New London - New London coach Duane Maranda scouted North Haven live, then watched film of the Indians all week leading up to Friday night's game.
"It was like the old-school Ledyard teams," Maranda said. "You knew what they were going to run, but you can't stop it. We couldn't always catch up to them and that says something; we're a pretty fast football team."
North Haven, which runs a single-wing, run-based offense, got 325 yards rushing and five touchdowns from senior running back Jalon White, handing New London its first loss of the year, 34-20.
New London, ranked 11th in The Day's coaches' poll, scored first on a 3-yard pass from Ackee Barber to Jose Garcia and Barber completed 20 of 31 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
But the Whalers (3-1), turned the ball over three times, including a fumble on their first possession of the second half when they had driven all the way to the North Haven 1-yard line on three plays, seemingly grabbing the momentum.
Trailing 19-7, New London also had a first-and-goal at the 4 on their next possession of the second half, both times coming within a play of pulling within a touchdown. The second time, the Whalers were sent reeling backwards by a false start, a batted pass and a sack.
White then scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 60-yard run for North Haven (3-1), making it 27-7. White scored on first-half runs of 1, 75 and 60 yards - with the 75- and 60-yarders coming on back-to-back plays in the second quarter - and later added a 9-yard touchdown run that made the score 34-14.
North Haven's offense, which accounted for more than 400 yards rushing, has a few nuances to its running game: multiple backs on the field at once, direct snaps to the backs and line shifts prior to the snap.
"It's so hard to prepare for that team," Maranda said. "It's hard to simulate in practice. It's hard to get a look team to run their offense. And then our kids don't get a good sense of how physical they are.
"They played the perfect game. We did not. We left opportunities on the field. We left touchdowns on the field."
North Haven scored 19 unanswered points in the second quarter, scoring its first touchdown after a New London fumble deep in the Whalers' own territory. The Indians, who took over on the 16-yard-line, needed just three plays to tie the score at seven.
From then on, New London could never get in synch. Either it couldn't get a defensive stop to get the ball back, or when it did get a stop it couldn't score.
The Whalers' Orin Parke scored on a 3-yard touchdown to pull the score within 27-14 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. They then forced North Haven to punt.
But New London went three-and-out on its next series and North Haven scored to put the game away. Barber accounted for the final score by throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Nico Ramos with 3:40 remaining.
Like North Haven did following a 49-12 loss to top-ranked Xavier this season, Maranda said New London will have to learn from this defeat.
"They did not quit and they're not gonna," Maranda said of his team. "Like I told them after the game, all great football teams have to overcome some kind of adversity. Hopefully we'll be able to look back and say this made us better."
"He's been an important piece of the puzzle since he's been here," North Haven coach Tony Sagnella said of White, who is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds. "But he's always had to share the duties with kids that are older than him. Now it's his time."
Said Sagnella, whose team qualified for the playoffs the last two seasons, but lost a number of players due to graduation: "This is a game that had a lot of interest, from a lot of people, including myself."