East Lyme puts it in overdrive to beat Guilford 21-6

East Lyme — It was a 99-yard scoring drive which lasted 12 minutes, 20 seconds. It consisted of 27 plays, all of which could be listed on the resumes of the East Lyme High School football team's offensive linemen.

There was one play in particular, however, which stood out.

East Lyme had a fourth-and-inches on its own 10-yard-line and went for it, getting a first down behind a 4-yard run from senior Isaac Tomblin, who was clutch all night, to keep the possession intact on the way to a 21-6 victory over Guilford.

It was head coach Rudy Bagos who decided to go for the first down, risking Guilford, just a touchdown behind at the time, taking over at the Vikings' 10.

“Honestly, I think I have the best fullback in the (Eastern Connecticut Conference),” Bagos said. “The best line and the best fullback (Tomblin). Honestly, I didn't see another option. There's a lot of guys who wouldn't go for it in that situation. I wanted to see what kind of mindset my team was at.”

“I believe that was the right decision,” Tomblin said. “If you put in the work in the offseason, you're in position to go for those fourth-down plays.”

Tomblin finished with 40 carries for 180 yards and a touchdown, pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season (1,074). He carried the ball 19 times for 85 yards and forged his way ahead for six first downs on the drive, three on fourth down.

The Vikings played the second half without starting quarterback Chris Salemme, who was hit in the head by a Guilford defender — called for roughing the passer — in the closing minutes of the first half. Salemme threw an 82-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Hatajik in the first quarter.

That left sophomore quarterback Noah Perry to man the third and fourth quarters, with the coaching staff electing to take as much pressure off Perry as possible by using running play after running play. Perry attempted one throw in the second half which resulted in a pass interference call.

Tomblin said the East Lyme players were upset with the hit to Salemme.

“The second half was kind of like, 'We're mad. We're tougher than you. And we're going to prove it,'” said Tomblin, who on two separate occasions carried the ball seven times in a row for the Vikings (6-3).

“When I'm running the ball, I feel like a little bit of a pinball, I just hope I'm going in the right direction. I feel the line pushing my back. All the credit goes to the line. I'm just the one who gets to hold (the ball). I'm honored that coach had trust in me to do that.”

East Lyme led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter on the 82-yard touchdown pass from Salemme to Hatajik and Tomblin's 1-yard touchdown run with 2:21 left.

Guilford pulled within 14-6 with 6:43 left in the second quarter on a 70-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Jack Strand to Tyler Filley.

The Indians got the ball to start the third quarter and drove to the East Lyme half-yard line, taking nearly six and a half minutes off the clock.

Guilford got a 5-yard run by AJ Moscato almost to the goal line on third down, but an attempted sneak by Strand was halted by East Lyme on fourth down to give the Vikings the ball back.

Things were precarious early in the drive for East Lyme, with Tomblin running to the 3, but Hatajik then losing a yard back to the 2. On third down, Tomblin gained 8 yards to the 10, but that left the Vikings short by the length of a football.

East Lyme just kept going, finally scoring on 3-yard run by Tyler Valdez and getting the extra point by Matt Malcom with 5:19 left in the game.

Guilford turned the ball over on its next two series, with East Lyme's Andrew Haase sealing the outcome on an interception with 11 seconds left.

“The best thing to do was to keep (Guilford) off the field,” Bagos said. “We didn't want them getting any momentum.

“… The line wanted the game decided on them.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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