New London - It was sometime in the first half, perhaps when Jose Garcia returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown without the need of overdrive, that Duane Maranda could have authored his first "Field of Dreams" moment.
"Is this heaven?"
"No, it's New London."
Maybe it just felt that way. That's what happens when you coach for a long time at plodding St. Bernard and Bacon Academy ? and then are suddenly blessed with blinding team speed. Maranda's coaching debut at New London High School became an impressive 39-6 victory over Killingly Friday night at Cannamela Field.
The Whalers were largely crisp, penalty free and mistake free, belying the newness of it all: new coach, new quarterback, new system.
Quarterback Ackee Barber, a transfer from Ledyard, completed 15 of 19 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, throwing to five different receivers: Garcia (five catches), Sam Miranda (five catches), Caleb Camacho, Niko Ramos and Joaquin Riley.
"We played amazing. We have a fast team across the board," Barber said. "I'm not going to lie. I didn't think we were going to be so crisp. In the first quarter, I threw an interception and coach (Kent) Reyes reminded me, 'tempo, mistake free, quarterback has a short memory.' So we went short game, short game and marched it all the way down."
The lone complaint was the speed with which the Whalers marched. They want to play fast. Faster than the officials were spotting the ball, apparently.
"The tempo of the officials throws us off. We play in practice so much faster," Maranda said. "We had to adjust to their tempo. Once we figured it out and settled down, we were able to execute."
Camacho caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Barber to give the Whalers a 6-0 lead in the first period. Barber's 2-yard run made it 14-0 before Garcia's punt return gave New London a 21-0 lead. Miranda, Orin Parke and Camacho again also scored for New London.
The Whalers had a 33-0 lead at halftime and committed but one penalty in the first half.
"We don't have the same weapons as last year," said Garcia, a holdover from last season's state quarterfinalist, "but we don't rebuild. We reload."
The Whalers, who were missing some linemen because of injury, will need them next week. They get Montville in what should be an intriguing early season game.
"We've got some phenomenal athletes," Maranda said. "We've got to make space for them and get them the ball. We want to play fast and get the ball to athletes and let them use their speed. It's such a pleasure to coach here. A dream come true."