H.S. football notes: Ex-Whaler Jenkins enjoying first head coaching job at Bunnell
Stratford — First-year Bunnell High School coach Ty Jenkins is a New London graduate who played for then-coach Jack Cochran's 2008 state championship team. Jenkins went on to play on the offensive line for Southern Connecticut State University.
He often finds himself quoting one of his former New London coaches, such as inspirational assistants Tommie Major and Juan Roman.
"Every day you hear me use another quote from them," Jenkins said. "I've been blessed in terms of coaching mentors."
Bunnell, which lost returning quarterback Brian Carrafiello (1,322 yards, 12 TDs in 2018) just prior to the start of the season, fell to 0-3 with Friday night's 26-7 loss to Fitch. But Jenkins believes in his team, which starts several underclassmen.
"We've had tons of adversity, but we're going to grow from it," Jenkins said.
"I absolutely love this. I believe more importantly than wins and losses, the culture is going to be conducive to winning at a high level."
Fitch's defense, which shut out Bunnell until there were seven minutes remaining, limited the Bulldogs to 60 yards offense in the game, minus-8 in the first half. Bunnell rushed 28 times for 35 yards, 11 times for minus-18 in the opening half.
The Falcons (2-1) got interceptions on Bunnell's final three series, from Lashier Edwards, Tre Bryant and James Deichler and also recovered a fumble.
"What a play by Deichler (who returned his interception for a touchdown). That was the killer," Fitch coach Mike Ellis said.
"They kept fighting," Ellis said, despite characterizing several "poor, poor plays" by his team earlier in the game. "It's a great team. They practice well. They don't give up. When they say 'family' at the end in the huddle, they mean it."
Quarterback Josh Letellier ran 16 times for 62 yards and a touchdown for Fitch and Deichler added 10 carries for 53 yards. The Falcons totaled 37 carries for 149 yards and two TDs. ... Wide receiver Noah Charron caught five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown, including making two key plays. Charron caught a pass from Letellier on a fake punt, which gave the Falcons a first down on their go-ahead drive. He also caught a 13-yard option pass for a touchdown by running back Steve Cantres. Said Ellis: "Noah had a great practice week, that's why you saw him have the game he had."
Play it again, Sam
The biggest contribution Sam Menders made to Waterford's 35-7 win over Stonington was his 87-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Bakken in the final minute of the first half.
But his foot is just as important for the Lancers as his hands. The junior boomed his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and made all five of his extra-point attempts with room to spare.
And with Dan Annabilini last year and Spencer Hoagland before him, this is nothing new in Waterford.
"We've been lucky, we've had kickers,'' said Waterford coach John Strecker. "Maybe there's something in the water.''
Strecker's Lancers host Bacon Academy Friday in a key ECC Division II game. Even with the 3-0 start, there's a lot of room for improvement.
"We've got to cut out the penalties,'' said Strecker. "And we dropped a couple of balls too. Can't be doing that.''
A special swing of momentum
One of the defining sequences during Ledyard's 44-21 win over Montville came on consecutive kickoffs by the Colonels during the second.
The first — and onside kick — was planned. The second, a squib kick that ricocheted off the shoulder of a Montville player right to Damen Rivera, wasn't. The Colonels scored two plays after the first kick on a 25-yard run by Robbie Petriel to take the lead for good, 13-12, and even though they fumbled the ball back to Montville two after the second kickoff, the momentum clearing began to shift in Ledyard's favor.
"Momentum is a big part of football," Indians coach Tanner Grove said, "and I think those two plays really got them going in the right direction and it kind of deflated our guys to where we were playing catch up most of the game."
Credit Ledyard assistant Mark Chmielewski for the successful onside kick.
"It was his call," head coach Clay Killingsworth said. "I asked him, and he said, 'Believe in me coach,' and I said, 'Go for it then.' ... I used to be a special teams coordinator, so I love special teams. We practice it and I think it's a very important part of the game."
Grove dressed 27 players and played 18 against Ledyard, the result of some significant injuries the previous week against Waterford that sidelined several starters, including three-year starting quarterback Ryan Douchette.
"We don't have the luxury of losing anybody," Grove said, "and in week two we got beat up pretty good, so we were out here with a bunch of guys who clearly weren't ready to play varsity football."
Chas Terni, a sophomore, made his first varsity start in Douchette's place and had his moments. He completed 11 of 23 passes, including a perfectly timed 39-yard strike right along the Montville sideline to Colin Nickerson on a third-and-14 play during the fourth quarter.
Another sophomore, running back Miles Sarmiento, rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. He carried the ball on 12 of the Indians' 17 rushing plays in the second half, most coming after another veteran back, senior Jayden Long, suffered a shoulder injury and couldn't return.
"The tough part is trying to sustain it, and that's the tough thing about having young kids," Grove said. They're inconsistent. One play is great, and one series is great, but the next thing you know it's not so great. That's the toughest part with young guys, the inconsistency piece."
Xavier coach Andy Guyon has been an honorary ECC member thus far this season. His team has played at NFA (loss), at Fitch (loss) and at New London (win). Finally, the Falcons play at home next week and return to the Southern Connecticut Conference.
"I really like the competition of the ECC," Guyon said after the 40-13 win Saturday. "We play NFA every year and I'd like to keep doing that. The atmosphere last week at Fitch was great and I remain great friends with (Fitch athletic director) Marc Romano. And coming here to New London, they've done a lot of winning here. Maybe next year we can get them all to our place."