Ledyard routs Fitch and earns Class M playoff bid

Ledyard's Luke Saccone (4) forces this fumble by Fitch's Tyler Royster during the Colonels' 49-19 victory over the Falcons on Thanksgiving morning. Ledyard earned a Class M playoff berth and will play St. Joseph in Trumbull on Tuesday.
Ledyard's Luke Saccone (4) forces this fumble by Fitch's Tyler Royster during the Colonels' 49-19 victory over the Falcons on Thanksgiving morning. Ledyard earned a Class M playoff berth and will play St. Joseph in Trumbull on Tuesday. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

Ledyard - Football 101 - get the ball to your fastest player.

Joe Carter would be Ledyard High School's resident sprinter. The senior co-captain was the CIAC Class M 300-meter indoor track champion last winter and the Class M outdoor king in the 100 and 200.

So when Fitch tied Thursday's game late in the first half, it was time for the Colonels to call on Carter.

Carter jetted for a 59-yard touchdown before halftime and scored on a 66-yard run midway through the third quarter to propel Ledyard to a 49-19 win at Mignault Field and into the Class M playoffs.

"Get the ball to the fast kid," Colonels coach Jim Buonocore said with a smile. "It wasn't rocket science."

It marked the sixth straight season that Ledyard (9-2) won Colonel Ledyard's sword.

The Colonels (9-2) will be seeded seventh in next Tuesday's quarterfinals and will play No. 2 St. Joseph at Trumbull High.

The Cadets (10-2) are ranked seventh in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll. Both of their losses were to FCIAC champion New Canaan.

Ledyard scored on its first two possessions to take a 13-0 lead, but Fitch (4-7) rallied to tie it at 13 with over three minutes left in the half.

The Colonels had a third-and-12 from their own 41 when Carter got his fourth touch of the day.

He took it for a 59-yard touchdown. Quarterback Ty Ebdon ran for the two-point conversion to give Ledyard a 21-13 lead.

"The main objective is for me to use my speed to get to the outside," Carter said with a grin. "As everybody knows, I'm pretty quick."

Carter ran outside again with over six minutes left in the third quarter and down the Ledyard sideline for a 66-yard touchdown.

"We were really trying to get the ball out to the perimeter," Buonocore said. "They were clogging the box up and forcing us to get to the outside. With Joe's speed, he was the guy. We wanted to put the ball in his hands and get him out there and utilize his speed."

It was the first of four Ledyard turnovers that quarter and put the Falcons away.

"(13-13) was exactly how we wanted it to look," first-year Fitch coach Jordan Panucci said. "Stay in there; hold on. They had a big play at the end of the half, but at the same time, we were in it.

"Mistakes, small mistakes, they've hurt us all year. Big plays. … you can't allow those things to happen."

Luke Saccone had a few of those big plays for Ledyard. It had just taken a 7-0 lead when the sophomore squibbed the kickoff. The ball ricocheted off a Fitch player and Saccone recovered the ball at midfield.

"I was trying to kick it into the open field," Saccone said. "I wasn't trying to kick at him, but it just so happened to go to him."

Saccone also forced a fumble late in the third quarter that was recovered by senior co-captain Kevin McDonald at the Fitch 41. Jordan Kowalski ran for a 18-yard touchdown three plays later.

Saccone scored on a 41-yard interception return as Ledyard pushed its lead to 49-13 with over four minutes left in the game.

"He might be one of the best athletes in the building in terms of speed (and) size," Buonocore said of Saccone. "He jumps out of the gym, and he's a smart, smart, smart young man. (He can) do a lot of things."

Terrel Shoelly (15 yards) and Robert Duncan (1 yard) ran for Fitch touchdowns while senior John Moscol ran 19 times for a game-high 174 yards with a 43-yard score.

"I'm sad to see (Moscol) go," Panucci said. "He's a short guy, compact, but just what a warrior. Great heart. That long run he had (for a touchdown), I actually thought he was going to get caught. He always seems to do that. He finds that extra strength, that extra speed, out of nowhere."

River Thomas caught touchdowns of 5 and 14 yards from Ebdon on Ledyard's first two drives.

JoJo Shumaker ran 17 times for 165 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Kowalski added an 18-yard touchdown run.

"I'm really happy for the kids," Buonocore said. "When we started back on Aug. 16, I don't think there were too many people who thought we'd be a nine win football team headed to the playoffs. The guys have worked hard.

"I think they have a legitimate chance to compete for a state championship, no question about it."

n.griffen@theday.com

Class M playoffs

Tuesday's Quarterfinals

All games 6:30 p.m.

No. 8 Quinebaug Valley (9-2) at No. 1 Valley/Old Lyme (11-0)

No. 7 Ledyard (9-2) vs. No. 2 St. Joseph (10-2) at Trumbull H.S.

No. 6 Gilbert/NW Regional (9-2) at No. 3 Barlow (9-2)

No. 5 Brookfield (9-3) at No. 4 Bethel (9-2)

Ledyard's JoJo Shumaker (24) sprints past Fitch's Adrian Albo and runs for a 63-yard touchdown during the Colonels' 49-19 victory over the Falcons on Thanksgiving morning. Shumaker finished with 165 yards on 17 carries as Ledyard qualified for the Class M state playoffs.
Ledyard's JoJo Shumaker (24) sprints past Fitch's Adrian Albo and runs for a 63-yard touchdown during the Colonels' 49-19 victory over the Falcons on Thanksgiving morning. Shumaker finished with 165 yards on 17 carries as Ledyard qualified for the Class M state playoffs. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo
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