For New London, it's Ackee to the rescue

New London's Jose Garcia catches an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ackee Barber with 5:39 left in the third quarter Saturday to lift the Whalers past Ledyard 7-0. Barber was not expected to play in the game due to an injury suffered Friday, but came off the bench to lead New London to a touchdown on his first series.
New London's Jose Garcia catches an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ackee Barber with 5:39 left in the third quarter Saturday to lift the Whalers past Ledyard 7-0. Barber was not expected to play in the game due to an injury suffered Friday, but came off the bench to lead New London to a touchdown on his first series. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

Ledyard - Ackee Barber limped around Mignault Field after Saturday's New London High School football game, walking with a stride befitting a one-legged pirate, not a quarterback.

It never hurt so good, though.

Barber suffered a hip pointer at practice Friday and said he felt as if he had been shot. He didn't dress for Saturday's game, either.

The Whalers needed their quarterback, though, and Barber entered the game in the third quarter and threw a touchdown on his first drive.

It was all New London needed as its defense took care of the rest and beat Ledyard 7-0.

The Saturday Morning Showdown lived up to the hype as Barber earned himself a spot in Whalers football lore.

"When he walked on that field, you could just feel the energy," New London coach Duane Maranda said. "He inspired us today."

Barber said: "The whole time they were saying they're playing for me. I got to play for you guys."

New London (7-2) can now earn a CIAC Class M playoff berth if it defeats unbeaten Norwich Free Academy on Thanksgiving.

The Colonels (6-3), last year's Class M runners-up, are still mathematically alive for a playoff berth. The numbers aren't in their favor, however.

There didn't seem to be any way Barber would play Saturday. He tried to take a three-step drop before the game, but fell over.

Barber had a guardian angel in the form of Dr. Tyler Page, though. The Groton-based chiropractor worked on the injury at Friday's practice. When Barber called him late that night, Page rushed to the quarterback's house to give him more treatment. He worked on him during the game, too.

"Dr. Page, I give so much credit to him," Barber said.

Barber still didn't feel physically right Saturday and Maranda wouldn't play him.

"I said that, 'You're not playing," Maranda said. "'I wouldn't put my own son out there. I'm not going to put you out there in your condition.'"

The more Barber watched the game, the more he wanted to be there for his team. He began pleading with Maranda.

Maranda finally relented after Barber ran some drills on the sideline.

Barber entered the game with over eight minutes left in the third quarter and got a standing ovation from the New London faithful.

On the first snap Barber took, Orin Parke ran for a 13-yard gain.

"He picked us up," New London's Sammy Miranda said.

Barber and Parke keyed a 12-play, 84-yard drive. It was highlighted by Parke's 16-yard run on fourth-and-3 from the Ledyard 33.

Barber concluded the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jose Garcia with 5 minutes, 39 seconds left in the quarter.

New London was without two other starters due to injury - receiver-defensive back Nico Ramos and Grant Pezzolesi.

"So many things were lined up for us to fail today," Maranda said. "In the end, everything lined up for us and we overcame that adversity, and that's a testament to the heart of the New London football kids."

Both defenses dominated. The Whalers allowed 163 yards. Ledyard gave up just 166 yards.

Ledyard was plagued by penalties, though (seven for 80 yards).

"We had a lot of opportunities early on to score," Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore said. "Uncharacteristically, we had some really, really big penalties.

"We had opportunities to punch the ball in the end zone. Credit their defense. No question, their defense did a heck of a job and our defense did as well."

n.griffen@theday.com

New London's Sammy Miranda, left, is tackled by Ledyard's Jordan Kowalski after Miranda intercepted a pass during Saturday's high school football game at Ledyard. New London's defense recorded a shutout, allowing the Whalers to win 7-0.
New London's Sammy Miranda, left, is tackled by Ledyard's Jordan Kowalski after Miranda intercepted a pass during Saturday's high school football game at Ledyard. New London's defense recorded a shutout, allowing the Whalers to win 7-0. Dana Jensen/ The Day Buy Photo
A hip injury nearly stopped New London quarterback Ackee Barber from playing against Ledyard Saturday. But with help from Groton chiropractor Tyler Page, right, working on Barber on the sidelines, he played in the second half and threw a touchdown pass to lead the Whalers to a 7-0 victory. See story, B1
A hip injury nearly stopped New London quarterback Ackee Barber from playing against Ledyard Saturday. But with help from Groton chiropractor Tyler Page, right, working on Barber on the sidelines, he played in the second half and threw a touchdown pass to lead the Whalers to a 7-0 victory. See story, B1 Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo
Ledyard's defense tackles New London's Joquin Riley during Saturday's high school football game at Ledyard.
Ledyard's defense tackles New London's Joquin Riley during Saturday's high school football game at Ledyard. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo
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