New London - A mere handful of colleagues throughout Connecticut can match Mike Emery's coaching resume. There are banners on the wall and trophies in the case at Fitch High School that are strictly an Emery production.
And yet the understated man who has been coaching for three decades now chose the following words to describe a victory Saturday that earned Fitch no hardware whatsoever:
"One of the best wins," he said, "I have ever been a part of."
Emery alluded to Fitch 39, New London 27 at Cannamela Field. The Falcons (6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference's Large Division) rallied from a 20-7 deficit and just became a whole lot more relevant in the state Class L playoff race.
"The courage they showed, the heart, the resilience to bounce back several times," Emery said, "plus the way we played physically, I can't say enough."
Fitch senior Saffwan Davis ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns, regularly and rigorously driving for six and seven yards at a time behind Fitch's superior offensive line.
"They are stronger than us right now and that showed in the second half," New London coach Duane Maranda said. "Everything we did came down to straight out blocking. As the game wore on, it got harder and harder."
New London's 20-7 lead, coming thanks to several big plays, lasted late into the first half. But after Fitch cut it to 20-14, the game changed on the Whalers' next possession.
Senior Kevin Manzanares picked off a screen pass and went 40 yards for a touchdown, tying the game.
"We got beat on (the screen pass) several times. They were killing us with it," Emery said. "We made an adjustment because we had to do something to take it away. The thing with screens is if you pick one off, there's a lot of green grass in front of you."
Maranda said, "we went back to the well one too many times. (Manzanares) made a heck of a play on the back side. My bad. I told the kids I gave up a touchdown tonight. It's not just on them."
Fitch quarterback Devante Anderson's 43-yard completion to Riley Pyzalski set up Davis' 7-yard touchdown run early in the third period to give the Falcons the lead for good at 27-20. They made it 33-20 before New London's Orrin Parke scored on a 21-yard touchdown run late in the period.
Parke's 48-yard gain early in the fourth period gave New London a chance to take the lead, but Fitch's defense, helped by Lester Smith's second sack of the game, forced a fumble.
Davis scored his third touchdown with 6:17 left to ice it.
"We're young and it showed. We have a lot of guys playing who have never played before and didn't get the full chance in the weight room," Maranda said. "They're not fully developed yet. We're going to be all right next week (at Ledyard). Give this team a year in the weight room, and we're going to be all right down the road."