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Groton — The plan Thursday was that senior John Rainey wouldn't play for Ledyard High School. He ran afoul of coach Jim Buonocore, who opted to go with freshman Ty Ebdon.
The plan changed when the Colonels trailed Fitch by 13 points with less than seven minutes left, and it resulted in an improbable win.
Rainey paced Ledyard on one scoring drive, and a second Falcons' turnover led to the game-winning touchdown as Ledyard stunned the Falcons, 28-27, at Dorr Field.
"I had a little thing with coach," Rainey said. "We settled it. I talked to him at 5:30 this morning and showed him I wanted to be here. And I was here. I wanted to be here for the team. I wanted to be on the sidelines dressed."
Neither Buonocore or Rainey would elaborate on the Rainey's transgression.
"He made a mistake — a big mistake," Buonocore said. "I felt that I'd give him an opportunity to step out there one last time. Not only did he step out here one last time, I think he brought a little energy at that point to the team when we definitely needed it."
It was Ledyard's fifth straight win over the Falcons and allowed the Colonels to retained possession of Colonel Ledyard's sword.
"This was definitely a high," Colonels senior Kyle Wilson said. "It's great to finish up the season like this. It's a goodbye to the seniors, and hopefully put a fire in the younger kids to come into the next year."
It wasn't the way that the Falcons (8-2) wanted to head into Tuesday's Class L state quarterfinal game at unbeaten Windsor.
"It hurts, and you've got to recover," Fitch coach Mike Emery said he told his team. "It's like anything else in life — you get kicked in the gut, you've got to get back up and keep working. You can't let it destroy you."
The Falcons seemingly had the game in hand leading 27-14 with six minutes, 54 seconds left. Saffwan Davis (23 carries, 139 yards, three touchdowns) had run very well.
Devante Anderson (118 yards) had connected on two big pass plays to teammate Robert Johnston (two catches, 95 yards).
Fitch, however, fumbled at the Colonels' 34.
Ebdon had done well for Ledyard up to that point, including throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Perry in the first quarter.
Buonocore opted to go with Rainey.
"At that point (of the game), I was really thinking about what was right for our football team and doing what's right for a senior," Buonocore said. "I got a freshman here who's played a heck of a game. I wanted to make sure he understands that it has nothing to do with his performance."
Ledyard had second-and-11 from its own 41 when Rainey was flushed from the pocket towards the Colonels' sideline. He saw Khary Childs downfield and completed a 43-yard pass.
Rainey threw a 6-yard touchdown to Chevy Perry four plays later, cutting the Colonels' lead to 27-21.
The Falcons fumbled the ball away at their own 20 on the first play of their next series.
Darnay Gray ran for a touchdown on the next play and Christian Albis kicked the extra point to break the 27-27 tie.
Gray finished with 19 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
"I'm happy for all the seniors," Buonocore said. "They're able to leave here being able to say they never lost on Thanksgiving Day. Not many athletes get an opportunity to say that. That's special.
"We're happy to keep the sword at home. It's just a good day to be a Ledyard Colonel."