Ebbs and flows, but Whalers finish strong

New London's Jelani Lucas, left, is congratulated by teammates Troy Gray, center, and Dante Alston after returning an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the second half of Saturday's season-opening game at the Coast Guard Academy. New London beat Plainfield 45-18.
New London's Jelani Lucas, left, is congratulated by teammates Troy Gray, center, and Dante Alston after returning an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the second half of Saturday's season-opening game at the Coast Guard Academy. New London beat Plainfield 45-18. Sean D. Elliot/ The Day Buy Photo

New London - The New London High football team was in the ebb portion of its ebb-and-flow play in Saturday's season-opener against Plainfield. In less than a minute, New London's 26-point lead was shaved down to 12 early in the fourth quarter.

Senior Jose Garcia wasted no time helping to right the Whalers. His long catch and run set up his touchdown catch as New London pulled away to win 45-18 at the Coast Guard Academy.

"We needed something to get us back on track," Garcia said. "We did pretty well, but we still have some things to work out."

The Whalers have just 12 seniors on their 58-man roster, and the younger ones showed both their promise and inexperience at various stages of the game.

Garcia had eight catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Danny Maranda, a first-year starter, completed 16 of 21 passes for 294 yards and six touchdowns.

Junior Jelani Lucas added three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown and scored on a 51-yard interception return for New London. Senior receiver Nico Ramos filled in at tailback due to injuries and ran 16 times for 117 yards. He also had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomores Hunter Roman (end) and Kevin Shaw (linebacker) both played well defensively.

"(We were) erratic," Whalers' coach Duane Maranda said. "We're talented and young and when you're talented and young you make big plays, but you also make big mistakes.

"It's our first game, so it's always good to be 1-0."

The Whalers led 19-0 after the first quarter. They took a 32-6 lead into halftime.

New London tried in vain to establish the run in the third quarter and couldn't add to its lead.

Plainfield scored on consecutive fourth-quarter drives. Steven Jankowski threw a 23-yard touchdown to Killian Easton as the Panthers cut their deficit to 32-12 with 9 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the game.

Plainfield recovered an onside kick. Three plays later, Jordan Federer was wide open in the middle of the field and caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Jankowski with 8:58 left to cut the Whalers' lead down to 32-18.

On the third play of New London's next drive, Ramos took a screen pass 47 yards down to the Plainfield 4.

The Whalers couldn't score on three straight runs, and a holding called pushed them back to the 12.

Ramos got himself open to the far right of the end zone and caught a touchdown after the holding call.

Lucas caught a deflected pass on Plainfield's next drive and took it 51 yards for a touchdown.

"It was a crazy game because the first half, I thought we had good rhythm offensively," Duane Maranda said, "and defensively, for the most part, we played pretty well.

"Offensively up front, when you start four sophomores, there's going to be a learning curve. They're going to be great. They're going to be absolutely phenomenal, but they made some mistakes. The offensive line, you have to read, you have to react, and you've got to make calls. And that's all things that as a sophomore you're learning."

n.griffen@theday.com

New London's Jose Garcia, left, pulls down a touchdown catch ahead of the defense of Plainfield's Will Robinson in Saturday's high school football game played at the Coast Guard Academy. Garcia finished with eight catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns in the Whalers' 45-18 victory.
New London's Jose Garcia, left, pulls down a touchdown catch ahead of the defense of Plainfield's Will Robinson in Saturday's high school football game played at the Coast Guard Academy. Garcia finished with eight catches for 144 yards and four touchdowns in the Whalers' 45-18 victory. sEAN d. eLLIOT/tHE dAY Buy Photo
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