Fun Fitch, Ledyard's trio, Masuk and Oxford's tributes, and 2,132 other words
The talk around the Eastern Connecticut Conference this preseason centered mostly on Ledyard, New London and Norwich Free Academy.
Fitch, on the other hand, was largely unnoticed and quietly went about its business, much to the delight of head coach Mike Emery. He had a good feeling about this year's team and preferred to lie in the weeds.
The Falcons likely got some folks attention with their 42-13 season-opening win over East Lyme last Friday.
"It's a bunch of kids that worked like crazy in the weight room all off-season and in the summertime," Emery said. "They worked like crazy from the beginning of this year. On hot, dusty afternoons, we were working them pretty hard.
"They're very tough and very savvy. And they're very much together. We've got a good group. They're a fun group to be around."
Fitch ran 41 times for 318 yards out of its trademark double wing offense. Senior Saffwan Davis had 13 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Robert Johnston ran nine times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 54-yard touchdown.
Junior Devante Anderson threw for 120 yards and a touchdown, and senior Kevin Manzanares scored on a 14-yard run.
"They're a bunch of kids that really like each other," Emery said. "I guess the best way to call it is, 'drama free.' They care about the important things, not about themselves. Just for instance, our wing backs have contests with each other over who's going to have the best block instead of who's going to get the best run. You know when you have that coming that your kids are looking at it the right way."
Fitch plays at Stonington Friday. It'll face a big test next Saturday when it plays at Norwich Free Academy.
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Ledyard's offensive approach went something like this last season — handoff to Alex Manwaring. Handoff to Alex Manwaring. Handoff to Alex Manwaring.
The Colonels sprinkled in some John Rainey runs, or passes to Slade Baxley and Dallas Smith. Yet it was Manwaring who they handed the ball off to 366 times en route to an appearance in the CIAC Class M title game.
Manwaring has graduated, and Thursday, a trio of running backs shared the load for Ledyard in its 35-0 win over Waterford. Juniors Jordan Kowalski and Darnay Gray and sophomore JoJo Shumaker split the majority of carries.
"It's kind of a split balance here," Colonels coach Jim Buonocore said. "Our skill guys are young, with the exception of Rainey (a senior). So it's going to take them a little while to kind of catch up to speed with us."
Shumaker got the most work Thursday. He had 22 carries for 274 yards and four touchdowns, all of which he scored in the fourth quarter.
Kowalski showed the best combination of versatility and toughness. He ran hard and showed off a good stiff-arm. He occasionally lined up in the slot for a quick screen. He caught a 9-yard touchdown and played defensive back, too.
The Lancers struggled at times to stop Gray, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 240 pounds.
"All three of them had a little difficulty getting going," Bunocore said. JoJo kind of hung in there and had a great fourth quarter for us in helping us kind of run away with this thing. … Kowalski was kind of that unsung hero (that) evening for us. I'm really, really happy for him."
Buonocore said that Ledyard has another able running back in junior Joe Carter, but he wasn't used much Thursday in order to keep him fresh at defensive back.
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Masuk of Monroe and Oxford both experienced joy and pain in their respective season-openers.
Norman Lilly, the father of Masuk junior receiver Russell Lilly, died from cancer hours before Friday night's game against Pomperaug of Southbury.
Russell opted to play, and head coach John Murphy awarded him the game ball after the Panthers' 47-10 victory.
"Like I told my team, it was the proudest moment I've had," Murphy told the Connecticut Post. "For him to choose to come here, on a day like today, to be with his team and his coaches, that moved me. My pregame speech wasn't fire and brimstone, it was telling them how much this thing means to people that he would come here on a day like today."
Oxford has dedicated this season in the memory of Brandon Giordano, a two-way lineman who died in a car accident last March. He was 15.
The Wolverines beat Immaculate of Danbury, 35-0. Afterwards, Oxford head coach Joe Stochmal gave Angela Borelli, Giordano's mother, the game ball.
"We wanted to win this game for her and present her with the game ball, which we just did. That's what today was all about," Stochmal told the Post. "Our kids played for Brandon, for his mom and his family."
Oxford's linemen will also each take turns wearing Giordano's No. 69 jersey.
Sean Bowley of Hearst Inc. blogged about both Masuk and Oxford here.
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So Friday, Sheehan of Wallingford and Law of Milford were scoreless after a quarter.
The final score — Sheehan 45, Law 42.
The teams combined for eight second-half touchdowns, including five in the fourth quarter.
Rafael Dominquez ran for a 9-yard touchdown with three minutes, 41 seconds left in the game to give the Titans a 45-35 lead.
Joe Ziebel scored on a 1-yard run with 54 seconds left for the Lawmen. Sheehan recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock for the win.
Jeremy Gannon ran 22 times for 218 yards and two touchdowns for Sheehan and also completed 11 of 16 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
Timmy Maher had 23 carries for 177 yards and four touchdowns for Law.
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Mick Pernell ran 16 times fro 187 yards and four touchdowns as Naugatuck beat Wilby of Waterbury, 48-20, in the first game of the new season last Wednesday. … Harold Cooper ran three times for 131 yards and three touchdowns as Hillhouse of New Haven raced past Foran of Milford Thursday, 55-34. Andre Anderson added seven carries for 196 yards and two touchdowns. … Jeremiah Crowley scored on an 88-yard punt return, a 92-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard run as Montville cruised past Watertown Thursday, 34-13. … Tanner Kingsley completed 16 of 18 passes for 166 yards and five touchdowns with an interception as Woodland of Beacon Falls clobbered Sacred Heart of Waterbury Thursday, 46-0.
D'Angelo Berry ran 20 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns as Xavier of Middletown, the top-ranked team in The Day's Top 10 state coaches poll, trounced Notre Dame of West Haven Friday, 44-0. … Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome ran nine times for 197 yards and five touchdowns — all in the first half — as the No. 2 Chargers ransacked Torrington Friday, 66-26. … Brendan Bilcheck threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead No. 3 Hand of Madison past Amity of Woodbridge Friday, 35-13.
Fourth-ranked Staples of Westport scored 42 in the second half of Friday's 49-28 win over St. Joseph of Trumbull. James Frusciante had seven catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 70-yard punt return for Staples. Jake Pelletier had eight catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns for St. Joseph and scored on a 5-yard run, too. … Robert Quinn Fleeting was 17 of 24 for 230 yards with an interception and ran 14 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns as No. 5 Windsor beat Wethersfield Friday, 42-0. Jaylen Berry ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on just three carries.
Ervin Philips ran 10 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and had touchdown catches of 32 and 46 yards as No. 6 West Haven blitzed Hamden Friday, 45-6. Eddy Williams added 20 carries for 119 yards and three touchdowns. … Thomas Milone had six catches for 183 yards and three touchdowns and scored on punt returns of 60 and 83 yards to help No. 9 Masuk of Monroe rout of Pomperaug. ... Brandan Basil was 26 of 39 for 308 yards and four touchdowns as North Branford downed Valley Regional/Old Lyme Friday, 41-16.
Stephen Barmore was 10 of 13 for 102 yards and two touchdowns and ran four times for 30 yards and a touchdown as Southington beat East Hartford Friday, 44-14. Jarrid Grimmett added 13 carries for 49 yards and three touchdowns. ... Devante Teel had seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns and added two interceptions to pace Bunnell of Stratford to its 44-35 win over Bethel Friday. Teammate Bryan Castelot threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns and an interception. … Jack Shaban ran 20 times for 220 yards and three touchdowns as Barlow of Redding beat New Fairfield Friday, 34-14. Barlow ran 47 times for 386 yards and five touchdowns.
Trevon Forney scored on a 98-yard run, a 89-yard kickoff return and a game-winning 79-yard reception from Mike Newcome with 46.3 seconds left as McMahon of Norwalk beat Fairfield Warde Friday, 33-28. … Henry Baldwin was 10 of 23 for 269 yards and three touchdowns as Darien trounced Fairfield Ludlowe Friday, 41-7. … Rocky Hill ran 47 times for 421 yards and six touchdowns in Friday's 57-12 win over Rockville of Vernon. Chris Young led the way with seven carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Middletown scored 35 in the first quarter of Friday's 49-0 win over Fermi of Enfield. Dario Highsmith completed all four of his passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns and ran three times for 48 yards and a touchdown. The Blue Dragons didn't commit a penalty or turn it over, either. ... Kyle Dougherty's 28-yard field goal with two minutes, 30 seconds left gave Simsbury its 3-0 win over Newington Friday.
Mike DeMarco ran for a 20-yard touchdown with 2:05 left in the game as East Haven edged Lyman Hall of Wallingford Friday, 28-27. It was the first time the Yellowjackets won their season-opener since 2006 when Mike Marone coached them to a 25-14 win over Lyman Hall. Marone's son, Rob, started his first season as Lyman Hall's head coach this season (hat tip to Bob Barton).
Marcus Outlow had two carries and scored on both (63 and 20 yards) as NFA downed St. Bernard/Norwich Tech, 48-10, Saturday. He also scored on a 75-yard punt return, and NFA scored all of its points in the first half. … Derby's Dillon McMahon scored three of his four touchdowns in the first quarter of Saturday's 55-26 win over St. Paul of Bristol. McMahon scored on runs of 8 and 24 yards, a 69-yard punt return, and a 96-yard interception. Logan Marchi was 23 of 51 for 336 yards and three touchdowns for St. Paul.
Abbott Tech of Danbury forced six turnovers in Saturday's 34-12 win over Wilcox Tech of Meriden. ... Brennen Diaz completed 7 of 10 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns and ran six times for 38 yards and a touchdown in Oxford's win over Immaculate. … John Shannon ran 17 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 38-yard interception return as Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport rocked Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech Saturday, 42-8.
Tyler Hassett was 12 of 17 for 173 yards and three touchdowns and ran 11 times for 52 yards and two touchdowns to lead Weston past Notre Dame-Fairfield Saturday, 46-18. ... Trystan Cauley ran 12 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns as Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby thrashed Housatonic Regional/Wamogo Saturday, 40-0. It was just the third win since 2010 for WLSEG. … Jack Granger had eight carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns and added four catches for 91 yards and three touchdowns as Coginchaug of Durham thrashed Nonnewaug of Woodbury Saturday, 47-0.
Colin Moore ran 30 times for 230 yards and four touchdowns as Avon blanked Stafford/East Windsor Saturday, 27-0. Jim Murphy added four sacks and a fumble recover for the Falcons.
Mitch Williams completed 16 of 18 passes for 320 yards and six touchdowns as Berlin crushed East Catholic of Manchester Saturday, 49-6. Scott McLeod had six catches for 79 yards and four touchdowns. … Tom Day ran 16 times for 140 yards and four touchdowns to lead Tolland past Weaver of Hartford Saturday, 39-0. Chris Byam added 10 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Rakheem Jordan had nine carries for 115 yards and three touchdowns as Prince Tech of Hartford beat Wolcott Tech Saturday, 38-6. ... Cromwell's Derrick Villard ran 31 times for 241 yards and four touchdowns and added a 21-yard touchdown catch in Saturday's 51-14 beating of East Hampton/Vinal Tech.
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