NFA rebounds from loss with a convincing win over Ledyard

Ledyard — Norwich Free Academy had a hard week of practice leading up to Friday night's Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I football opener.

A six-point loss to No. 4 Cheshire didn't sit well with coach Jason Bakoulis.

The Wildcats got the message, jumping out to a 21-0 lead and scoring on their first four drives on the way to a 35-6 rout of the Colonels. NFA improved to 2-1 overall.

"I'm proud of these guys," Bakoulis said. "They had a hard week of a lot of hard coaching. The focus was to turn a loss into a victory and that's what they did this week. That's all we can ask for as coaches."

Senior quarterback Shea McManaway had a hand in all five touchdowns, rushing for three scores and throwing for two others. On windy night, he completed 10 of 24 passes for 114 yards and rushed for a team-best 99 yards.

"We wanted to come out and make a statement," McManaway said. "Coming off a loss — you never want to lose — coach just wanted to put an attitude in us. ... We just had to go and put in 110 percent."

It was a painful loss in more than just the final score for the Colonels (1-2, 0-1). Two-way senior standout Max Ebdon went down with a serious leg injury with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter.

Both teams kneeled in silence as rescue personnel took care of Ebdon. After a long delay, Ebdon was carted off the field and taken away by ambulance.

"He's not doing good," Ledyard coach Jonathan Hernandez said. "He wants to be out here with his team. He went down. But I know Max and he'll keep fighting."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with him," Bakoulis said.

The game belonged to the two quarterbacks.

Before leaving, Ebdon, the starting quarterback, carried the Ledyard offense. He threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to senior Stanley Green, who juggled the ball before hauling it in and running away from the last defender, to cut the gap to 21-6 in the second quarter. Ebdon rushed for a team-high 92 yards on 14 carries.

McManaway put on a show before Bakoulis put in his reserves during the third quarter.

Running a lethal up-tempo attack, McManaway completed all six of his passes in his team's opening drive. He finished the nine-play, 41-yard march by hitting sophomore Nolan Molkenthin in the end zone for a four yard touchdown pass. Senior Malik Gibson's interception set up the possession.

McManaway capped the next possession with a five-yard touchdown run and before racing in on a two-yard run for a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, McManaway threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to junior Kevin Pomroy. His final touchdown came on a 24-yard run through traffic, handing NFA a 35-6 edge at halftime.

"With the wind, it was hard for us to pass the ball," McManaway said. "I love the tempo that we have and our effort. Our offense is executing well."

The Wildcats benefitted from good field position, with four scoring drives starting in Ledyard territory. They also intercepted two passes.

g.keefe@theday.com

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