Friday, 6 p.m.; East Lyme (2-1) at Montville (2-1), Friday, 6:30 p.m.; New London (2-1) at Waterford (3-0), Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Brookfield (3-0) at No. 2 Masuk-Monroe (3-0), Friday, 7 p.m.;No. 9 Cheshire (2-1) at Hand-Madison (3-0) Friday, 7 p.m.; Glastonbury (2-1) at No. 8 Windsor (3-0), Friday, 7 p.m.; Holy Cross-Waterbury (2-1) at Torrington (2-1), Friday, 7 p.m.; No. 5 Notre Dame-West Haven (2-1) at West Haven (3-0), Friday, 7 p.m. (arguably the state's most heated football rivalry); Watertown (3-0) at Woodland-Beacon Falls (1-2), Friday, 7 p.m.; Newtown (2-1) at Oxford (3-0), Saturday, 3 p.m.; Ridgefield (2-1) at Wilbur Cross-New Haven (3-0), Saturday, 3 p.m.
■ Fitch coach Mike Emery complimented his team in a big way after Friday's 24-14 win over Montville, and it had nothing to do with football. "Tony Cafaro, one of our assistant coaches, he been coaching since the 1960s, and he said this is the best group of kids he's ever been around," Emery said. "This was a month ago before we played any games. I don't know how many wins we're going to get, but this is the best group of guys I've been around my whole coaching career. That's saying something."
■ Montville coach Tanner Grove gave a passionate speech to his team after the Fitch loss, reminding them that they still have a lot to play for and shouldn't be dragged down by the defeat. "This is Week 3," Grove said. "We can all relax a little bit. It's Week 3. The season is not over. We get to play (this) Friday guaranteed. That's all."
■ If you haven't watched it yet, check out the video produced by The Day's Peter Huoppi about Fitch's new flexbone offense. It's good stuff. … Griswold's Connor Frizzell kicked a 51-yard field goal during last Friday's 41-3 loss to Norwich Free Academy. Frizzell tied three others for the fifth-longest in state high school football history according to the State Record Book. Rico Brogna of Watertown and Tyler Timion share the state record - 54 yards. Oddly enough, both did it in the same season (1987).
■ Ansonia proved a lot to others — and itself — by beating Holy Cross of Waterbury on Monday, 31-0, in a game that helped the Naugatuck Valley League start to take shape. Ansonia graduated 19 of last season's 22 starters and has just four seniors. Only one of those seniors starts, and fortunately for the Chargers, that senior is workhorse running back Montrell Dobbs. Dobbs ran 30 times for 185 yards against the defending NVL champions. Teammate Arkeel Newsome added a 17-yard touchdown catch and a 33-yard run for Ansonia (3-0), and quarterback Elliot Chudwick threw two touchdowns.
■ Bristol Eastern had some anxious moments at the end of last Friday's 28-20 win over Platt of Meriden. Eastern had just scored and went for the onside kick. It recovered the ball, but an official's inadvertent whistle forced it to kick again. Platt got the ball and drove downfield, however the Lancers' Taylor Wrice intercepted John Marks at the Eastern 12-yard line and ran out the clock.
■ Watertown quarterback Matt Quatrano ran 18 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 39-28 win over St. Paul of Bristol on Friday. Teammate Curtis Pomeroy added 18 carries for 136 yards and four touchdowns. Tucker Bachand was 19 of 33 for 351 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons. … Staples of Westport scored 17 in the fourth quarter of its 34-14 win at Ridgefield. Nick Kelly ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on six carries, and Ridgefield turned it over three times in the final 11 minutes.
■ How quickly things change — New Britain fell to 0-3 after losing to South Windsor on Saturday, 20-16. And winless Weaver of Hartford couldn't be in worse shape. It was routed by struggling Plainville on Saturday, 33-6. It was Plainville's first win on the field since Sept. 13, 2008 (33-6 over Hartford Sports Sciences). The Blue Devils were awarded a forfeit win over Maloney of Meriden earlier this season when the latter self-reported itself for the use of an ineligible player.... Alex Delaney ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns Friday as Fairfield Warde beat Bassick of Bridgeport, 31-7. … Devon Carrillo ran 22 times for 164 yards and a touchdown and was 5 of 8 for 77 yards as Middletown beat Hartford Public on Friday, 10-6. The Blue Dragons (2-1) now have as many wins as they had all of last season.
■ Brookfield scored three touchdowns in 1:38 during its 34-14 win over Weston on Friday. The score was tied at 14 late in the third quarter when Leaon Gordon ran for a 38-yard touchdown. Moments later, Brian Kelly stripped Trojans quarterback Tyler Hassett and returned the fumble for a 13-yard touchdown. Shea McGorty stripped Hassett again on the first play of Weston's next drive, and one play later, Kelly ran for a 22-yard touchdown. Eight plays, three Bobcat touchdowns.
■ Southington had a week it would like to forget. Starting quarterback Connor Butkiewicz ruptured his appendix and was unavailable for last Friday's game against No. 8 and unbeaten Windsor. One play into the game, running back Joe Pesce, who replaced Butkiewicz, injured his leg on his first carry and couldn't continue. Windsor handed the Blue Knights their first loss, 12-8. … James Ward scored on touchdown runs of 4 and 77 yards to pace Wilbur Cross of New Haven to its 20-15 win over Fairfield Prep on Friday. Ward had 11 touchdowns in three games for the unbeaten Governors.
■ Rohan Ifill ran 13 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns and was 22 of 37 for 270 yards and a touchdown to lead Sacred Heart of Waterbury to a 28-13 win over city-rival Crosby on Friday. … Peter Gisualdi and Graham Maybell combined for 236 yards and a touchdown as Darien beat St. Joseph on Saturday, 14-10. The Blue Wave are 3-0 and a player in Class L. … Oxford, in its third season, is off to a 3-0 start. Alex Miller threw a 6-yard touchdown, scored on a 55-yard interception return and also returned a fumble 68 yards for a third score. Miller was 7 of 10 for 102 yards passing and Nick Donofrio ran 20 times for 138 yards and scored on a run and a catch.
■ If you like your football played at an Arena Football League pace, then Bunnell of Stratford is your new crush. It beat New Milford on Saturday, 61-28, the third straight game in which it scored 54 or more points. Brian Castelot was 17 of 26 passing for 440 yards and five touchdowns and ran for a touchdown for the Bulldogs (3-0). Steven Buczek added 179 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and had a 12-yard touchdown catch. … Dan Hebert scored on runs of 1 and 15 yards and on a 92-yard punt return as Newtown beat Immaculate of Danbury on Saturday, 31-0. … Mike Cottle ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Jordan Jones rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in South Windsor's win Saturday.
■ Jacob Rosario had 21 carries for 162 yards and four touchdowns as Hall of West Hartford beat Simsbury on Saturday, 49-28. Riley Carroll was 20 of 29 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns for the unbeaten Warriors (3-0). … Andrew Buanno had 27 carries for 253 yards and four touchdowns to carry Enfield to a 34-7 win over Housatonic Regional of Falls Village on Saturday. … The trio of DeShawn Smith, Al Colon and Desean Higgins teamed for 451 yards and three touchdowns in Cheney Tech of Manchester's 46-22 win over Wilcox Tech of Meriden Saturday. Colon had 15 carries for 191 yards and scored on an 80-yard kickoff return and a 10-yard catch.
■ Bobby Solecki kicked a 33-yard field goal with 10.7 seconds left as Glastonbury edged unbeaten Conard of West Hartford on Saturday, 30-27. … Cory Santor was 9 of 14 passing for 123 yards with a touchdown and ran for 62 yards for Glastonbury (2-1) and Devin O'Reilly scored on runs of 6 and 2 yards. Jonathan Esposito ran 25 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns for the Chieftains (2-1). … Karim St. Luce ran 13 times for 113 yards and a touchdown and had five catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns as Maloney beat RHAM of Hebron on Saturday, 36-7. Ryan Belote was 11 of 23 passing for 294 yards and five touchdowns for the Spartans (2-1).
■ Erich Broadrick threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns as Naugatuck beat Derby/O'Brien Tech on Saturday, 41-18. Tyler Conklin caught two touchdowns for Naugatuck (3-0) and had an interception. … Kevin Maxen scored on a 4-yard catch, a 6-yard run and a 35-yard fumble return Saturday as Pomperaug of Southbury beat Bethel, 35-14. … The new Putnam/Ellis Tech/Tourtellotte co-op won its first game Saturday, 36-6, over Abbott Tech of Danbury.
Owen Poole contributed to this story.
The Day's top 10 state coaches football poll
First-place votes in parentheses, record through Saturday, points tabulated on a 30-28- 26-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7 basis and last week's ranking:
1. Xavier-Middletown (10) 3-0 353 1
KNOW THIS: The bad: The Falcons had five turnovers last Friday and were penalized 10 times for 100 yards. The good: Xavier held No. 9 Cheshire to 141 yards and won, 9-6. NEXT: at Amity-Woodbridge, Friday, 7 p.m.
2. Masuk (1) 3-0 330 2
KNOW THIS: Question: Can anyone stop the Panthers' path of rage through the South-West Conference? (Answer: No.). NEXT: vs. Brookfield, Friday, 7 p.m.
3. Staples (1) 3-0 298 4
KNOW THIS: The Wreckers took advantage of three Ridgefield turnovers in the final 11 minutes of last Friday's game and scored 17 points in their 34-14 win. NEXT: vs. Westhill-Stamford, Saturday, 2 p.m.
4. New Canaan 3-0 294 3
KNOW THIS: Kevin Macari scored on a 27-yard interception return, a 40-yard punt return and a 53-yard catch as the Rams trounced Fairfield Ludlowe last Friday, 35-0. NEXT: at Fairfield Warde, Friday, 7 p.m.
5. Notre Dame-West Haven 2-1 252 5
KNOW THIS: Tirrell Young-Williams had two interceptions, one of which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown, as the Green Knights routed Shelton 31-10 last Friday. NEXT: at West Haven, Friday, 7 p.m.
6. Berlin 3-0 220 7
KNOW THIS: UConn-bound running back Max DeLorenzo had 126 yards and two touchdowns in last Thursday's 49-22 win over Tolland. Oh, yeah. He did that on just three carries. NEXT: at Bloomfield, Friday, 7 p.m.
7. Bridgeport Central 3-0 205 8
KNOW THIS: The Hilltoppers missed the CIAC LL playoffs last season even though they lost just one regular-season game. That loss was to Trumbull (21-0). So, yeah, Central won't need a pregame speech this week. NEXT: vs. Trumbull, Friday, 6 p.m.
8. Windsor 3-0 187 10
KNOW THIS: The Warriors overcame unbeaten Southington (and tons of mud) in last Friday's 12-8 victory. They'll be challenged again this week against Glastonbury. NEXT: vs. Glastonbury, Friday, 7 p.m.
9. Cheshire 2-1 156 6
KNOW THIS: The Rams go from playing Xavier to playing at unbeaten Hand of Madison. Division I of the Southern Connecticut Conference has no pity. NEXT: at Hand, Friday, 7 p.m.
10. Darien 3-0 102 NR
KNOW THIS: The Blue Wave made their season debut after rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat defending Class SS champion St. Joseph Saturday, 14-10. NEXT: at Wilton, Friday, 6 p.m.
Dropped out: Montville (10).
Also receiving votes: Wilbur Cross (3-0), 97 points; Tie, Naugatuck (3-0) and Trumbull (3-0), 96; Ansonia (2-0), 80; Bunnell (3-0), 66; Hand (3-0), 60; Norwich Free Academy (3-0), 52; Fitch (3-0), 30; Wolcott (3-0), 27; Hyde-New Haven (3-0), 22; Holy Cross (2-0), 16; St. Joseph (1-2), 15; Southington (2-1), 7.
The following coaches voted: Tom Brockett, Ansonia; Jim Buonocore, Ledyard; Dave Cadelina, Bridgeport Central; Steve Filippone, Hand; Tanner Grove, Montville; Jude Kelly, St. Paul-Bristol; Tim King, Valley Regional; Sean Marinan, Xavier; Sal Morello, Cromwell; John Murphy, Masuk; Marce Petroccio, Staples; Bob Zito, Maloney.
■ Chuck Drury of Pomperaug-Southbury did not vote.