NFA puts finishing touches on unbeaten season
New London — And from the bleachers from behind the bench of the brand new Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division champs Thursday came the following cheer:
"Un-dee-fee-ted," they chanted. "Un-dee-fee-ted."
Norwich Free Academy, long since in the state high school football playoffs, cemented itself as the league's elite team this season with a 28-7 win over New London before 2,500 fans at Cannamela Field. The win gave NFA (10-0) the division title and its second undefeated regular season in the last three years.
The Wildcats earned the No. 5 seed in the Class LL playoffs and will play at No. 4 Newtown (10-0) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
"New London has been a premier team in our conference," NFA coach Jemal Davis said. "It was a great opportunity to come here at their place and beat them and put an exclamation point to finish 10-0. Playing at a high level prepares you for the playoffs."
His did surely did. Marcus Outlow ran for 164 yards, the offensive line in front of him controlled the scrimmage line and receiver Ryer Caruso caught two touchdown passes, running through the secondary more open than sections of Wyoming.
The victory snapped New London's string of playoff berths at four straight.
"We had a bad taste from last year," Outlow said. "It was the 150th game (in the series), we were at home and we lost fair and square. We figured today we were going to take this one game, one step at a time. Now we move on and focus on the playoffs."
Outlow and the Wildcats watched their three-touchdown lead shrink to 21-7 with 11 minutes, 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. And then they ended all hope for the Whalers with a 7-minute, 28-second touchdown drive that covered 14 plays and 54 yards.
"Our line did an amazing job. They couldn't hold up with them," NFA quarterback Joey Paparelli said. "It was six yards at a clip. Marcus just lowered his shoulder and kept it going."
Paparelli completed two passes all game: both to Caruso for touchdowns. The first, from 70 yards, made it 7-0 early. The second, from 38 yards, made it 21-0. Both times, New London's defense bit on NFA's motion, leaving Caruso yawningly open.
"We had two blown coverages. That's our bad. We have to do a better job as coaches of preparing our kids to see that," New London coach Duane Maranda said. "We need to communicate that better. We have to put them in better positions to make plays."
The Whalers used their version of the Wildcat — against the Wildcats — on their first series. Nico Ramos began the game with a 49-yard run and set up his team deep in NFA territory. But a bad snap and a sack by NFA end Tuzar Skipper eventually gave New London and third-and-41 at the NFA 44.
New London quarterback Ackee Barber finished 14-for-28 for 148 yards and two interceptions.
"This is all you can ask for," Caruso said. "A perfect season is a perfect season. I'm just ecstatic."
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