Balanced Bears overpower Vikings 40-7
Waterford - It was 25 minutes before kickoff when valuable senior Jay Nieuwenhuis - wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers - walked through an adjacent parking lot and asked for directions to the Stonington locker room.
Did the sight unnerve coach A.J. Massengale?
Hardly. It was SAT day and he knew Nieuwenhuis, as well as handful of other seniors, would quickly turn their attention to the football field and be ready to play.
Massengale was right in his assessment, although it was a pair of juniors - quarterback Divante White and running back Zach Poirier - who led the explosive Bears to a 40-7 win over East Lyme on Saturday at Waterford High School.
White passed for 289 yards and three touchdowns while Poirier scored four times - two rushing and two receiving - as Stonington (3-1) was dominant on both sides of the football in keeping the young Vikings (0-4) out of the win column.
This game was actually close until the final possession of the first half and opening series of the second half when the Bears scored 14 quick points to turn a 7-0 deficit into a commanding 21-0 advantage.
Stonington had just turned East Lyme over on downs with 2:49 remaining in the first half when White marched the Bears 82 yards on 15 plays, including 13 consecutive passes.
He kept the drive alive by converting a third-and-9 (a 29-yard pass to tight end Kyle Woodworth), a fourth-and-4 (a 7-yard pass to Woodworth) and a third-and-10 (a 12-yard pass to Nieuwenhuis), then avoided pressure by rolling to his right and firing an 11-yard fourth down touchdown pass to Poirier with just 0:00.2 left in the half.
"We started all the way down at the 18, so I was just trying to spread the ball out and get East Lyme's defense thinking a little bit," White said. "As we started to get down toward the goal line I just tried to make something happen with my feet. I was about to run and then I saw Zach in the end zone."
Three plays into the second half Stonington would strike again, this time thanks to its defense, as Nieuwenhuis intercepted a Mitchell Murphy pass and sprinted 39 yards down his own sideline for a touchdown just 1:33 into the third quarter.
"Putting that (drive) together at the end of the half was huge and had us feeling pretty good about ourselves going into the locker room," Massengale said. "And then coming out and getting that pick and taking it right in … those are game-changing type of plays."
Massengale wouldn't get an argument from East Lyme coach Paul Tenaglia.
"They make all those third-down conversions … and they were long too. That's a back-breaker," Tenaglia said. "Then we give them one right away on the interception and that makes it awfully tough to bounce back. It kind of snowballs, and that's what happened."
The 6-foot-1 White made sure the Vikings would never get closer.
He completed 8 of 9 passes in the second half for 176 yards and two touchdowns, a 37-yard strike to Brendan Gayowski with 8:14 remaining and then a screen pass that Poirier turned into a 55-yard score with 4:22 remaining.
"He's a hard-working kid and he's very dedicated to being a quarterback," Massengale said.
"He was the first kid to show up this morning. I was out coaching my kid's flag football team this morning and he came over like an hour and a half before everyone else … he's just really a focused kid."
East Lyme's lone score came on Eric Stirtan's 1-yard run in the fourth quarter that came two plays after Murphy went up top to Mark Chmielewski for a 69-yard reception.
Poirier, who stands just 5-foot-5, rushed for 73 yards on 10 carries and had a pair of catches for 61 yards while Woodworth, who was also a menace from his inside linebacker spot on defense, finished with 94 yards on six receptions.
Corey Brimmer had 12 carries for 103 yards to lead the Vikings while Murphy finished 10 of 23 for 138 yards.
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