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Norwich - It was such a feel-good afternoon at Norwich Free Academy, too. Homecoming. Nice crowd. Sunny like California. And a thorough beating of an opponent from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, a league whose teams have tortured Eastern Connecticut Conference schools in the past.
And yet when it was over, the narrative changed quickly from NFA's dominance of Stamford to whether coach Jemal Davis will serve a one-game suspension for violating the state's 50-point score management rule.
NFA senior Tuzar Skipper blocked a punt that rolled out of the end zone for a safety with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left Saturday, turning NFA's 49-0 lead into the final margin of 51-0. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body of high school athletics, will consider Davis' fate this week, as it did last week for Joel Barlow of Redding coach Rob Tynan, whose team defeated Immaculate of Danbury recently, 56-0.
The CIAC absolved Tynan, whose case was helped by Immaculate coach Tom Taylor, who told the Danbury News-Times that Tynan did all he could to manage the score.
It's doubtful Stamford coach Bryan Hocter would be as magnanimous, should CIAC officials ask.
"The officials came to me with 10 minutes left (with the score 42-0) and asked if we should run the clock. I said 'no, we'll take our beating,'" Hocter said. "The only thing that I'm a little annoyed with, maybe it was an accident, but the blocked punt was a little ridiculous. I don't know. Maybe it was an error on their part, I have no idea.
"I'm a little annoyed that No. 21 (leading rusher Marcus Outlow) was in basically the whole entire game and so was most of the offensive line," Hocter said. "At this point in time, I'm not really OK with it. I thought it was a little classless on his part to do that. … Stuff like that comes back to bite you. You can't embarrass a team. I thought he was trying to embarrass us. If he did, he did. We'll go back and lick our wounds and try to get better."
Outlow and the rest of the NFA starting offense remained in the game with the score 42-0. Outlow's 11-yard touchdown run midway through the final period made it 49-0.
"I don't think we did anything inappropriate," Davis said. "It's a product of the game and performance of our players. I can't be upset at my kids. If I have to sit, that's fine. Our job is to prepare them."
Davis and Hocter shook hands after the game, but said nothing to each other and made no eye contact.
"I understand his disapproval. He didn't say anything to me," Davis said. "We were in punt safety and one of the kids didn't listen to what we said. I don't think that's the kid's fault. His job is to make sure the punt is blocked. He blocked it. We've got rules and regulations we have to adhere to. When we don't, there are penalties. I respect that. And we move on."
NFA led 28-0 at halftime. Outlow led the Wildcats (5-1) with 134 rushing yards. Quarterback Joey Paparelli ran for 92 yards and threw three touchdown passes, two to Ryer Caruso.
"We can't keep taking our kids out as we move toward the playoffs," Davis said "The kids have to be able to play 48 minutes and handle the fatigue that sets in. We have to be prepared. Our kids were running our base plays."
NFA plays at Bacon Academy next week, with or without its coach.
"His starters were out there, too. What do you do?" Davis said. "Take our kids out - and our kids had worked hard to keep a zero on the board - and put in younger kids? Then they start running and throwing the ball down the field? Do you do that? Those are the questions you have to ask. … The truth of the matter is that we did take guys out and we kept guys in who should be playing against a varsity program. If this was a JV football game, that's a different story."