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Ledyard - The football had come to rest on the Ledyard High School 19-yard line, right near the Colonels' sideline, and Khary Childs was wondering if it got there via a Waterford fumble or incomplete pass.
"I was just staring (at it)," Childs, a Ledyard junior defensive back, said with a smile. "I didn't know what to do. I froze."
Implored by his teammates, Childs finally picked the ball up and ran it back to the Lancers' 21.
Josiah Shumaker ran for a touchdown on the next play, breaking open a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter, and he ran for three more touchdowns that period as the Colonels began their season with a 35-0 Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division win at Mignault Field.
Prior to the fumble, Ledyard's offense was going nowhere fast. The Colonels had 202 yards and only one touchdown to show for it. Fortunately for them, the defense was keeping that lead secure.
Waterford started the fourth quarter with a third-and-6 from the Colonels' 23-yard line, the farthest it had driven downfield.
The Lancers' Julio Gil caught a 4-yard pass for a second or so before the ball popped loose.
Whether it was a fumble or no catch depended on which team one talked to.
"I don't think (the players) were sure of what to do on the field," Ledyard coach Jim Buonocore said. "We're yelling (on the sidelines), 'Pick the ball up!' We knew it was a fumble. (Childs) made a heads up play and that really changed the momentum for us."
Waterford coach Mike Ellis Jr. said: "From my perspective, I did not think (it was a fumble). … I saw the ball rolling around and I thought it was incomplete. And now I'm watching the official just sit there over the ball.
"What are you going to do?"
The turnover jumpstarted the Colonels as Shumaker scored four times in the game's final 11 minutes.
Shumaker, a sophomore, ran nine times for 56 yards prior to the fumble. He finished with 22 carries for 274 yards.
"After Khary Childs picked up that fumble, I think it kind of destroyed Waterford's confidence," Shumaker said.
Ellis said: "I thought our defense played well. It's very simple: you cannot keep putting the defense on the field time-and-time again and not put points on the board. You can't do it. You're not going to win games that way."
Ledyard, ranked eighth in the New Haven Register's Top 10 preseason media poll, struggled to finish an offensive drive in the first half. It had a first-and-goal at the Waterford 3 early in the second quarter, but was stopped at the 1 on both third and fourth down.
The Colonels eventually scored with over six minutes left in the half when Jordan Kowalski leapt high in the air and caught a 9-yard touchdown from John Rainey on fourth down.
Ledyard's defense allowed 92 yards in the first half. Bishme Sheppard ran for 49 of those yards on one play.
Senior linebacker Calton Karpi finished the game with a sack and a fumble recovery. Classmates Kyle Perry and Ryan Lyons each had a sack.
"I thought our defense was phenomenal from start to finish," Buonocore said. "It kept us in the game early on. It really allowed us to do what we do offensively, which is wear on a team. It took us some time, but we eventually got to that point. Our defense was the key to that."